Welcome to the sixth edition of the Substrate Ecosystem Update, a compilation of ecosystem insights and expert analysis from Elias Simos and our Protocol Ops team.
JOB POSTING: If you are a back-end or infrastructure engineer interested in Substrate, and want to get deeper into the workings of it all, our all-star team is hiring! Check out the listing here.
With stable mainnets humming along both in Kusama and Polkadot, in 2021 the focus has naturally turned to the deployment of parachains. As a refresher, parachains are application-specific blockchains attached to the Polkadot Relay Chain. Parachains can be built from modular components for specific use cases, but outsource security to the main Relay Chain. Parachains are powered by “collator” nodes that prepare the parachain blocks for a randomly selected group of Relay Chain validators to receive and validate.
Why is this important? Well, the launch of parachains will enable complex economic and program logic to be deployed on Polkadot. This is a big deal, as Polkadot will be graduating from a “consensus” chain to a true economic hub for Web3 activity.
By design there will be about 100 parachain slots available for projects to lease, on fixed-term leases that can span up to two years at a time. These will be handed out to parachain hopefuls through an auction mechanism.
There are a few important nuances to keep in mind here:
In order to enhance the ability of projects to bid for parachain slots, Substrate is offering the “crowdloan” module. This will allow users to commit their DOT or KSM to a project/team for use in the auction, in exchange for a native parachain token. The committed funds are returned to bidders at the end of the lease. The whole process will be smart contract based and the funds will be escrowed on-chain.
While there’s a few missing pieces to enable this functionality on mainnet, Rococo, the parachain testnet, is brimming with activity. Although its development has not been without issues–including several restarts and connected parachains often lagging behind in consensus—auctions and crowdloans went live on Rococo at the end of March 2021. Acala was the first to secure a slot via the auction mechanism.
So, the broad base of the code modules necessary to launch parachains on mainnet is ready for prime time, stress-tests are getting richer and richer, the community is ready to embrace parachains (Karura has recorded over 20k subscriptions on its crowdloan waitlist); what are we waiting for?
The bulk of development time at the moment is dedicated to all kinds of bug fixes and stability tests, with only some core pieces still pending. One such key piece is Aura support in Cumulus, which would open the door to using the standard staking module to create a decentralized set of relay chain collators.
To get a little more color on the latest developments, I reached out to Derek Yoo, CEO of Purestake (the developer of Moonbeam), for a comment on the parachain timeline. This is what he had to say:
“There is a lot of progress on parachain development happening and we are getting ourselves into a state of parachain readiness. My personal belief is that there will be a phased approach with increasing amounts of new relay chain code being introduced to production (this is not official from Parity, it is my thoughts). So first will likely be a common good parachain that is used to demonstrate core parachain functionality on Kusama that gets governance voted into place. Then this would be followed by straight auctions to exercise that functionality, which could be used by teams that don't need a crowdloan. And lastly crowdloans, which is the more complex auction variant.”
As you probably understand by now, there’s a lot to be excited about coming in Q2 2021. Like any project that is slated to guarantee the security of billions of dollars in economic value, things take time. And while it might seem that not much is happening on the surface, when you look under the hood, surprises await.
We’ll be keeping you informed as things progress–as per usual!
A special thank you note to Will Pankiewicz and Derek Yoo for the commentary they provided.
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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