Decentralization is all about trade-offs.
Polkadot, for example, was designed to carry a heavier transaction load than Ethereum. But simply “spreading out,” as Polkadot’s system of interconnected parachains does, comes with its own set of challenges. That’s what Web3 Foundation technical lead Joe Petrowski said Monday during CoinDesk’s Consensus 2021 conference, explaining how the Polkadot builder is going about its business in 2021.
The explosion in areas like decentralized finance (DeFi) has left people crying out for faster, cheaper alternatives to Ethereum. But the next stage of building a system where applications are interoperable across chains and transaction processing happens in parallel is a step into the unknown, admitted Petrowski.
Ethereum can be thought of as a single-thread blockchain, which is convenient as far as state changes are concerned, but means users compete for synchronous execution time. The result we are all now seeing is very high transaction fees. Block space is at a premium.
On the other hand, a multichain future invites untold complexity.
“As far as multichain apps, which I definitely see coming with asynchrony, it's a big problem,” Petrowski said. “It's a totally different application programming paradigm. So, spreading out is great, but also requires some new thinking on the part of developers who are using it.”
Petrowski gave the simple example of a block explorer: For instance, a transaction done using some Ethereum application like Uniswap results in Etherscan showing everything that changed in that one transaction.
“If you think about a multichain application, then you could have one transaction actually trigger a bunch of different state changes on different blockchains,” Petrowski said. “So how do you go about having some kind of explorer that says, ‘Well, I made this transaction, can you show me everything in the blockchain universe that was affected because of this?’”
Polkadot, which was founded in 2016 by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, is slated to go fully live later this year.
The next stage in the development process involves the launch of parachain auctions, a fundraising process where projects lock up 1 million DOT to win one of 100 or so coveted parachain slots.
Before the auctions can commence, Polkadot’s various testnets need to be up to speed when it comes to finalizing blocks, said Petrowski. For now, a shell parachain on canary network Kusama is producing blocks every three or four minutes.
“I think once Kusama is producing blocks at about the 12-second rate for the shell parachain, then we'll be able to publish the auction timetable and open that up,” Petrowski said.
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