Originally published in the NOWNodes blog.
Polkadot.network was established in 2016 by its founders Gavin Wood and Peter Czaban. It is an open-source project funded by the Web3 Foundation. Web3 Foundation funds research and development projects that intend to build the foundation of the decentralized web. Five teams and over a hundred developers have been commissioned to build Polkadot.
The objective behind developing Polkadot is to deliver the most robust platform for security, scalability, and invention. It is a sharded chain that offers scalability and also the first protocol to provide a secure environment for cross-chain composability.
The initial version of Polkadot was launched on 26th May 2020. However, Polkadot’s launch is a sequence of multiple rollouts happening one after another. Each phase has some specific aims and objectives to meet. Here’s the brief outline of each of these phases below.
PoA or Proof of Authority Mode
In this mode, most of the users gained access to claim tokens from their Ethereum contracts. They could stake their tokens and declare their intent. They could either validate or nominate. Validators could set their session keys and the Web3 Foundation used the Sudo key to manage the chain along with activating more features.
NPoS or Nominated Proof of Stake Mode
In this phase, the network was run by a decentralized set of validators. Web3 used the Sudo key to increase the number of validators in this phase.
Although the Sudo key still had some roles in some operations, the governance system was activated to take most of the decisions on the chain. For example, the governance committee could elect the first council and the technical committee.
The Sudo module was removed. Only governance could dispatch root calls.
Activating Balance Transfer
This is the phase Polkadot.network is currently in. In it, the community voted on a runtime upgrade. The purpose of the runtime upgrade was to lift the restriction on balance transfers.
Enabling Core Functionality
This is the final phase. This phase is about activating the parachain auctions and XCMP. From this phase onwards, Polkadot.network will have a fully functional relay chain. With the core functionality deployed, the token holders will decide the future of the network.
Polkadot Smart Contract
Polkadot.network does not inherently support smart contracts. But, it has parachains that do support smart contracts. Parachains are parallel chains that contain their runtime logic. These parallel chains benefit from shared security and cross-chain messaging. These two facilities are provided to the parachains by the Polkadot relay chain.
Systems involving parachains provide three options to deploy an application. First, it can be deployed as a smart contract on an existing parachain. Secondly, it can be deployed as the application’s parachain. Or, it can be deployed as a parathread. Each of these avenues of deploying an application has its own merits and demerits.
One of the most notable advantages of smart contracts is that they exist on a single chain. Since they exist on a single chain they can be exchanged with other smart contracts on the same blockchain. Undoubtedly, this interoperability is a great quality possessed by smart contracts. But, at the same time, smart contracts are always dependant on the characteristics of the host chain. They can not go beyond the tenets of the host chain.
Parachains are better in this aspect. They provide a significant amount of control over the design as well as over the features of the application.
Features that can be developed on a parachain or a parathread include a custom fee structure, a custom monetary policy, treasury, and a governance mechanism. Custom monetary policies can be applied for both the native token and the local economy. The treasury is funded by the transitions in the state function.
Ethereum Smart Contract
In Ethereum protocol, Smart contracts refer to codes. These codes run on Ethereum. Despite being codes, they are called contracts because through these codes valuable things are controlled. These valuable things can either be ETH tokens or other types of digital assets.
The job of the Smart Contracts on Ethereum is to guarantee that the codes provide the same results to anyone who runs them. These contracts are deployed for a variety of purposes. One of them is to create a wide range of DApps or decentralized apps. These DApps include games, digital collectibles, online-voting systems, financial products, et al.
Smart contracts on Ethereum are capable of holding the value. They are unlocked only when the conditions specified on the contracts are met.
Polkadot Programming Language
It’s important to mention here that substrate bundles several core essentials together including the consensus layer, networking protocol, Wasm interpreter, and runtime modules. The runtime modules are also known as pellets.
These core essentials help developers to build an entire blockchain from scratch with much ease. One of the other five teams deployed in the development of Polkadot, Parity technologies, is developing a language called Ink. Ink is a domain-specific language. It is built in Rust and is used to write Smart Contracts
Ethereum Programming Language
The Ethereum community is open-source. In a wide variety of languages, one can implement APIs, development frameworks, testing tools, etc.
Polkadot: Companies Involved
A host of teams are joining the Polkadot.network. These teams include Edgeware, Centrifuge, Acala, Polymath, ChainLink, Katal, ChainX, Laminar, Energy Web Foundation, Dock, Ocean Protocol, etc.
It would be relevant to mention in this context that on October 15th, 2020 Interlay announced introducing Polkadot’s first trustless wrapped Bitcoin, PolkaBTC. However, the implementation will take place in early 2021 only.
This introduction of bitcoin will be a very significant step towards interoperability.
Ethereum: Companies Involved
Ethereum is undoubtedly one of the best available blockchain protocols. Adoption, scalability, and support all these three features make Ethereum a lucrative option for enterprise business solutions.
The number of cryptocurrencies available on the Ethereum blockchain is more than 2,000. More than 2,500 dApps have been built so far on the Ethereum blockchain. The Ethereum Enterprise Alliance has more than 450 members. These include some of the topmost global companies including Microsoft, JPMC, Santander, Accenture, ING, Intel, Cisco, et al.
Ethereum 2.0 is the Ethereum upgrade that everyone related to the world of crypto is eagerly waiting for. Ethereum 2.0 upgrade is expected to provide the scalability and the security that the protocol needs to serve on a much larger scale. The first phase of this upgrade is called Phase 0 and is expected to be ready by the end of this year.
Ethereum 2.0 will be better in many ways. It will cut down on the consumption of energy. It will allow the network to process an increased number of transactions.
With this upgrade, Ethereum will become a PoS blockchain. In other words, it will start following the Proof of Stake consensus mechanism. In Ethereum 2.0 shard chains will also be introduced.
However, it is extremely important to remember that all these changes in the new upgrade are specific to Ethereum’s infrastructure. Those who hold ETH or those who use or develop dApps have nothing to be concerned about. The upgrade will be compatible with the main network that one uses at present.
Currently, Phase 0 of the upgrade is in the testing stage. However, since it’s not a sequential process, multiple teams are working on several other phases simultaneously. Overall, the upgrade won’t be ready until 2021.