POLKADOT: PolkaWorld Interview House to feature guest speakers and A look at Web 3.0 with Polkadot
Biweekly update 4th December — 18th December
PolkaWorld Interview House is opened. The first group of guests is 6 friends from 6 countries. The interview covers what happened after they get to know Polkadot Network.
Cornell Blockchain sat down with Jack Platts, Head of Collaborations at the Web3 Foundation, to discuss the vision and aims of Web 3.0, as well as the abilities and structure of the Polkadot project. This interview was conducted by Cornell University students Eric Hu and Trent Davis. Eric is a senior studying Economics and Biology and is the President/Co-Founder of Cornell Blockchain. Trent is a second-year master’s student studying Applied Economics and Management and Cornell Blockchain’s Director of Corporate Outreach/Communications.
Established in Zug, Switzerland by Ethereum co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Gavin Wood, Web3 Foundation funds research and development teams building the stack of technologies behind the decentralized web. Applications from decentralized finance and energy to gaming and communications will thrive on Polkadot, forming the basis of digital jurisdictions in Web 3.0. Polkadot is the first project spearheaded by Web3 Foundation.
More to follow!
Parity Polkadot — The Rust client is developed by Parity Technologies in concert with their
work on Substrate.
Kagome — C++ implementation of the Polkadot Runtime Environment being built by Soramitsu, a Japanese digital identity company that previously developed « They were awarded a grant from the Web3 Foundation and plan to release Kagome by November 2019. As part of the process, they are developing a libp2p networking layer in C++.
srtool helps you build and verify #WASM Runtime Blobs used by @polkadotnetwork in order to make appropriate decisions when voting for (or against) new runtimes w/o having to even know WHO is authoring the code.
PolkaWorld Interview House is opening. The first group of guests are 6 friends @WatanabeSota @XiliangChen @cryptomeleabs @chevdor @AdEx_Network @dillchen from 6 countries. The article covers what happened after they get to know @polkadotnetwork.
Cornell Blockchain sat down with Jack Platts, Head of Collaborations at the Web3 Foundation, to discuss the vision and aims of Web 3.0, as well as the abilities and structure of the Polkadot project. Below is an edited transcript of the interview, with questions from the Cornell Blockchain team in italics.
This interview was conducted by Cornell University students Eric Hu and Trent Davis. Eric is a senior studying Economics and Biology and is the President/Co-Founder of Cornell Blockchain. Trent is a second-year master’s student studying Applied Economics and Management and Cornell Blockchain’s Director of Corporate Outreach/Communications.
About Web3 Foundation and Polkadot
Established in Zug, Switzerland by Ethereum co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Gavin Wood, Web3 Foundation funds research and development teams building the stack of technologies behind the decentralized web. For more information on Web3 Foundation, visit web3.foundation.
Polkadot is the first interoperability protocol that enables blockchain networks to work together under the protection of shared security.
By parallelizing transactions, Polkadot solves major scalability issues that have thus far hampered blockchain development. Polkadot also introduces a highly advanced, open governance system that will allow the network to innovate and grow at a much more rapid pace than legacy networks. Applications from decentralized finance and energy to gaming and communications will thrive on Polkadot, forming the basis of digital jurisdictions in Web 3.0. Polkadot is the first project spearheaded by Web3 Foundation.
Jack Platts, Head of Collaborations at the Web3 Foundation
Jack leads partnerships, technology integration, community building, and more, helping to launch the Polkadot protocol and others in the Web3 Technology stack. In previous roles, Jack served as an Associate and Head of Cryptocurrency at Ulysses Holdings, an Analyst at Bain Capital, and was the Founder and President of Cypher League Media. You can follow his twitter here and Linkedin here.
(TRENT) Jack, thanks for taking the time to talk to us — to kick it off, can you tell us a bit, generally, what Polkadot is and the main problems it’s trying to solve?
(JACK) The mission of Polkadot is to create a governable platform that lives online and provides a framework for other decentralized economies and networks to interact. The values behind this are that we believe decentralized systems should be governable, that the rules should be set ahead of time on how to govern, and especially in these early days, take a radical innovation first approach to technology. In achieving these goals, Web3 built Polkadot to be as flexible and autonomous as possible, inclusive of whoever wants to be involved with our open-source nature and permissionless network. Another take: Blockchains can’t talk right now, and they don’t know one another they exist. They’re not aware of each other, let alone leverage one another’s capabilities to work together — Polkadot allows them to do that.
(TRENT) Now that we understand its values, can you talk about the history of Polkadot and Web3 Foundation — what caused its creation?
(JACK) The idea of Web3 and Polkadot come from the same place. Dr. Gavin Wood, a Co-founder, original lead architect and CTO of Ethereum. He helped launch the network and came up with things like Solidity, the EVM, and the “world computer”. As he was doing this, a couple of elements came up: although Ethereum was powerful as a Turing complete world computer, it needed other protocols and technologies to get to the point where there could be mainstream with decentralized applications. Many things would need to be paired with Ethereum, namely Swarm (a distributed database layer) and Whisper (messaging).
It was clear that it would take time for Ethereum to be a sharded platform with enough throughput and computational capabilities that look like traditional software.
Gavin took a different view on things — to take a higher level of abstraction and create a form that could enable many different blockchains to share features, interoperate, and share security — with a scalable architecture for multiple projects, with Polkadot a different take on Ethereum 2.0
(ERIC) Jack, we now know about the history of the project and its general aims, let’s dive more into Gavin’s vision into what makes Polkadot unique.
(JACK) Polkadot is a sharded system, with different state machines/blockchains. This is interesting because there’s a different composition model across the system and for each blockchain. The current status quo is each team builds a blockchain from scratch, all layer 1s. They do all the networking, syncing, have proprietary consensus algorithm, and create something that maybe has more transactions per second, finalization, or different smart contracts. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to be the “final platform upon which all is built”, but as we’ve seen, this quickly becomes fragmented.
Polkadot unifies these separate economies — be it layer 1s or applications — by providing a relay chain upon which many blockchains can build. They do not have to worry about validators, finalization, bridges, or security; teams just need to focus on their shard or piece of the puzzle. The hope is that the dapps can combine their throughput and uses with parallel chains, build powerful applications.
(ERIC) There’s been a lot of discussion about what “Web 3.0” is — what does it look like and what drives the thinking behind that — how is it an upgrade to Web 2.0?
(JACK) Web 3.0 is an internet where users are in control of identity, data, and money. More transactions are happening and eventually, almost all will be digital. Many of our decisions are a result of information and data. For example, voting or buying are based on what others have told you — and hopefully, the data is correct. In today’s world, often the data is not correctly transmitted, fake, or distorted. For example, things we consume or buy not what they actually are.
Thus, Web 3.0 is two things — transactions need to be guaranteed from the right endpoints and authorized by the right people, and what data led to these transactions is correct and uncorrupted.
The Web3 foundation technology stack puts forth a number of cryptographical protocols that mathematically guarantee certain characteristics about both the data and transactions.
Polkadot deals with transactions, it’s a blockchain. Blockchains are great for transactions and coming to a shared truth in an adversarial environment. For the data, that is where other protocols come in to ensure it’s uncorrupted. The technology also has other exciting implications, such as how a token model can change behaviors in a network, disintermediate the platform owners, and provide ownership for users to create and capture their value they own instead of going to third parties or centralized services.
(ERIC) Great. Now, Jack, can we dive into the technicals of Polkadot? For our readers, there’s much more detailed information on the Polkadot website, light paper, and white paper.
(JACK) Polkadot allows blockchains to communicate and pool security, while still allowing them to have their own state-transition functions, creating a network of blockchains; private chains with the ability to be firewalled from public chains, without losing the ability to communicate on their own terms. There are three problems Polkadot aims to solve in particular: Interoperability, Scalability, and Shared security. Below is an overview, which you can learn more about in our light paper or white paper.
(ERIC) So what is blockchain interoperability and why is this important? What is Polkadot’s solution?
(JACK) Currently, blockchains exist in isolation, with no communication between them. This is important because different blockchains may serve specific and unique purposes; for a truly trustless ecosystem to succeed we need interoperability. Polkadot is designed to enable applications and smart contracts on different blockchains to transact with each other.
(ERIC) Let’s talk about the scalability issue. There have been solutions such as sharding proposed; what is Polkadot’s approach to scalability?
Scalability is an issue with most blockchains due to bottlenecks are more transactions are added to a network. Polkadot is able to process multiple transactions in parallel, allowing more effective scalability. This is done through the running of Parachains, more of which can be created as needed.
(ERIC) Finally, let’s end with Security. How can you ensure security on Polkadot and how is this achieved?
Polkadot security is pooled in the network — individual chains will be able to leverage security collectively, thus allowing teams to work on function rather than starting from scratch to gain trust. Polkadot operates in a proof of stake system. Key players of this network are the validators, which secure chains by staking token and participate in consensus; nominators, which select good validators and stake tokens, collators that maintain Parachains and monitor the network for bad actors, and fishermen that prove bad behavior and monitor the network.
(ERIC) Thanks for the detailed explanation, let’s end with a generalization of how Polkadot works and, some example use cases of its ability to change the way our economies run today
(JACK) So in sum, Polkadot is a platform with multiple blockchains, consisting of multiple parachains with different characteristics. These multiple parachains, constituent blockchains that process transactions are set upon relay chains that coordinate consensus, while bridges link parachains with their own consensus algorithms in cases such as Ethereum.
There are endless use cases, but to illustrate this- say there’s a natural disaster. A weather oracle chain confirms this disaster. An IoT oracle confirms the damage. All this connects to a private insurance chain, where there is a record of a contract — it executes to issue tokens for payout. This is an example of how powerful blockchain interoperability is.
(ERIC) Thanks so much, Jack. One question on differences — there have been other approaches to Web 3.0, can you speak briefly on the differences between, say Polkadot and Cosmos and Ethereum.
Composability of a platform is to what degree existing resources can be used as building blocks and programmed into higher-order applications — increased composability allows more rapid and compounding innovation.
Polkadot is a sharded platform with individual state machines and blockchains. Each shard can dial into what it’s really good at — one can have different shards that are Zcash-like, Filecoin-like or Ethereum-like, and one can compose these features — where applications exist across all these blockchains; plus, you can do this in a trustless way where everyone shares security.
Cosmos does not share security; each zone can’t fully trust the other blockchain and are responsible for their own security. For example, if one blockchain is worth 10 billion and there’s a 10 million blockchain, let’s say a transaction happens on the 10 million blockchain, is registered on both, and the 10 billion one keeps growing. Maybe 2 weeks later, the 10 million blockchain is double spent attacked with the original transaction is reverted. There is no way to know that the 10 million chain is reverted, so what can the 10 billion chain do? It’s going back to invalid data, which could be troublesome. So one may not take as much risk because it’s up to you to determine which chains you trust and the like.
Aside from trust models being different in Cosmos, right now, Cosmos only works with tokens. However, there are other transactions such as smart contract calls, data transfers. Polkadot believes in transaction ability for arbitrary messaging, and all kinds of transfers, of which tokens are only one part.
Scaling on Polkadot uses nodes that process transactions on parallel. With Ethereum, there are 1024 shards and 1024 validators per shard. With Cosmos, each blockchain has ~100 validators to be sufficiently decentralized. On the Polkadot model, there is one relay chain where all the validators sit (say 1000 validators) and each relay chain supports 100 parachains, thus a potentially more efficient on the number of validators needed per blockchain than other protocols. Furthermore, due to parallel processing, more parachains can be added to allow throughput if needed.
Ethereum governance is off-chain with the rules off-chain. Hudson, the Chief “Cat Herder” calls up exchanges, tells them to upgrade the nodes, and major holders tell them to upgrade, all done in Slack rooms etc. and they decide when to update chain based on core devs in calls, and what people are saying on social media.
Cosmos governance is partly on-chain — one can definitely vote, and with its Proof of Stake, governance becomes different because there are those that are validators. With on-chain governance, people with tokens backing to validate and they vote with tokens to decide on protocol. With Cosmos, you delegate your tokens to someone to validate on your behalf and they get an inflationary reward, you pay them a %, and they automatically get your votes in governance, but you can have an opt-out (I really like “x” for using cosmos tokens for validating and trust them with a secure system, but don’t want them to make governance decision, and opt-out per vote / and choose another spoke.) A recent development is that they are moving towards an on-chain treasury, where a portion of the reward goes to that — and people can vote.
Polkadot believes that blockchains should be governable. Right now, 2 billion USD goes just to securing the BTC blockchain, and that’s powerful. But, what if instead of 100% of these BTC going to miners, what if a portion went to a treasury where people vote where to goes, and what if people could also vote on how to upgrade the chain or protocol, just like a smart contract autonomously executes, what if the blockchain could autonomously upgrade — this is the approach with Polkadot.
Polkadot is a complex governance system, where 50% doesn’t necessarily do it, there is a technocratic council of proposals (who can veto but not much more power), to put proposals at the front of the queue and people vote. These proposals are autonomously executed if enough people say yes proportionate and altered according to turnout, so there is a turnout bias. Thus, Polkadot is designed for automatic upgrades, at the behest of a distributed group of blockchain owners.
Similarly, Polkadot is interested in cases, such as if there is an on-chain treasury, where a portion of the reward (ex. 50MLN) goes. The blockchain can pay for developers and marketing, and because of interoperability, the chain can also buy ETH or BTC tokens with the ability to custody tokens as well. So Polkadot’s governance is based on economically powerful entities that should governable, autonomous, and upgradeable.
(ERIC) And with Enterprise adoption interest is rising in the blockchain space, what solutions does Polkadot or Web3 provide?
(JACK) For Enterprise, the most exciting thing is Substrate. Right now, companies might use Hyperledger or are trying to change the parameters of the EVM through the Parity Ethereum settings, hoping it works in an enterprise setting. But it lacks customizability. Substrate is a framework that allows everyone to set parameters, authorities, and customize it rather quickly with a blockchain.
Substrate isn’t part of Polkadot. Polkadot is built with Substrate and projects on it can run natively on Polkadot. If you want, one can use Substrate to build new blockchains right now. It’s a web application framework for building distributed or decentralized systems — there’s no need to create a new blockchain from scratch. Substrate lays the groundwork, so teams can focus on customizability on top. Learn more here
You get the interoperability baked in with Polkadot if you so choose, one can be a parachain and bid on the 100 slots available, but there are also slots reserved for those who share slots (30 slots for 300 blockchains), they pay small fee upfront and then pay as you go for access to relay chain. Substrate is the framework, and Polkadot is a good add-on if you want to talk to public chains (ETH, BTC) on top of private chains.
(ERIC) Recently, Polychain Capital partnered with Web 3.0 to launch a new investment fund for projects on top of Polkadot; can you shed some light on this initiative?
This fund is to change the story. Right now — if you are coming from a tech company or college and looking to get into space, the question is: what’s the highest adjusted return in order to get a platform to build on vs. building your own.
Traditionally, people have built on Ethereum (there’s an exit/story ICO) or you build your own layer 1, get VC funding, and there’s a possible exit. The fund looks to change the story from building a smart contract on ETH/Layer 1 to building your own blockchain using Substrate (from Parity), connect it to Polkadot and create value to investors but also deliver on a Web 3.0 vision.
The Ecosystem fund fits into this — we are looking to have an initial phase where teams can come together for hackathons to build a proof of concept; a second phase with an incubator, we’re working on an accelerator in the bay area, and once you are at the DemoDay, potentially VC funding. This Ecosystem fund is to help more mature products and companies that have product/market fit so continue to build this pipeline out.
(TRENT) Lastly, some questions for you, Jack for those interested in following a career in Blockchain. First, looking over some of your past experiences, it seems like you have always had an interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain, even in past roles in more finance or consulting companies. How were you able to foster your interest in space?
I was always interested in BTC/Crypto in 2013, but once you read a lot you realize that it’s a lot of misinformation and bad projects in the space; I didn’t want to go into space just to get involved, but to find something I cared about. I learned about Polkadot in 2016/17, got involved in the crowdsale and community and because it was small, it was easy to get recognized. I started writing blog posts, asking and answering questions online.
Then, two things happened. First, there was a debate about EIP — Ethereum Improvement Proposal — 999 that fixed a parity multisig bug and return Polkadot funds. Second, I wrote an article about it and people at the Web 3.0 and Parity liked it — the ball got rolling from there.
I think it’s very repeatable — “ultra learning” you figure out what the company/team does once, and you just keep doing it. With Polkadot, they wanted to find a clear communicator of what they were doing and why it was exciting, so I just did that. And because of it, the resume was less important than the portfolio of talking about Polkadot. So for example, if I wanted to be an Architect, I would learn the software, look at blueprints, and make a portfolio similar to the company’s blueprints, where I would stand out because I was already doing the job.
(TRENT) If I wanted to do a job similar to yours or your past experiences, do I need to know every little thing about how blockchains work, all the behind-the-scenes tech helping run them, or how to code a new one from scratch?
It really depends on the position. But above all, the most important thing is are you actually interested in the values and work of the company, because with value alignment one can understand if a candidate will stick around through the frustrations — it’s easy to join the space when money is good, but now that it’s over, how long are you going to continue to work if actually interested. With that, one can do anything — developer, communications, marketing, all are possible.
Token holders and the number of transactions (information from polkascan.io)
Partnerships and team members
Social media metrics
The graph above shows the dynamics of changes in the number of Polkadot Twitter followers. The information is taken from Coingecko.com