Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

In the last few years, we have seen a lot of changes in transactions, payments, finance, deposits, ownership, etc. Parallel chains are the last decade of blockchain development to be realized, technically speaking and philosophically speaking.

Parallel chains are disrupting the existing landscape
Looking at it from a very macro perspective, our world, and the kinds of systems that make up that world, are becoming more and more complex. It’s easy to get lost in the details of things like regulation, oversight, and all sorts of paperwork.

That’s the crypto world, and our motivation for making polka. Our ultimate goal is to make it possible for people to transact more fairly and more clearly. To allow people to opt in to certain rules on their own and to collaborate with each other. To allow people to focus on what really matters and makes sense, rather than wasting time in complex bureaucracies and systems. The crypto world eliminates a lot of inefficient organization and collaboration.

Parallel chains are the last decade of blockchain development to be realized, technically so and philosophically so.

Some things have been on paper for a long time, but paper is not reality, reality is what the code is executing. That’s our goal, and parallel chains are actually in the real implementation of this whole process.

Parallel chains will break the way the network society works

Broadly speaking, what you can do with parallel chains is actually disrupt the way we’ve interacted with the Internet so far, which means changing the way we transact, build, organize and govern.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen big changes in transactions, payments, finance, deposits, ownership, etc.

But beyond that, we will have different types of entrepreneurs, business models, ways of funding teams, ways of interacting with other builders, etc. There will be new interfaces, libraries of economic proxemics, cryptography, etc. None of this would have happened without a decentralization of truth and trust.

We allow people to come together so that communities can organize themselves, govern themselves, and have clear binding rules in terms of how to escalate. I think Boca itself is a great example of self-governance, and some projects have their own governance processes with governance tokens. Self-governance is going on from the smallest project to the largest.

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

I find the concept of “self-organizing blockchain token communities” interesting. Because it is a concept native to the Internet, where people from different classes, backgrounds, origins and regions organize around a common goal or principle. The diagram here represents the different people from around the world organized around a boca.

Parallel chains, Layer 1 blockchains and smart contracts

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

Parallel chains are breaking all existing blockchain technologies, i.e. all existing Layer 1 and smart contracts.

We have three metrics: sovereignty, security of inheritance, and expertise.

Sovereignty is how a given object controls its own destiny. Smart contracts are greatly constrained by the system they belong to.

Inheritance security is whether you need to gather your own set of verifiers. As a developer, do you need to worry about economic security when you build your system so that your system becomes large enough so that it is difficult to be attacked.

Expertise is the ability to provide solutions that are adapted to a specific problem domain. The more specialized you are in a particular area, the more efficient your solution will be and the more people will be able to use it for transactions.

We try to make parallel chains that can meet all three of these metrics at the same time, which the current Layer 1 and smart contracts cannot do.

Polka Architecture

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

If we take a closer look at the architecture of PoC, on this diagram we can see that PoC works like this. There is a relay chain in the center, and there are many parallel chains protected by the relay chain, each with its own verifier and collector. Some of these parallel chains are bridges to other networks. At the bottom there are parallel threads, another class of parallel chains with different scheduling mechanisms.

Parallel chains are breaking the smart contract landscape

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

For most usage scenarios, smart contract platforms are too general. You can only use very rough instructions like adding a number, subtracting a number, etc. If you want to use it to create anything more complex, you will find that it is very inefficient, which is mainly manifested in gas fees, because every addition and subtraction is charged, and whatever calculation you are doing will cause the gas fees to stack up, making it less and less efficient.

With parallel chains, you can focus very much on your usage scenario, you can have a transaction dedicated to storing files, you can have a transaction for collecting rent, and so on. It’s much more self-sufficient than if you use a million different little instructions.

Another key difference between parallel chains and smart contracts is that parallel chains are proactive, rather than reactive.

Smart contract frameworks operate in such a way that they respond to events that are submitted to the chain as transactions. But you can’t write a smart contract that says, “Wake me up in a year to perform this job,” or “I want to do something every time a block comes out.

Whereas you, as a parallel chain developer, you have that control to schedule a certain logic to be executed at a certain time or block height.

Parallel chains are breaking Layer 1 blockchains

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

The main reason is that parallel chains improve the ease of communication. layer 1 blockchains cannot bridge each other very efficiently, and although they can, they also end up with two consensus systems and two sets of verifiers. Also, proving to one chain that another chain confirmed a block and accepted a transaction is a ponderous matter that usually involves lags and delays.

So the interesting thing to say about parallel chains is that they are all secured by the same set of consensus processes, so messages can be passed between parallel chains almost instantaneously, in about 1-2 blocks, which is considered very, very fast in the blockchain world.

The other thing is that when you build a parallel chain, because that parallel chain is part of the Poca consensus system, you don’t have to gather your own set of verifiers or set of miners to guarantee your security. You don’t have to collect billions of dollars to be responsible for security and thus ensure that your chain doesn’t get acquired or suffer a 51% attack. This is a nice advantage for teams that have innovative ideas, but don’t necessarily have the ability to be financially secure.

Parallel chains as a technology
What exactly is parallel chain as a technology? How does it work?

Fundamentally, parallel chains are the core of the execution of polka. Almost any type of transaction, except for some things that are very important for the root of a polka, like balance, staking, governance, etc., runs on the parallel chain.

All the smart contracts, file storage, prophecy machine logic, etc., happen on the parallel chain. The parallel chain is where everything goes on in the decentralized system that is Poca.

What is a parallel chain?

Relay chains maintain a set of parallel chains, and the validators of the relay chains provide consensus to all the parallel chains so they can move forward at a consistent pace. We randomly assign the validators of all relay chains to check different parallel chains.

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

Some parallel chains are implementing bridges to other Layer 1 blockchains. This abstraction of a bridge between networks, such as a Poca-Bitcoin bridge, Poca-Ethernet, Poca-Monero, or other bridge, would be encapsulated in the parallel chain proto language. So that means you can just register a parallel chain that happens to be a bridge, and you don’t have to painstakingly write a parallel chain out at the root level of the polka.

So here we are talking about splitting the verifier for all parallel chains, which is actually very much like the concept of sharding that we heard before. The main difference is that a polka is a set of heterogeneous chains rather than homogeneous chains, so each chain can do different things and have different state transition functions.

Parallel threads

Parallel threads are a slightly different version of parallel chains.

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

When you acquire parallel chain slots, it’s all a one-time bid for months or years, and you’ll be competing for slots with the global parallel chain community. If the work your chain does is particularly time sensitive, then doing so is worthwhile. But for many long-tail projects, doing so is too expensive.

Many usage scenarios really only need to get blocks out at regular intervals, like once an hour, or a few times a day.

Parallel chains are a kind of “pay-as-you-go” parallel chain. We have a fixed number of slots set aside for parallel threads. For example, there are five slots for parallel threads, and there may be 500 or 5000 chains competing to create blocks on those slots.

Parallel chains are tools
Types of Parallel Chains

There can be many types of parallel chains. For example, parallel chains with coins, parallel chains without coins (e.g. public goods parallel chains), parallel chains that specialize in a particular domain (e.g. prophecy machines, identity, file storage, zero-knowledge proofs, etc.), and hub chains that serve a community (e.g. DeFi hubs, governance hubs, etc.).

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

As an example, a parallel chain of smart contracts. You can have a parallel chain to allow people to execute smart contracts, either ink! contracts or traditional EVM Solidity contracts. I’m used to classifying smart contract parallel chains as generic specialty chains. It allows people to run smart contracts and offers a lot of flexibility, but also has smart contract drawbacks.

But the good thing is that you have a choice. You can write a parallel chain yourself or you can use smart contracts.

The parallel chain will share some of the functions of the relay chain

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

The current relay chain takes up many functions, after which some of the functions of the relay chain such as Staking, governance, and transfer can be decentralized to the parallel chain, while the relay chain only uses to be responsible for the consensus of the parallel chain. This will free up the computational resources of the relay chain and allow the relay chain to be the first transaction-free blockchain that only needs to focus on the parallel chain consensus, thus expanding the parallel chain scale as much as possible.

Relay Bridge

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

Bitcoin and Ether are not going away in the short term, and we hope that applications on PoC can use Bitcoin assets and projects on Ether. Bridge-related research and development is currently underway, and will eventually be deployed on boca to connect boca to bitcoin and ethereum through a parallel chain mechanism.

Parallel chain is the organization
Parallel chains represent a collection of financial assets and social assets.

Parallel chain is the actor

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

Each parallel chain can perform many activities as an actor on behalf of its stakeholders, such as participating in the governance of relay chains by proposing and voting, becoming a member of the Boca Network Council, managing bounty missions, allocating treasury funds, etc.

Parallel chains are digital states

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

Parallel chains are like digital countries, each with its own comparative advantage. Poca’s XCMP allows parallel chains to interact with each other, just as countries can trade internationally with each other.

Parallel chains are software
Setting the stage for multiple clients and developers

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

In early 2020 we did the Polka Parallel Chain Host Implementer’s Guide, which is a bridge between research and development, a specification that lets researchers know what developers are doing and lets developers know the more underlying details of the research.

Code Data

Parallel chains may break the Layer 1 and smart contract landscape

In terms of code, we have written 65,000 lines of code related to parallel chains alone in the past year and a half. This includes the parallel chain Runtime module, the parallel chain network code, and the parallel chain execution code. There are more than 800 PRs, 150+ features and enhancements.

For design and standards, we wrote more than 47,000 words of standards, 23 subsystems responsible for different modules, and 16 Runtime modules.

For networking and testing, we had 900 verifiers on Rococo, ran 15 blockchains, and achieved a block-out time of 12 seconds. In fact, the on-chain code is already capable of 6 seconds, but the off-chain code still needs some optimization.

What has happened since the Polkadot Decoded last December?

Launched Rococo test network (900 verifiers, 15 parallel chains, cross-chain asset transfers using XCMP-lite)

Finished sharding security protocol and codebase audit

Launched Westend perma-testnet

Added 16 Runtime modules to Kusama

Added code to Kusama for parallel chains, crowdfunding and auctions

Released V0.9.2

Added the first parallel chain shell to Kusama (soon to be upgraded to Statemine)

What happens next?

Conducted 5 Kusama parallel chain auctions (not yet announced, will be done once parallel chains are stable on Kusama)

Go live with public goods parallel chains and community parallel chains

Complete audit

Add parallel chain, crowdsourced lending, and auction module code to boca (in theory, if parallel chain works well on Kusama, it will work well on boca)

Start rolling out parallel chains on Polka

Optimization and scaling, with a goal of 50 parallel chains and 1000 validators

Development of more features such as parallel threads, off-chain XCMP, off-chain code storage (which will improve performance), etc.

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