By Alex Siman, founder of Subsocial – a Polkadot-based decentralized social network platform
The imminent Ethereum London upgrade – as well as the launch of Polkadot and Kusama’s parachains – has done much to keep crypto spirits as markets remain bleak. Parachain candidates are drumming up support to win their auctions. In doing so, they offer glimpses of an alternative to the weaknesses of the current centralized internet infrastructure which was so ruthlessly exposed by the massive recent Fastly internet outage.
Yet, due to the highly technical nature of these ambitious blockchain platforms, most casual digital asset investors likely still don’t understand a few core tenets of this nascent technology.
Supporter factions of Ethereum and Polkadot are increasingly at odds. Some wonder if we should expect a battle between those, while others ponder on the threat the parachain technology poses to Ethereum’s supremacy.
How will Substrate 3.0’s parachains improve on Web 2.0 and deliver Web 3.0?
Substrate 3.0 and the parachain technology it unlocks will open up new horizons in terms of the technical capabilities of decentralized technology.
Parachains are highly customizable and therefore allow us to solve specific tasks and create niche, high-performance decentralized products which can exchange various means of value with one another. This means it can not only improve but effectively replace outdated Web 2.0 products, something that was considered impossible before due to the significant barriers to entry.
From decentralized finance to social media, web, file sharing, and media streaming, to name a few, Web 3-powered parachains can establish censorship-resistant and privacy-secure decentralized networks at the necessary scale to finally realize the fully democratized original vision of the Internet.
Polkadot’s Parachains vs Ethereum shards
Ethereum 2.0 has been touted as a potential Polkadot killer, and vice versa. However, while the two networks share a history and technical similarities, Ethereum shards and Substrate parachains shouldn’t be viewed as similar.
As I have explained above, parachains are unique, independent, customizable, and designed to the specific needs of their blockchain network. Shards, on the other hand, are identical by design. Yes, technically, they will help achieve the scalability Ethereum proponents so desperately seek, but they won’t transform the way Ethereum functions or remove all its limitations per se. For example, with Ethereum it would be impossible to create a working fully-fledged protocol for decentralized social networking.
Substrate and Polkadot were created as the fruits of a vision that contends that there is no single blockchain that can be everything to everyone and that the future is rather a connected multichain ecosystem that can realize the scalability, interoperability, and security that layer 1 parachains ( and even Bitcoin and Ethereum through bridges) will need to seamlessly exchange value and communicate with each other. This is a vastly different divergence from Ethereum’s ecosystem that continues to tack on more applications and protocols despite stuttering network speeds and spiraling gas fees.
With all that said, then yes, parachains may be viewed as a threat to the Ethereum network, but it’s not a zero-sum game. Realizing these threats, the Ethereum blockchain is sure to innovate, as it has done continuously since its inception – and, as we know, the best products are born in competition, so it will be a win-win both for Polkadot and Ethereum communities.
The Future of Parachains
I believe that the growing popularity of parachains will, firstly, change the modern architecture of decentralized products, and secondly, the way market participants interact with each other. The emergence of a new, more flexible tool on the market is likely to provoke an outflow of users from Ethereum. Niche communities will come to the fore, but they will not be isolated from each other – on the contrary, they will become part of a common whole by being connected to relay chains like Polkadot and Kusama.
The technology is still in its early days, though, so implementing parachains may pose a number of challenges when it comes to complex user experience and interoperability. There are certain technical issues we’ll need to overcome – for example, properly organizing connections when we use multiple chains in the same dаpp.