Our second edition of the most important developments in the Substrate ecosystem curated by Elias Simos, Protocol Specialist at Bison Trails
By Elias Simos · Oct 30 2020 Last updated: Nov 10 2020
Welcome to the second edition of the Substrate Ecosystem Update, a compilation of ecosystem insights and expert analysis from our Protocol Ops team.
October was an eventful month for the Substrate Ecosystem! A lot of core technology upgrades, a lot of fundraising, and a fair amount of debacles await you in the sections below. Like any young network in Mainnet, Polkadot needs to learn to crawl before it walks—and arguably October left it with a couple of scratches on its knees.
These growing pains are far from surprising. However, what’s different from other networks here—and worthy of note—is the involvement of the on-chain governance process in alleviating these growing pains; and, for the time being, power in decision making still seems centralized among a handful of key players!
Core Technology Updates
Initial Parachain Offerings are here! Polkadot and Kusama now enable interested parties to raise funds using the Substrate crowdfund pallet in order to seed the bond requirement during a parachain auction. With the barrier to entry now lowered, we might see interest in parachains picking up.
Shiny new ecosystem tools are also here! Patract Labs finished their work on Redspot v0.1 (a Truffle-like toolkit for Polkadot), with plans to continue with the development of v0.2. The proposal was submitted and later executed by the Council as Motion 26.
Polkadot upgraded to runtimes v24 and v25. v24 moved staking elections on-chain due to a bug; the off-chain election produced solutions too big to fit into a block, so the fallback of on-chain elections activated. Runtime v25 contained a fix for this and moved elections off-chain again. v25 also introduced Treasury Bounties, and adjusted the max number of nominators that can earn rewards down to 128 (from 256). Treasury Bounties are a Substrate pallet that allow delegating the curation of Treasury spending to an expert (the curator). This will help improve Treasury spending by getting more experts involved in the process (as opposed to the Council operating alone).
The minimum amount of DOTs eligible to receive rewards through nominations has been (temporarily) brought to 35—down from 200, pushing smaller nominators to opt for staking with an exchange. Determining which nominators are nominating validators is an expensive computational task. To reduce chain load, that computation is moved off-chain, which implies that the resulting graph needs to be included in a single block in order to come to effect. Given the large size of the nominating body (about 6.5k addresses), this solution was pushed in order to avoid network instability issues.
Kusama also upgraded to v2025 (Referendum 89), and introduced Treasury Bounties as well.
See here for a refresher of how governance is enacted in Polkadot
Referendum 6 - Runtime v24 upgrade bug
The upgrade to runtime v24 moved staking elections on-chain due to a design limit of the election implementation. Overnight, an emergency fix was voted in by the Council, and fast-tracked by the Technical Committee via referendum 6—bringing back a prescient question around how much power the Council and TC have in the current governance setup.
Referendum 86 was passed on Kusama, mirroring the action on Referendum 6 on Polkadot on the same issue (fixing a protocol bug). Full details here.
Referendum 7 - Increasing the active set of validators
Referendum 7 on gradually increasing (+100) the number of validator slots on Polkadot’s relay chain came to effect after a council vote—but only really did with Referendum 9 due to another bug that stalled things for a bit. This will result in increasing the validator set to 297 and will run for 100 eras (there are 212 at the time of writing). This will continue for 100 days after its start, at which point there is an option, subject to a vote, to stop adding validator slots. If governors vote to let the process continue the next checkpoint will be 100 days after that.
Referendum 10 - a plea for help from a scammed DOT holder
Referendum 10 is expectedly failing. Besides the poorly organized information around the referendum, it’s surprising that this has even made it to a formal referendum! On the one hand, this is good to raise awareness around scams in the Polkadot ecosystem. On the other, it underlines just how immature—albeit still young—the Polkadot governance process still is!
ZUG Capital was subject to a series of slashings in Kusama, in eras 1457 and 1458. In total, 58 validators that represented almost 400 nominators got slashed, for approximately 1,100 KSM ($30k total at current price levels). The offence appears to trace back to equivocation reports (double voting/signing). Kusama’s super-linear slashing rules did not come to effect, as these were sequential slashes.
Karura—Acala’s DeFi parachain for Kusama—is coming to Kusama, slated to be the first of Initial Parachain Offerings. The project will distribute KAR tokens via a Paradrop to all participants that “lend” KSM in order to help Karura achieve the bond required to secure a slot.
The SORA Network, which is the network that Polkaswap (a Substrate AMM buildout) is being built on, plans to obtain parachain slots for Kusama and Polkadot.
Bithumb is also launching their CeDeFi chain, Clover, on Substrate.
Reef, a project similar to Equilibrium, albeit focusing on cross-chain liquidity first, has closed a $3.9M seed round. Some of the products that Reef is looking to go live with first include a liquidity aggregator and a “yield farming” aggregator.
For an extensive list of the various projects building on Polkadot, you can refer here. Please do let us know if you have any feedback or suggestions on this update. We’d love to hear from you!
—Elias Simos, Protocol Specialist
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