Our fifth edition of the most important developments in the Substrate Ecosystem curated by Elias Simos, Protocol Specialist at Bison Trails.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 posterity, the W3F provided an overview of Round 8 of the grants program. Since its inception the grants program has funded over 200 projects, with the activity focused mostly on low level infrastructure, devtools, and wallets.
Manta Network has closed a $1.1 million funding round to create a fully private decentralized exchange on Polkadot led by Polychain Capital.
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
About Bison Trails
Pioneering Blockchain Infrastructure®
Bison Trails is a blockchain infrastructure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) company based in New York City. We built a platform for anyone who wants to participate in
22 new chains effortlessly.
We also make it easy for anyone building Web 3.0 applications to connect to blockchain data from
30 protocols with Query & Transact (QT). Our goal is for the entire blockchain ecosystem to flourish by providing robust infrastructure for the pioneers of tomorrow.
In January, 2021, we announced Bison Trails joined Coinbase to accelerate our mission to provide easy-to-use blockchain infrastructure, now as a standalone product line. The Bison Trails platform will continue to support our customers. With Coinbase’s backing, we will enhance our infrastructure platform and make it even easier to participate in decentralized networks and build applications that connect to blockchain data.
THIS DOCUMENT IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. PLEASE DO NOT CONSTRUE ANY SUCH INFORMATION OR OTHER MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THIS DOCUMENT AS LEGAL, TAX, INVESTMENT, FINANCIAL, OR OTHER ADVICE.
THIS DOCUMENT AND THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS NOT A RECOMMENDATION OR ENDORSEMENT OF ANY DIGITAL ASSET, PROTOCOL, NETWORK OR PROJECT. HOWEVER, BISON TRAILS (INCLUDING ITS AFFILIATES AND/OR EMPLOYEES) MAY HAVE, OR MAY IN THE FUTURE HAVE, A SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL INTEREST IN, AND MAY RECEIVE COMPENSATION FOR SERVICES RELATED TO, ONE OR MORE OF THE DIGITAL ASSETS, PROTOCOLS, NETWORKS, ENTITIES, PROJECTS AND/OR VENTURES DISCUSSED HEREIN.
THE RISK OF LOSS IN CRYPTOCURRENCY, INCLUDING STAKING, CAN BE SUBSTANTIAL AND NOTHING HEREIN IS INTENDED TO BE A GUARANTEE AGAINST THE POSSIBILITY OF LOSS. THIS DOCUMENT AND THE CONTENT CONTAINED HEREIN ARE BASED ON INFORMATION WHICH IS BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE AND HAS BEEN OBTAINED FROM SOURCES BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE BUT BISON TRAILS MAKES NO REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, AS TO THE FAIRNESS, ACCURACY, ADEQUACY, REASONABLENESS OR COMPLETENESS OF SUCH INFORMATION.