protocols

Substrate ecosystem update 005


Our fifth edition of the most important developments in the Substrate Ecosystem curated by Elias Simos, Protocol Specialist at Bison Trails.

Substrate ecosystem update 005

By Elias Simos · Feb 26 2021

Welcome to the fifth edition of the Substrate Ecosystem Update, a compilation of ecosystem insights and expert analysis from Elias Simos and our Protocol Ops team.

The new year has kicked off in full force for the Substrate ecosystem. We are getting to the point where soon there will simply be too much happening for a mere mortal–such as myself–to cover! In all seriousness, there’s a lot pointing to the fact that we are well on the way to a mainnet parachain deployment in Q2/Q3.

Plasm and Acala executed the first cross-parachain token transfer in Rococo earlier this month, the parachain deployment roadmap is set and on track, and the activity on the market end of things indicates that there is strong latent demand for DOTs—the market capitalization of DOTs has 4x’ed year-to-date–ahead of the upcoming IPOs (Initial Parachain Offerings).

At the same time, there is an emergent contingent within some of the leading DeFi protocols on Ethereum that vies to expand onto the EVM compatible parachains, in response to others–like Uniswap and Synthetix–migrating to the Ethereum-native Layer 2’s. Blockchain multiverse, here we come!


General

  • The first direct token transfer via XCMP has been completed on the Rococo parachain testnet. This involved an xtoken transfer from Plasm to Acala. As far as parachains go, this is a “man’s first step on the moon” moment.
  • Grayscale, a leading digital asset manager, incorporated a Polkadot trust—among another five trusts. Grayscale qualified that these are pre-emptive and that, at the moment, there are no concrete plans to deploy public products for these filings.
  • Blockchain data indexing protocol The Graph announced that it will add support for a slew of Layer 1’s, including Polkadot.
  • A Polkadot & Kusama 101 thread from Dan Reecer did the rounds on Twitter earlier in January. This is a great primer for the uninitiated, but also a good refresher for those in the know.

Technology Updates

  • Polkadot has undergone two runtime upgrades since 2021 kicked in—namely runtime v28 and runtime v27.
  • Similarly, Kusama more recently upgraded to runtime to v2028 (Referendum 100). This introduced features such as treasury tip slashes, free participation in Council governance for first-timers, refactoring on the treasury pallet, and changes for validators’ session keys to account for parachains, among others.
  • OnFinality released SubQuery—a Substrate indexer SDK. As parachain launch and more complex transaction activity takes effect on Substrate, indexers will become an important tool for the broader community.
  • Speaking of indexers, we released our very own Polkadot Indexer—an API application powered by the Bison Trails platform to enable a more efficient way to query data from the Polkadot blockchain and its canary network, Kusama. I’m incredibly excited for this one, as so far I’ve struggled to get my hands on an easier way to access structured, time-series data on the Substrate ecosystem.
  • A Treasury Proposal to add sub-bounties to Kusama’s current Bounties Program has passed the protocol’s governance process.
  • There is a PR to reduce Kusama fees and deposits to 1/50th of what they are now.
  • A nifty webspace that tracks the minimum delegation boundary has emerged in polkaview.network/dot. See this issue on github for an explainer of why minimum delegation is in place and what’s being done to alleviate the issue.

Governance

See here for a refresher of how governance is enacted in Polkadot.

Over the past few months, we have observed that one too many Referenda make it to the Polkassembly front-end that either relate to fund recovery (the latest being #14) or come with no context attached. To the untrained eye, this looks like spam. Referendum as a term is loaded with importance; spending users’ attention bandwidth on these kinds of votes creates a whole lot of dissonance—and not the good type. From my perspective, Polkadot on-chain governance could do with improvements to its UX, making it easier to understand and navigate for participants.

Polkadot

  • Referendum 16, a proposal to increase the active set of validators on Polkadot to 599, is live and failing. The guidance from Parity is to take a more phased approach—and we tend to agree with it. The phased approach has been working well thus far. Aggressively increasing the active set will most likely also increase the surface for instability. With important upgrades to the network coming later this year, stability is the most prized of commodities at this point. BABE and GRANDPA are running smoothly, but the parachains consensus logic is far heavier and more complex; increasing the active set would only apply unnecessary strain to the consensus process, with no clear added benefit.

Kusama

  • The 900 validators milestone has been reached on Kusama–brought to effect by referendum 93. You can glance over the resulting performance report here. Worth highlighting that the recommendation is to pause further active set expansions until parachain deployment begins.
  • Motion #261 relating to Phase 2 of dotreasury.com has been executed--this is a great tool for tracking all things relating to the Kusama Treasury from Proposals to Bounties.
  • A Treasury Proposal for Phase 2 of the Validator Resource Center has passed.

Slashings

  • The slashing of the COSMOON validator in era 1898 of Kusama was caused due to a difference between how RocksDB and ParityDB work; a motion is being considered by the Council to reimburse those affected.

Parachain News

  • Aura–a round robin type of block construction algorithm that parachains will be based on–produced its first blocks.
  • A good overview thread was published on Twitter, with Robert Habermeier explaining how parachain consensus works. Also, I highly recommend Joe Petrowski’s post on The Path of a Parachain Block for more details on parachain consensus.
  • Rococo (the parachain Testnet) is up and running again with 10 parachains connected, following an update and restart on the 12th of February.
  • Karura—the canary parachain for Acala—is gearing up for their crowdsale launch, with 18.5k registrations on the waitlist already.
  • Meanwhile, Acala launched the Acala EVM in a bid to attract DeFi builders into the Polkadot ecosystem. You can find a very good overview here—with some code examples, for those of you more technically inclined.
  • Plasm is working to integrate Metamask on the Polkadot.js.
  • Subscan published a proposal to extend their Rococo testnet explorer and develop a Rococo PLO (parachain auctions) dashboard in preparation for auctions. In a similar vein, another PLO dashboard proposal was put forward by Hashquark.
  • The Polkadot technical working group will be doing a demo of parachains and DeFi functionality on March 4th.

Building Bridges

  • It seems that branching out on Polkadot is shaping up to be a credible counterpoint to the emergence of Ethereum native Layer 2’s, such as Optimism, to combat degrading UX via ever-rising gas costs on Ethereum. Several high profile Ethereum DeFi applications are exploring building on the EVM compatible parachains of Polkadot, including Curve via Equilibrium, Sushiswap, Balancer and IDEX via Moonbeam, and Ampleforth via Acala, to name a few.
  • The PolkaBTC beta testnet will be live in March: see the countdown here. Trustless BTC on Polkadot, here we come!

Fundraising and Grant Activity

Web3 Foundation grants Wave 9 is shaping up to be the biggest round yet!


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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