What is Polkadot (DOT)?

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"Polkadot development is on track to deliver the most robust platform for security, scalability and innovation."
- polkadot.network

What is Polkadot? How does it Work?

Polkadot is a network protocol that allows arbitrary data—not just tokens—to be transferred across blockchains.This means Polkadot is a true multi-chain application environment where things like cross-chain registries and cross-chain computation are possible.

Polkadot can transfer this data across public, open, permissionless blockchains as well as private, permissioned blockchains.

This makes it possible to build applications that get permissioned data from a private blockchain and use it on a public blockchain. For instance, a school's private, permissioned academic records chain could send a proof to a degree-verification smart contract on a public chain.

Connecting the dots

Relay Chain
The heart of Polkadot, responsible for the network’s shared security, consensus and cross-chain interoperability.

Parachains
Sovereign blockchains that can have their own tokens and optimize their functionality for specific use cases.

Parathreads
Similar to parachains but with a pay-as-you-go model. More economical for blockchains that don’t need continuous connectivity to the network.

Bridges
Allow parachains and parathreads to connect and communicate with external networks like Ethereum and Bitcoin.

Consensus Roles

Nominators
Secure the Relay Chain by selecting trustworty validators and staking dots.

Validators

Secure the relay chain by staking dots, validating proofs from collators and participating in consensus with other validators.

Collators
Maintain shards by collecting shard transactions from users and producing proofs for validator.

Fishermen
Monitor the network and report bad behavior to validators. Collators and any parachain full node can perform the fisherman role.

Governance Roles

Council Members
Elected to represent passive stakeholders in two primary governance roles: proposing referenda and vetoing dangerous or malicious referenda.

Technical Committee
Composed of teams actively building Polkadot. Can propose emergency referenda, together with the council, for fast-tracked voting and implementation.

Built with the best technology

Polkadot’s relay chain is built with Substrate, a blockchain-building framework that is the distillation of Parity Technologies’ learnings building Ethereum, Bitcoin, and enterprise blockchains.

Polkadot’s state machine is compiled to WebAssembly (Wasm), a super performant virtual environment. Wasm is developed by major companies, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Mozilla, that have created a large ecosystem of support for the standard.

Polkadot’s networking uses libp2p, a flexible cross-platform network framework for peer-to-peer applications.

Positioned to be the standard for future decentralized applications, libp2p handles the peer discovery and communication in the Polkadot ecosystem.

The Polkadot runtime environment is being coded in Rust, C++, and Golang, making Polkadot accessible to a wide range of developers.

Processing transactions in parallel

Parachains are specialized blockchains that connect to Polkadot. They will have characteristics specialized for their use cases and the ability to control their own governance.

Interactions on parachains are processed in parallel, enabling highly scalable systems.

Transactions can be spread out across the chains, allowing many more transactions to be processed in the same period of time.

A better security model

In both Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake systems, blockchains compete with each other over resources to secure their networks, and blockchains are easily attacked until they develop a significant community to support their network.

Polkadot takes a different approach by letting blockchains pool their security, which means that the blockchains' security is aggregated and applied to all.

By connecting to Polkadot, blockchain developers can secure their blockchain from day one.

Transparent on-chain governance

Updates to the protocol happen fork-free via transparent on-chain voting, so protocol development never stalls due to the lack of a clear process.

The relay chain uses a sophisticated governance mechanism that is designed to establish a transparent, accountable and binding process for resolving disputes and upgrading the network.

DOT tokens are used to participate in governance decisions, including tabling proposals, voting, and bonding.

Parachains are free to design their own governance mechanisms, allowing for maximum freedom without affecting other parachains.

Learn more about Polkadot’s governance

GRANDPA: a trustworthy consensus algorithm

Polkadot uses its original GRANDPA (GHOST-based Recursive Ancestor Deriving Prefix Agreement) consensus for a more secure and resilient network.

Under good network conditions, GRANDPA can finalize blocks nearly instantly. Under bad network conditions, like a network partition, GRANDPA can finalize large quantities of blocks (theoretically millions) at once when the partitions resolve.

Learn more about GRANDPA.