Polkadot is a work in progress. The following FAQs will continue to be updated as the Polkadot platform evolves. The exact structures and technologies to be included at genesis are not finalized and are liable to change with continued research.
What is Polkadot? keyboard_arrow_right
Polkadot is a platform that allows diverse blockchains to transfer messages, including value, in a trust-free fashion; sharing their unique features while pooling their security. In brief, Polkadot is a scalable, heterogeneous, multi-chain technology.
Polkadot is heterogeneous because it is entirely flexible and makes no assumptions about the nature or structure of the chains in the network. Even non-blockchain systems or data structures can become parachains if they fulfill a set of criteria.
Polkadot may be considered equivalent to a set of independent chains (e.g. a set containing Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Namecoin and Bitcoin) except with important additions: pooled security and trust-free interchain transactability.
Unlike previous blockchain implementations that provide a single chain of varying degrees of generality, Polkadot provides a Relay Chain upon which a large number of verifiable data structures may be hosted. We call these data-structures “parallelized” chains or parachains. Polkadot provides a networking and consensus layer that allows blockchain developers to focus on creating a state machine with unique features, such as formal verification or anonymity.
Polkadot consists of many parachains with potentially differing characteristics. Transactions can be spread out across the chains, allowing many more transactions to be processed in the same period of time. Polkadot ensures that the security of all blockchains in the network is robust and that any dealings between them are faithfully executed. All parachains share security and state, meaning if one chain has a message reverted, all chains get reverted. It is also possible for independent chains with their own validators to be linked to Polkadot via bridges, thereby foregoing Polkadot’s shared state and security system. These chains can benefit from Polkadot’s interoperability without being hosted on the platform, examples of these would be Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Why do we need Polkadot? keyboard_arrow_right
Polkadot makes blockchain experimentation possible in the same way Ethereum made decentralised application (DApp) experimentation possible. Polkadot is designed to facilitate faster innovation cycles, particularly when experimenting with new state transition functions. There are many trade-offs to consider when building a blockchain, and it’s clear from the number and diversity of the various Web3 projects that nobody has a framework that encompasses all chains. Polkadot is a vehicle that can get us to a general framework faster.
A primary use case for Polkadot is enabling interoperability between chains, regardless of their features or their status as a private or public chain. Interoperability lets diverse chains perform arbitrary messaging, including value. This interconnectivity could encompass privacy-oriented projects, forks, permissioned chains and more. Polkadot allows all parties to take public and private chains and "plug them in" to a shared connectivity layer. Chains can choose to maintain their own validator set or utilize Polkadot’s pooled security system to verify their transactions via the Relay Chain. With Polkadot the features of one chain can be leveraged on another. In other words, where there is innovation for one, there is innovation for all.
How many chains can Polkadot connect? keyboard_arrow_rightThere is no specific limit to the number of chains that can be connected to the Polkadot network, which is scalable by design. Initial predictions suggest the basic Polkadot design will be able to handle at least dozens and perhaps hundreds of parachains. There are also paths to more enhanced models. For example, there is no reason why Polkadot cannot be composed in a recursive fashion, making some of the chains that Polkadot connects be themselves "mini Polkadots." Should this be introduced, it is difficult to imagine an upper limit on the number of chains it could connect and thus the number of transactions it could process.
Can Polkadot connect any blockchain? keyboard_arrow_right
Polkadot can connect any previously existing blockchain if it matches two criteria:
- It must have the ability to form compact and fast light-client proofs over the finality and validity of its blocks and state change information (this would include new UTXOs in a Bitcoin-like chain or logs in an Ethereum-like chain).
- There must be a means by which a large set of independent authorities (perhaps up to one thousand) can authorise a transaction. This could include recognition of threshold signatures, such as the Schnorr scheme, or a smart contract able to structure logic against a multi-signature condition.
Bitcoin and Bitcoin-like chains fall short on these characteristics. To address the first criteria, Polkadot validators can simply run a full Bitcoin node. To address the second criteria, either a soft-fork allowing extra-protocol controls over funds or a hard-fork enabling a threshold-signature-friendly signing scheme such as Schnorr is needed. Neither are impossible goals, however a significant degree coordination would be required to achieve them.
Ethereum conforms to these characteristics, particularly after the Metropolis protocol update, and therefore integration should be possible.
Private "proof-of-authority" (PoA) chains generally fulfill the first characteristic, since authorities attest to the validity of blocks, and the proof-of-validity attestation is little more than checking signatures. The second is possible Ethereum-like chains that have either smart contracts or threshold signature schemes. Interoperability with non-Ethereum blockchains such as Hyperledger and Quorum is feasible.
Where Polkadot works best is connecting new blockchains expressly designed to fit the parachain model. Under this model, Polkadot manages the chain's consensus and validation activities. A parachain is an integrated member of the Polkadot network and benefits from immediate finality and disinterested validation (as opposed to the "interested" validation that facilitated the DAO hard fork). Parachains need not secure themselves, and are therefore free to focus purely on innovating in terms of its state machines.
What is the difference between a Parachain and a blockchain connected via a Bridge? keyboard_arrow_right
Parachains are the name given to the parallelized chains that participate in the Polkadot network. Polkadot’s natively supported blockchains achieve consensus using the greater network’s consensus mechanism, both adding to and benefiting from pooled security.
Bridges are connecting layers that will enable existing blockchains with their own state histories and methods of consensus to link with Polkadot without having to be a native parachain. These include Bitcoin and Ethereum.
What does it mean to be an active participant in Polkadot? keyboard_arrow_right
Polkadot is designed to encourage active participation in Polkadot by holders of DOT (DOT are explained in the “DOT” section). Active participation in this context involves a holder of DOT performing one or more of the following roles within Polkadot:
- Validators: These participants will play a crucial role in adding new blocks to the Relay Chain and, by extension to all parachains, such that parties can complete cross-chain transactions via the Relay Chain. Validators perform two functions. First, verifying the information contained in an assigned set of parachain blocks is valid (such as the identities of the transacting parties and the subject matter of the contract). Their second role is to participate in the consensus mechanism to produce the Relay Chain blocks based on validity statements from other validators. Any instances of non-compliance with the consensus algorithms result in punishment by removal of some or all of the validator’s staked DOT, thereby discouraging bad actors. Good performance, however, will be rewarded, with validators receiving transaction fees in the form of DOT in exchange for their activities.
- Nominators: these participants may nominate validators to carry out validation work on their behalf by contributing to the security bond of their nominated validators. It is anticipated that a significant portion of DOT in existence at any particular point in time are likely to be bonded to validators for the purpose staking. Bonding DOT to a validator requires nominators to perform due diligence and constant analysis in order to select the validators which are the most likely to behave according to Polkadot’s rules. Nominators receive a pro-rata increase or reduction in their DOT holding according to the growth or depletion of the security bond to which their DOT were contributed.
- Collators: These participants will sit atop parachains and provide proofs to validators based on transactions from parachains. Collators maintain parachains by aggregating parachain transactions into parachain blocks and producing state transition proofs for validators based on those blocks. They also monitor the network and prove bad behaviour to validators. Collators maintain a “full-node” for a particular parachain; meaning they retain all necessary information to be able to author new blocks and execute transactions in much the same way as miners do on current PoW blockchains. Under normal circumstances, they will collate and execute transactions to create an unsealed block and provide it, together with a zero-knowledge proof, to one or more validators responsible for proposing a parachain block.
- Fishermen: these participants are not engaged in the process of validating transactions in the same way as validators or nominators, but rather they deter bad actors by monitoring activity across the platform to determine whether any other participants have acted in breach of the rules. Fisherman will be required to provide significantly fewer DOT by way of a security bond but can receive proportionately larger DOT rewards (in comparison to rewards received by validators and nominators) in proportion to the size of their security bond.
Where can I find a list of resources on Polkadot? keyboard_arrow_rightWeb3 Foundation's Polkadot Wiki.
At what stage is development now? keyboard_arrow_right
The Polkadot network's first Proof of Concept, POC-1, was released in May of 2018. The bulk of this release focuses on the development of the Relay Chain, the central nervous system of the Polkadot network.
Proof of Concept 2, POC-2, followed in July 2018 as the first real-world on-chain protocol upgrade, where owners of testnet DOT voted to approve a Referendum to upgrade the testnet from POC-1 to POC-2. POC-2 introduced the ability to develop parachains, staking rewards and slashing for validators, and the first real-world use of the Rust implementation of Libp2p.
The POC-3 testnet launched January 2019 and includes the GRANDPA consensus algorithm.
POC-4 launched April 2019 and brought new staking features that make running a validator on Polkadot more secure and customizable.
Kusama, an early an unaudited release of Polkadot, was launched in August 2019.
How do I get testnet DOT? keyboard_arrow_rightThe current Polkadot testnet is Westend. From Polkadot-JS, you can switch to the Westend network, then create an account. Once you have saved your password, you can obtain your address by clicking on the icon to copy your address to the clipboard. Then post "!drip ADDRESS" to the Westend Faucet Element channel.
When did Polkadot launch? keyboard_arrow_right
The Genesis block of the Polkadot network was launched on May 26, 2020, as a Proof of Authority (PoA) network, with governance controlled by the single Sudo (super-user) account. During this time, validators started joining the network and signaling their intention to participate in consensus.
The network evolved to become a Proof of Stake (PoS) network on June 18, 2020. With the chain secured by the decentralized community of validators, the Sudo module was removed on July 20, 2020, transitioning the governance of the chain into the hands of the token (DOT) holders. This is the point where Polkadot became decentralized.
The final step of the transition to full-functioning Polkadot was the enabling of transfer functionality, which occurred on Polkadot at block number 1,205,128 on August 18, 2020, at 16:39 UTC.
On August 21, 2020, Redenomination of DOT occurred. From this date, one DOT (old) equals 100 new DOT.
How can I join the community? keyboard_arrow_right
How can I help support Polkadot? keyboard_arrow_rightThere are many ways you can contribute to the Polkadot community. Whether you want to install and test Polkadot, join our Ambassador program, host a meet-up in your city, or contribute to the online community, simply join our social media channels to get started! The Element channel or Reddit is a great place to start!
Who is building Polkadot? keyboard_arrow_right
Dr. Gavin Wood, Co-Founder of Ethereum and Robert Habermeier, 2018 Thiel Fellow, are Co-Founders of Polkadot and Core Developers of the project. Additional contributors can be found by viewing the “Commits” on Parity Technologies Polkadot GitHub repository.
Web3 Foundation is coordinating with teams interested in developing additional implementations of the platform, core-polkadot (e.g. collator nodes, validator nodes, Relay Chain) and ecosystem building (e.g. block explorers, node explorers, wallets).
Please reach out to Web3 Foundation via Element if you are interested in contributing.
Who is working on behalf of Polkadot? keyboard_arrow_right
Polkadot is an open-source project and anyone is free to contribute to the development of the platform.
In addition to the open source community, Web3 Foundation employs a team of researchers and community administrators to foster further development and adoption of the platform. Web3’s researchers include consensus mechanism and decentralized messaging experts. The communications team administers community building that includes organizing the first Web3 Summit and administering Polkadot’s online and offline presence.
Who can I contact regarding a press inquiry? keyboard_arrow_rightContact a member of our team by filling out this form.
What is the Web3 Foundation? keyboard_arrow_right
Web3 Foundation is a Swiss Stiftung established under Article 80 et seqq. of the Swiss Civil Code. The Web3 Foundation was founded by Dr. Gavin Wood and has as its focus the development, deployment and maintenance of “Web3”. Web3 Foundation promotes the development of innovative technologies and applications in the field of cryptographically-enabled decentralised software protocols.
Web3 Foundation’s purpose is to nurture and steward cutting-edge technologies and applications at all levels of the Web3 technology stack. Web3’s principal focus is research, development, deployment, funding, and maintenance of Web3 technologies, plus advocacy and education, developer-adoption, support of middleware, and base-layer/demonstration applications.
The Web3 Foundation Council is Web3’s governing body, responsible for the management of the Web3 Foundation. The current members of the Web3 Foundation Council are Dr. Gavin Wood (President and Founder), Dr. Aeron Buchanan (Vice President) and Reto Trinkler.
Swiss foundations are subject to a mandatory supervision by a federal or cantonal authority. The Web3 Foundation’s application for approval by Eidgenössische Stiftungsaufsicht (Federal Foundation Supervisory Authority) was approved July 2018.
What is Web3’s role in relation to Polkadot? keyboard_arrow_right
The Web3 Foundation intends to use a substantial amount of the proceeds from the sale of DOT to finance the development of Web3 technologies, including Polkadot.
Web3 Foundation is not a software development house or development shop, so it works closely with third party builders. The Web3 Foundation has entered a software development agreement with Parity Technologies under which Parity Technologies will undertake research and develop the Polkadot platform. There is, however, no group relationship between the Web3 Foundation and Parity Technologies, and robust measures are in place to ensure probity in decision making.
How is the Web3 Foundation impacted by the 2017 Parity multi-signature contact freeze? keyboard_arrow_right
Participants in any DOT sale may lose up to the entire value of funds contributed keyboard_arrow_rightIn the event that Polkadot is not successfully developed or is not deployed, participants in the first general sale may not receive any DOT. In these circumstances, participants in the first general sale will lose the full value of funds provided in connection with the first general sale. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for further information.
Risks associated with the development and deployment of Polkadot keyboard_arrow_right
Polkadot may not be successfully developed or may not function as intended and the Polkadot genesis block may not be deployed as intended or at all
Polkadot is still at a very early stage of development. The Web3 Foundation may have to make changes to the specifications of Polkadot or DOT for any number of legitimate reasons or the Web3 Foundation may be unable to develop Polkadot in a way that realizes those specifications or any form of a functioning network. To the extent that Polkadot is successfully developed and the Polkadot genesis block is deployed, Polkadot and/or DOT may not meet participant expectations, and may be different from those set out in the White Paper. Furthermore, despite the Web3 Foundation’s efforts to develop and deploy the Polkadot genesis block and subsequently to develop and maintain Polkadot, it is still possible that Polkadot will experience malfunctions or otherwise fail to be adequately developed or maintained, which may negatively impact Polkadot and/or DOT.
The development of Polkadot will require significant capital funding, expertise and the Web3 Foundation’s time and effort. Polkadot may require significantly more funding or time in development than the Web3 Foundation currently envisages, which may result in suspension or cancellation of development of Polkadot. If the Web3 Foundation is not successful in its efforts to demonstrate to users the utility and value of Polkadot, there may not be sufficient demand for DOT for the Web3 Foundation to proceed with the deployment of the Polkadot genesis block. As a result, or if the deployment of the Polkadot genesis block does not occur, participants may lose all of the funds provided in connection with the DOT Sale.
Polkadot may not be deployed as intended at all
Due to the decentralised nature of Polkadot, there is no guarantee that the Polkadot genesis block (to the extent that it is developed) will be deployed as intended or at all. As DOT are native tokens to Polkadot, they will not come into existence, whether as part of the Polkadot genesis block or otherwise, if there is no deployment of the Polkadot genesis block.
The Web3 Foundation may not be successful in engaging the services of its preferred software developer(s)
The Web3 Foundation may not have or may not be able to obtain the technical skills and expertise needed to successfully develop Polkadot and progress it to deploy the Polkadot genesis block. There is a general scarcity of management, technical, scientific, research and marketing personnel with appropriate training to develop and maintain Polkadot.
Risks associated with DOT keyboard_arrow_right
The inflation model will cause material dilution in the percentage holdings of DOT for passive participants
Passive holders of DOT, that is holders of DOT that do not perform validating, nominating, collating or fisherman roles within Polkadot, will see their percentage holdings of DOT dilute over time as more DOT come into existence as a result of the as yet determined inflation model. Over time, this may result in the dilution of a passive participant’s holdings of DOT to close to zero in percentage terms.
Nature of the legal relationship between holders of DOT is uncertain
The legal nature of the relationship (if any) between the holders of DOT and the liabilities and obligations of holders of DOT is uncertain.
Regulatory treatment of DOT is uncertain
As the sale of tokens is a nascent practice, the treatment of DOT by regulatory and governmental authorities is uncertain and may vary across jurisdictions. The legal and regulatory treatment of DOT may be prone to change in the future, which may have a materially adverse impact on the legal status of DOT, the economic value (if any) of DOT and the liquidity of DOT, as well as the development, function or governance of Polkadot and / or the Web3 Foundation itself.