What Is Polkadot (DOT)?

Learn about one of the key multichain networks in the crypto space and how it addresses scalability and interoperability issues — plus how to use its governance token, DOT.

Oct 04, 2023

What Is Polkadot

Key Takeaways:

  • Polkadot is a multichain network designed to address scalability and interoperability issues in traditional blockchain networks by enabling seamless communication between different blockchains.
  • Utilising hybrid consensus mechanisms (namely, GRANDPA and BABE), it ensures the immutability and security of the network, while its sharding mechanism allows for horizontal scalability.
  • Polkadot’s native token, DOT, serves various purposes, including governance, staking, and bonding, and gives token holders the power to participate in decision-making processes.
  • The platform has diverse applications, including decentralised finance (DeFi), Internet of Things (IoT), and gaming thanks to its scalable and interoperable nature.
  • Key advantages of Polkadot include its scalability, interoperability, and decentralised governance, positioning it as a promising player in the blockchain industry with potential applications in various sectors.

What Is the Polkadot Protocol?

Polkadot is a revolutionary blockchain protocol that aims to solve the scalability and interoperability issues faced by traditional blockchain networks. Founded by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, Polkadot is a multichain network that allows different blockchains to interoperate seamlessly. 

This means that developers can build their own custom application-specific blockchain (App Chain) within the Polkadot ecosystem while still communicating and transacting with other blockchains. Polkadot aims to enable a completely decentralised web where users are in control.

How Does Polkadot Work?

The Polkadot network uses a sharded model where shards — called ‘parachains’ — allow transactions to be processed in parallel instead of sequentially. Each parachain in the network has a unique state transition function (STF)

Polkadot’s Relay Chain acts as the mainchain of the system, serving as the central hub governing the entire Polkadot ecosystem; all parachains connect to the Relay Chain. Its primary objectives include facilitating cross-chain interoperability and communication between the internal (parachains) and external blockchains. Additionally, the Relay Chain is responsible for upholding network security and maintaining the system’s underlying consensus protocol. 

Scalability and interoperability are achieved with the help of parachains and the network’s GRANDPA Finality and BABE (Blind Assignment for Blockchain Extension) consensus methodologies. Its hybrid consensus splits up the finality gadget from the block production mechanism.

GRANDPA (GHOST-based Recursive ANcestor Deriving Prefix Agreement) is the finality gadget implemented for the Polkadot Relay Chain. Within the Polkadot network, the GRANDPA Finality protocol is employed by the Polkadot Host to achieve block finalisation, meaning that once a block is added to the Polkadot blockchain, it cannot be reverted. BABE is the block production mechanism that runs between the validator nodes and determines the authors of new blocks.

Additionally, Polkadot employs Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS) as its validator selection mechanism, which is designed to enhance chain security. It involves two key roles — validators, who take on responsibilities like validating parachain blocks, ensuring finality, and block production in BABE; and nominators, who have the option to support specific validators with their stake by expressing trust in certain candidates and backing them with their tokens. This system allows actors interested in maintaining the network to participate by running a validator node or nominating validators they trust.

Key Features of the Polkadot Network

Polkadot brings several key features to the table that set it apart from other blockchain protocols. One of the most notable features is its ability to enable cross-chain communication and interoperability. This means that different blockchains within the Polkadot ecosystem can seamlessly exchange assets and data, opening up a world of possibilities for developers and businesses.

Another important feature of Polkadot is its governance mechanism. Unlike other blockchains, where decisions are made by a select few, Polkadot allows token holders to participate in the decision-making process. This is done through a system called ‘DOT governance’, where DOT  token holders can vote on proposals and influence the direction of the network.

Scalability is also a major feature of Polkadot. With its sharding mechanism, Polkadot simultaneously handles a massive number of transactions, making it highly scalable. This ensures fast and efficient performance, which is crucial for the success of any blockchain network.

The DOT Governance Token

The DOT token is the native cryptocurrency of the Polkadot network. It serves multiple purposes within the ecosystem, including governance, staking, and bonding. DOT holders are an integral part of the Polkadot community, with the ability to influence the direction of the network through the governance mechanism by voting on proposals and participating in decision-making processes.

Staking is another important use case for the DOT token. In Polkadot, users can stake their DOT tokens to become or nominate validators, who are responsible for validating transactions and securing the network. Nominators support validators by staking their tokens, and, in return for their services, validators and nominators receive rewards in the form of additional DOT tokens.

Bonding is yet another feature of the DOT token, where a new parachain needs to bond a certain amount of DOT tokens as collateral to join the Polkadot network. This ensures the security and integrity of the network, as parachains have a financial incentive to behave honestly.

Use Cases and Applications of Polkadot and DOT

Polkadot has a wide range of use cases and applications, thanks to its scalable and interoperable nature. One of its primary use cases is in decentralised finance (DeFi). With its ability to connect different blockchains, Polkadot facilitates the seamless transfer of assets and data between various DeFi protocols. This opens up opportunities for cross-chain lending, decentralised exchanges, and other innovative financial applications.

Another promising use case for Polkadot involves the Internet of Things (IoT) space. The ability to connect different blockchains allows for secure and efficient communication between IoT devices, enabling a wide range of applications like supply chain management, smart cities, and autonomous vehicles.

Polkadot also has potential in the gaming industry. By leveraging its scalability and interoperability, the Polkadot ecosystem enables cross-chain gaming experiences, where players use assets from different blockchains within the same game — enhancing gameplay and providing new monetisation opportunities for game developers.

Conclusion: The Future of Polkadot and DOT

With its scalable and interoperable nature, Polkadot has the potential to shape the blockchain industry, enabling a wide variety of use cases and applications both within and beyond the crypto space. The DOT token plays a vital role in the Polkadot ecosystem, serving as a governance (and staking) token, as well as bonding collateral.

As the Polkadot network continues to grow and gain adoption — and with the utility of DOT, continued innovative technology, and a robust ecosystem — it is well-positioned to drive the future of decentralised applications (dapps) in various industries.

Due Diligence and Do Your Own Research

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