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January 5, 2023

Is 2023 the year Substrate takes over?

Polymesh uses Substrate, a Rust-based blockchain framework developed by Parity. Here are 8 reasons we think Substrate could take the lead in 2023 and why it’s good news for Polymesh participants.

Polymesh is a public permissioned blockchain that uses Substrate. Substrate is a Rust-based blockchain framework developed by Parity– and it stands to be underpinning the next biggest blockchain ecosystem.

Here are 8 reasons we think Substrate could take the lead in 2023 and why it’s good news for Polymesh participants.

1. Developers’ growing preference for Polkadot over Ethereum

Polkadot, the preeminent Substrate-based blockchain, has experienced incredible growth over the years as measured by developers. Ethereum might be the more household name, but developers are flocking to Polkadot as their decentralized network of choice. 

The flagship project of the Web3 Foundation, Polkadot is a “decentralized web blockchain meta-protocol” designed to secure and connect crypto-based economies. 

In the graph below (dated January 2022), we can see that Polkadot had faster initial ecosystem growth than Ethereum:

Electrical Capital Developer Report (2021)

Polkadot also had more full-time developers than Ethereum at the same point after the first code commit. 

In Q3 2022, Polkadot hit an all-time high for developer contributions, overtaking Ethereum in terms of activity and individual contributions. Github data shows an average of over 500 individual contributions provided every day in September, with the month culminating in 15,433 total developer contributions– the highest recorded on any network, including Ethereum. 

Based on the data, it’s easy to see why many predict Polkadot will surpass Ethereum, especially as Polkadot ramps up to take its transactions per second (TPS) capability to between 100,000 and 1,000,000 (for context, Ethereum can only perform ~15 TPS at the base layer). 

What’s behind developer’s growing preference for Polkadot? It’s that it’s built on Substrate, a modular framework that allows for easy cross-chain interoperability. 

Why this is good news for Polymesh participants:

Developers’ growing preference for Polkadot and Substrate indicates tooling maturation that will continue to support the Polymesh ecosystem. Polkadot’s development will help to make Polymesh more robust since both blockchains are built on the same Substrate framework. 

For example, using Substrate enables Polymesh to take advantage of advancements made by Parity concerning TPS. The Polymesh team has currently managed to attain up to 800 TPS in a test environment. This number is bound to increase as Parity has a specific team continuously identifying and implementing TPS improvements.

2. Founded and maintained by Parity Technologies and Web3 Foundation

In 2016, Ethereum Co-Founder and former CTO Gavin Wood left the Ethereum Foundation to found Parity, citing dissatisfaction with Ethereum’s ineffectual pursuit of an entirely decentralized ecosystem. 

It’s probably safe to assume that Wood’s popularity and reputation as Ethereum Co-Founder was a driving force behind developers’ initial interest in Polkadot. But Wood’s endeavors with Parity, and subsequently Web3 Foundation, have proven just as worthy as what you’d expect from he who coined the term “Web3”. 

Parity has since become a leading blockchain infrastructure provider that offers a variety of tools and technologies for developers to quickly and easily launch their own blockchains. 

Substrate is Parity’s toolset for creating custom layer-1 blockchains from the ground up, either as entirely standalone blockchains or as parachains on top of Polkadot’s Relay Chain. 

Today, Substrate is powering some of the world’s most popular blockchains: Polkadot and Kusama… not to mention Polymesh!

Why this is good news for Polymesh participants:

The Polymesh Association has a very strong relationship with Parity, which it can leverage for developer support to grow the Polymesh ecosystem without maintaining a large internal development team. 

Additionally, the Polymesh Association is well-positioned for ongoing support through other initiatives, such as Parity and Web3 Foundation’s grants program(s), which companies building on Polymesh can apply for to offset costs if their project will also further Substrate’s development. 

3. A modular framework with lots of customization 

Substrate is highly modular and extensible, especially compared to Ethereum. The framework allows for custom layer-1 blockchains to be built from the ground-up, with developers able to pick and choose the features they want. 

Substrate features an open-source repository and well-featured libraries with different default modules called “pallets” that can be used or modified to piece together a custom network. However, the framework also lets you write your own code to make a project fully yours. 

Key features of Substrate’s modular architecture include a “plug-and-play” building system, customisable consensus models, forkless upgrades, transparent governance tools, balance management, and the ability to update a project without risking network disruption. 

Why this is good news for Polymesh participants:

Polymesh has extended Substrate’s core capabilities with modules that provide financial primitives at the base-layer of the blockchain. These cover critical functionality for capital markets, including standardized asset creation at the protocol layer, identity, and settlement. 

Further, Substrate’s modularity, upgradability, blockchain interoperability, and future-proof technology means Polymesh can easily keep pace with the rapidly changing demands of the financial system.

4. Easy communication with other Substrate-based blockchains 

One of the reasons why Wood left Ethereum was that he perceived blockchains were operating as totally independent entities, unable to communicate with others. Wood wanted to create a framework that would allow for easy chain interoperability. 

This is where Polkadot comes in. At the heart of Polkadot is the Relay Chain, which is responsible for network security, consensus, settlement, and cross-chain interoperability. 

The Relay Chain provides a path to interoperability with other blockchains. Parachains– sovereign layer-1 blockchains with specific functionality and often their own tokens– can plug into the Relay Chain to benefit from its base features, such as security. Additional benefits include scalability, performing faster transactions at lower costs, and the ability to keep user data private from the public network. 

Any Substrate-based blockchain, including Polymesh, can optionally run as a parachain on the Polkadot ecosystem or Kusama. This allows for synchronous exchange of data between different Substrate-based parachains, including the communication and exchange of assets or network states. 

Alternatively, parathreads can be used to temporarily participate in the main network on a “pay-as-you-go” model instead of leasing a dedicated parachain slot. Parathreads are a good option for projects for which continuous connectivity to the relay chain isn’t required or which have more economic limitations. 

Finally, Substrate-built networks can also easily communicate externally with each other as well as non-Substrate networks (e.g. Ethereum) through cross-chain bridges. 

Why this is good news for Polymesh participants:

Polymesh benefits from the potential for easy chain interoperability with any other Substrate-based project within the ecosystem. Participants wanting to interact with multiple Substrate-based projects in the lifecycle of an asset don’t have to worry about a difficult or time-consuming integration. 

While Polymesh is not currently a Polkadot parachain, our technical team has completed a detailed analysis on the tradeoffs involved and has developed a strong relationship with the Parity team over years of collaboration should companies integrating Polymesh require interacting with Polkadot. 

Using a bridge or a parathread are also areas we continue to closely track and research. 

5. Finality, governance, and forkless upgrades 

Substrate features forkless runtime upgrades to mitigate against the risk of hard forks. However, temporary forks are still possible based on the time instant at which new blocks are created. To prevent these forks from turning into competing realities, developers can implement a finality mechanism. 

This informs the decision to divide consensus in Substrate into two phases:

  • Block authoring, the process nodes use to create new blocks
  • Block finalization, the process used to handle forks and choose the canonical chain

This two-phase approach enables developers to combine block authoring algorithms with finality mechanisms to achieve deterministic finality, a necessary prerequisite for many financial participants.

Developers can create their own algorithm for block authoring or choose one of Substrate’s default methods such as BABE. BABE provides slot-based block authoring with a known set of validators and is used by Polymesh and other proof-of-stake blockchains.

For block finalization, developers have the option to write a custom fork choice rule (e.g. “the longest chain is the canonical chain”), however this leaves open the possibility for probabilistic finalization as transactions could always be reverted by a longer or heavier fork. To achieve deterministic finality, developers must implement a finality mechanism in the blockchain logic that can not only resolve forks, but also technologically decide after which point the chain is immutable. 

The default finality mechanism– used by both Polymesh and Polkadot– is GRANDPA. Implemented in Rust, the GRANDPA finality gadget allows for a set of validator nodes to vote and come to consensus on the canonical chain to provide provable finality.

Why this is good news for Polymesh participants:

Near-instant deterministic finality is a requirement for the blockchain to be a true representation of ownership and provide provable T+0 settlement. Otherwise, there’s always the risk that a transaction could be reverted through forks or block re-organizations, which would create a major legal and tax headache for tokens backed by real assets.

Using BABE for block authoring and the GRANDPA finality mechanism, Polymesh provides high throughput and rapid non-probabilistic finalization. Deterministic finality is guaranteed and fortified with governance, identity, and compliance. Together with Polymesh’s on-chain settlement engine and two-way transaction affirmation, this provides the pathway to instant settlement.

6. Rust continues to be the most loved programming language 

Substrate is technically language agnostic as runtime is compiled to WebAssembly (WASM). However, in practice, most core components are written in the Rust programming language. 

Following a similar logic to C++, Rust is one of the most popular programming languages in blockchain. In fact, it was voted the most loved programming language for the seventh year in a row, beating popular languages TypeScript, Python, and Solidity. 

Rust is optimized for memory safety guarantees, low runtime size, and performance. What makes it “memory safe” is that by design, it’s impossible for developers to accidentally introduce certain exploitable vulnerabilities related to a computer’s memory (e.g. pulling unintended data). 

Rust has been implemented by many leading technology organizations including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon Web Services. Its popularity is only likely to rise as the United States National Security Agent recently released guidance recommending organizations to switch from languages like C++ to memory safe alternatives including Rust. 

It’s only a matter of time before financial institutions–for which safety and reliability are critical–follow suit and switch to using Rust or see the value of Rust-based infrastructure such as Polymesh. 

Why this is good news for Polymesh participants:

Benefits of the underlying Rust language include more secure code, strong compile-time guarantees and checks, and high throughput– all of which are critically important for systems involving encryption and irreversible transactions.

Safety is especially important for smart contracts, which potentially deal with billions of dollars. Smart contracts on Polymesh are written in ink!, a Rust-based logic developed by Parity that provides better safety and performance to help avoid devastating failures. 

Finally, while demand for Rust developers is soaring, this is only likely to fuel a proliferation of developers who can easily build or integrate with Polymesh using its Rust-based SDK. 

7. A thriving community 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: one of the greatest joys of working with Substrate is the passionate community of developers and teams building tools, blockchains, and infrastructure around the framework. 

When Polymesh development began, the team was using the newly released Substrate version 1.0. Since then, we’ve watched the framework go through many changes and improvements, learning lots along the way. The code has evolved immensely, and the friendly and technical team at Parity are great at explaining and exchanging core ideas as we build the future alongside each other. 

For the Polymesh team, being able to collaboratively and constructively engage directly with the Parity team and Substrate community has helped inform on functionality and played a valuable role in providing mission critical software. 

However, one of our greatest joys is being able to contribute back to the community and the sense of shared purpose this cultivates. Through conferences, Discord, and public forums, there’s a real sense of support. We were especially excited to meet other Substrate users in person at Polkadot’s Sub0 this past November!

Why this is good news for Polymesh participants:

As a relatively new framework, there’s plenty of room to explore Substrate’s possibilities, make updates and improvements, and add new functionalities. Being able to leverage the work done by Substrate’s passionate and hardworking community instead of going it alone can also lead to greater efficiencies. For the Polymesh team, this has helped us deliver on important milestones and provide necessary tools to users faster. 

8. Supporting Polymesh and other great projects

Lastly, if there’s any reason to believe in Substrate’s booming potential, it’s the quality of the projects themselves. 

The Substrate family of blockchains is one of the largest blockchain ecosystems and boasts many outstanding projects for everything from DeFi to decentralized social media to healthcare. 

A few Substrate ecosystem members that Polymesh has collaborated with include: 

  • Fractal, a customer due diligence provider in Polymesh onboarding
  • Polymath, the security token platform that builds on Polymesh
  • Ledger, a highly secure hardware wallet that provides support for POLYX 
  • Nova Wallet, a mobile wallet provider that provides support for POLYX 
  • Subscan, an infrastructure provider and creator of the Polymesh block explorer
  • Zondax, the developers of the Polymesh Ledger App 

One area which is likely to see an uptrend in Substrate development in 2023 is GameFi, which surpasses DeFi in number of users and transaction volume. When it comes to blockchain ecosystems, Ethereum GameFi projects dominate. But more and more gaming companies are turning to Substrate to improve scalability, develop more user-friendly UI/UX interfaces, and take advantage of Substrate’s more flexible architecture and programming language.  

Ethereum 2.0 will see the network make use of sharding as a solution to the scalability limitations long considered to be its achilles heel, but in the end this isn’t important to which blockchain will rule. The door to an integrated web3 with co-existing ecosystems that interact and compliment each other has already been opened, and it’s clear Substrate will be the key to this future. 

Why this is good news for Polymesh participants:

Utilizing Substrate for peer-to-peer networking and a consensus algorithm with instant finality, as well as cryptographic libraries, tried-and-tested database systems, user interfaces, and WebAssembly for cross-language support, Polymesh is able to focus on where the team has domain expertise: security tokens. 

In parallel, by using Polymesh, capital markets participants can free up the time, money, and energy that would have been involved in creating their own blockchain environment to focus on their relevant critical business needs instead.

What’s more, Substrate’s large ecosystem boasts many important projects that bolster the Polymesh ecosystem and make it easier for users to access the blockchain, manage their keys, and create security tokens.

Want to join the growing ecosystem of companies building on Polymesh? Apply for our grants program or ecosystem development fund and let us know how we can help! 

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