State of the Polkadot Ecosystem

T-12 months until the launch of Polkadot. What’s the state of the ecosystem?

Quick links:

Background

In order for an open source platform to be adopted and useful there needs to be a community building tools, writing documentation and developing applications and systems on top of it. Basically, if we want to make Polkadot usable we need help building general ecosystem components like wallets, block and node explorers, as well as the parachains and decentralized applications that leverage Polkadot’s many capabilities.

The purpose of this blog is to provide an overview of the Polkadot ecosystem as it stands today and show all the fun things folks are building around the Polkadot platform.

As background, the Web3 Foundation held a sale in October 2017, raising $144 million from 3,050 contributors with a mandate to build Polkadot within two years and promote the vision of Web3. Note that W3F’s treasury includes 306,276 Ether that is currently inaccessible due to the Parity multi-sig bug.

After the crowdsale, W3F contracted Parity Technologies to build the first implementation of Polkadot in the Rust programming language, and we are now offering grants to other teams to build implementations in programming languages such as Go, C++ and Java.

One of the more exciting aspects of launching an ecosystem project like Polkadot is the opportunity for individuals to create private businesses on top of an open source protocol. The Tezos project recently launched, and with it we saw an ecosystem blossom that is now comprised of 10+ wallets, anonymous delegation services, block explorers, validator companies like Cryptium Labs and Staking Facilities, and even a promise of activist token holders. These are just the first order effects that an open source project like Tezos or Polkadot enables; the future all but guarantees the advent of much more dynamic and complex companies leveraging this open source code.

12 Months to Genesis

Polkadot’s Founder, Gavin Wood, is taking a similar approach to coding Polkadot as he did when he coded Ethereum. As with Ethereum, there are at least seven Proofs of Concept (PoCs) planned. We are currently at PoC-2: a live testnet with a growing set of features and a JavaScript user interface. You can connect your running node to the UI or play with the testnet directly through your browser — no installation required!

Although Polkadot is still in the early stages of development, the developers at Parity are creating user-friendly interfaces that are accessible for non-techies. Gavin and the Parity dev team have had the benefit of building one of the primary Ethereum clients and other ecosystem tooling so they are keenly aware of what to prioritize for Polkadot. You can see from the Polkadot address icons, user friendly UI and the use of vanity addresses that they’re having fun building Polkadot, too!

Polkadot testnet user interface

With the Polkadot UI you can through your browser:

  • Make transfers in 3 clicks
  • Stake (or nominate another validator to stake on your behalf) in 4 clicks
  • Vote on a governance proposal in 3 clicks
  • Query the Polkadot blockchain for information
  • Pick a Vanity testnet address that will include your name.

Telemetry

If you are running a node it will appear on Polkadot’s telemetry information services website, which lists all the nodes in the network. The first column below is the name of the node, for example “=^ , , ^= meow ” is Thibaut Sardan (also known as The Cat 😺) and “☣ Crash Override” is Wilfried Kopp (also known as Chevdor).

List of nodes running the testnet

Every node on telemetry.polkadot.io is displayed geographically on a global map. Click one of the nodes on Telemetry to see more information on that specific node.

Map of nodes running the testnet

Dashboard

Another interesting tool is polkadash.io, the Polkadashboard. This dashboard provides information that validators or individuals hoping to become validators may find useful, including the current validator set, their respective nominators, block rewards, governance proposals and more.

Polkadot Dashboard

Network Notification System

Polkadot can upgrade dynamically through binding on-chain governance, so it’s important that the network must be accessible and intuitive enough so that users can easily propose referenda and vote. The testnet is a good indicator for how easy it will be to vote on governance proposals when the network goes live. It just takes four clicks. Navigate to the Democracy tab on the Polkadot testnet UI and check it out.

But how will you know when a referenda is up for vote? Community member Chevdor created a notification system called Polkabot that alerts you to new governance proposals and misbehaving validators. Learn more about Polkabot here.

Block Explorers

Polkascan is a block explorer developed by community member Emiel Sebastiaan and is the first block explorer in the Polkadot ecosystem. Although it is still in development, it is amazing to see the community getting their hands dirty building out the Polkadot ecosystem!

Friends of Polkadot

Outside of the general ecosystem components there are a number of teams leveraging Polkadot’s capabilities for their own projects. For example, Clovyr will make it really easy to use Polkadot. Patrick demo’ed how easy it will be to use Polkadot and Clovyr at the Decentralized Web Summit in San Francisco this summer.

Also by leveraging Polkadot, Ocean Protocol & BigChainDB plan to create an inter-service network to connect all the tools and data systems in the decentralized web. Dimitri also presented his vision for Polkadot integration at the Decentralized Web Summit.

Get Involved

Web3 Foundation is working with Gitcoin to incentivize teams to build on top of Polkadot. Check out the open issues on collab.web3.foundation to see what we need help with. Grants are also available for teams building general ecosystem components like wallets. Please comment or create an issue on our GitHub repo with anything you want to build :).

My advice to anyone thinking about joining the crypto community is to get involved! Web3 Foundation and other organizations are trying to make it as easy as possible to learn and get started contributing. Consider it your job interview ;)!

Please feel free to reach out to me (@web3jp) on Riot or Twitter with any questions!