Currently, blockchains operate separately and in silos. Polkdadot promises to create an internet of interoperable blockchains for a decentralized web. But is that too tall an order? We find out below. 

What is Polkadot?

Polkadot is a network designed to join the dots with all other networks. It’s commonly referred to as a multi-chain network, because it can join networks together, unlike networks like Bitcoin, which operates on its own. Its ultimate aim is to act as a framework for all blockchains that opt-in, a bit like how HTML allows sites, browsers, and servers to interact with each other. The idea is to take care of messy and costly cryptocurrency mining processes (including validation of transactions and security protocols) and enable developers to focus on creating dapp and smart-contractfunctionality.

Did you know?

Polkadot is being built by Gavin Wood, a co-founder of Ethereum.

Why is it important?

Developers building innovative, decentralized systems currently have to engineer these systems from the ground up. This also means that time, talent and resources are diverted into building competing networks, rather than creating a standard everyone builds off. That’s Polkadot’s aim, to create a way for developers to build value on top of all blockchains, rather than just one. 

How does it work?

Blockchains can connect with Polkadot and work in parallel as so-called “parachains” to access the network’s proof-of-stake validation of transactions and security.

In the network’s so-called “relay chain”, transaction addresses are checked and data is standardized so that every system can understand it. This is where all the chains pool security.

While functionality is taken care of, blockchains connected to Polkadot can use their own PoS mechanism, decide when and how to update their code and run the dapps or tokens they choose. It’s essentially a pick and choose layer that allows networks to preserve their own security and incorporate new protocols. 

Did you know?

Polkadot is developed by the Web3 Foundation and Parity Technologies, whose co-founders are Gavin Wood and Jutta Steiner.

What problems does it solve?

The two issues blockchain-based systems most need to solve are scalability—the number of transactions per second the network can handle—and governance: how the community manages protocol upgrades and changes. Polkadot aims to solve both of these problems.

Does Polkadot have a cryptocurrency?

Yes, the DOT, the internal token of the Polkadot network. This token allows holders to vote on potential code changes, which then automatically upgrade across the network if a consensus is reached.

What are Polkadot’s aims?

Polkadot wants to become the bedrock from which all blockchains will grow out of. The belief is, by creating an even playing field–as opposed to the fragmented one that exists currently–companies will be free to innovate knowing that the foundations are solid. 

What other projects are in this space?

Polkadot is not the only platform focusing on improving scalability, governance, and interoperability.

Dfinity claims to have the answer to scalability and WanChain is also addressing interoperability. But it’s Cosmos that’s pitched as Polkadot’s biggest competitor. It’s been working on blockchain interoperability since 2014. It’s broadly similar to Polkadot and was launched in March 2019. 

Did you know?

Polkadot previously raised more than $145 million via a token sale in October 2017. However, the participants will not receive their tokens until the Genesis block is launched in 2019.

The future

The network launch is scheduled to go live later in 2019, and run through a series of milestones that will likely last through the end of the year.

If successful, Polkadot will take blockchain technology to the next level. However, there’s a question mark over the length of time needed and whether it can stand up to its competitors and bring all the other blockchains along for the ride.