Tokens like Ethereum, Solana and Polkadot all power their own chains with a common goal of providing a scalable platform for decentralized global apps.
Polkadot in particular enables the use of parachains which are custom, project-specific blockchains that are integrated within the Polkadot ecosystem.
Parachains are considered parallel chains that have their own runtime logic. They also benefit from the shared security and cross-chain messaging provided by the Polkadot relay chain.
While parachains permit a high degree of flexibility and customization, they also require more effort to create and maintain over time.
For the last two years, most crypto startups within the Polkadot ecosystem have wanted to eventually become full-fledged parachains. Yet with the rise of integrated applications or DApps like RMRK and Zenlink, the question for startups today iso we need to become a parachain?
The emergence of these integrated DApps and protocols shows that the next phase of the Polkadot may be one where parachains become optional within the overall ecosystem.
I believe that integrated applications will lead to best practices for the cross-consensus communication format, thus creating a powerful and thriving ecosystem that other public chains will not be able to replicate.
Polkadot defines the difference between smart contracts and parachains as follows.
- When a feature is implemented with a smart contract, the smart contract you write must be deployed on a specific chain and associated with an address on that chain. In contrast, a runtime or module developed on a parachain to implement the feature you want is to create a standalone state machine.
- Smart contracts must be updated manually, while parachains will be able to swap out their code completely with root commands or governance pallets automatically, making upgrades easier.
- When you build a smart contract, it will eventually be deployed to a target chain within a specific environment. Parachains allow developers to state their own chain’s environment and even allow others to write smart contracts for them.
The integrated applications or DApp model beyond the Polkadot parachain model, consists of the following.
- The back-end logic of the application is decentralized.
- Users are interacting with the chain rather than the application.
- The application is not a parachain but a pluggable module, which is a pallet that can but not necessarily be deployed on a parachain.
- Different backend modules of an application may be deployed on different chains. For example, Zenlink’s swap pallet is deployed on multiple parachains.
- Upgradeability pgrading of applications is flexible.
- The token for the application is issued on statement.
Unlike smart contracts, such as DeFi projects on EVM chains, integrated applications not only keep the characteristics of decentralization and smart contracts but are also technically flexible.
For instance, RMRK and Zenlink are the pioneers of this type of application. They can be integrated into new DApps by deploying multiple pallets or Substrate runtime modules on different parachains and using the optimal performance of various parachains.
Using the integrated application approach, Zenlink is providing an open, universal cross-chain DEX protocol for building DEX on Polkadot with one click, while RMRK is building a standard cross-chain NFT infrastructure in the Polkadot and Kusama ecosystem.
Marvin Tong is the founder of Phala Network and Hashforests.co .