Top 5 Smart Contract Platforms on Polkadot for building DApps (A Developer's Guide)by@haroonbaig
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9,574 reads

Top 5 Smart Contract Platforms on Polkadot for building DApps (A Developer's Guide)

by Haroon BaigMay 1st, 2021
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There are over 3,511 DApps in the market today, and 2,782 of these DApps live on the Ethereum platform. Polkadot will undoubtedly lead the movement with its unique design approach towards scaling, shared security model, cross-chain communication via bridges, and a network of interconnected blockchains. Clover is fully EVM-compatible, making it easy for developers to use existing Solidbase DApps directly on their existing code. Clover has introduced a unique model where part of the gas fees paid by the users directly goes to the DApp developers.

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After a successful launch of the Ethereum protocol back in 2015, we thought we all would see the dawn of a new era for DApps. Analysts were throwing their crazy predictions on how these DApps will take over the market by storm.

Fast forward to today, it is apparent that the DApps market didn't take off as expected. If we see the numbers, there are over 3,511 DApps in the market today, and 2,782 (~80%) of these DApps live on Ethereum. 

Due to the first-mover advantage and a strong network effect, Ethereum attracted much of the talent pool. However, developers soon realized the limitations of the Ethereum platform; lack of scalability, higher fees, too much network congestion, and lack of proper tooling. 

Do you know what happened next?

A considerable portion of DApp developers started moving away from the Ethereum platform. If you look at the graph below, the total number of DApps is increasing steadily, but the number of DApps getting deployed on Ethereum is on a downhill trajectory. 

Alternative platforms give a much better proposition for the DApp developers. They offer a better scalability model, high transaction throughput, cross-chain interoperability, and considerably less TTM (time to market).

Talking about the alternative platforms, I believe Polkadot will undoubtedly lead the movement with its unique design approach towards scaling, shared security model, cross-chain communication via bridges, and a network of interconnected blockchains launched within the Polkadot network.

Today, we will be discussing five promising developer-oriented smart contract platforms on the Polkadot network for DApp development.

If you're new to Polkadot and its ecosystem, I recommend reading this detailed Polkadot all-in-one guide that I wrote. Trust me, you shouldn't miss this!

Let's dive in!

1) Clover

Clover calls itself a Blockchain Operating System. It is an EVM-compatible DeFi service platform on Polkadot built with Substrate. They are focusing on building a foundation layer for different kinds of DeFi applications. 

Clover believes that the current state of DApp development has three main problems that they're trying to address; Poor user experience, lack of interoperability, and no built-in incentive mechanism for the DApp developers.

Let's discuss what these problems are and how Clover intends to solve them with their platform.

Lack of cross-chain interoperability

Prominent blockchain protocols like Bitcoin and Ethereum work in silos. They can't communicate with each other seamlessly and exchange value.  This lack of interoperability has given rise to custodial services that make the ecosystem more centralized. 

Clover addresses this problem by introducing their SPV chain simulation technology which enables trustless two-way pegs across PoW and PoS networks. They have also bridged Ethereum and Polkadot ecosystem for seamless cross-chain communication between these two protocols.

Poor User Experience

Another issue with the current state of DApp development is the reliance on gas and underlying base currency. The majority of the users are not well versed in crypto and aren't familiar with the concept of gas. 

Clover has introduced gasless transactions that enable users to transact in the token of their choice without relying on the base currency, creating a much better user experience. 

Lack of incentive for the DApp developers

Right now, there is no built-in incentive for the DApp developers to benefit from a particular platform. Clover has introduced a unique model where part of the gas fees paid by the users directly goes to the DApp developers.

Now let's touch upon some of the other key features offered by the Clover platform. 

Clover is fully EVM-compatible, making it easy for the developers to port their existing Solidity-based DApps directly on Clover without any significant change in the existing codebase. 

Clover is also an Operating System parachain on the Polkadot network, having the following layers in its design. 

Storage layer: Clover supports IPFS, AR, and CRUST protocols for distributed storage of dApp data. 

Smart contract layer: With Web3-compatible API, existing Ethereum DApps can migrate to Clover. It also supports cross-chain deployment and RPC calls. 

Defi protocol layer: Clover supports different Defi protocols, such as Swaps, Lending, Insurance, and allows developers to build custom Defi protocols. 

eApp layer: Clover supports the evolution from dApp to eApp (External App), where developers don't rely on machines, domain names, or network bandwidth.

Clover has its native token, CLV, and it will be used for staking, paying transaction fees, and earning dividends. Holders can also use CLV tokens in the governance process.

Being on Polkadot, Clover inherits many of the perks offered by the Polkadot network, like shared security provided by the Relay Chain and cross-chain communication with other parachains on the network, seamlessly communicating and transacting value.

It is undoubtedly one of the best developer-oriented platforms on the Polkadot network. 

2) PolkaFoundry

PolkaFoundry is a developer-oriented platform that will disrupt the current state of DApp development with its distinctive features and offerings. 

Sounds promising? Trust me; you're going to love it!

PolkaFoundry isn't just another EVM-compatible smart contract platform on Polkadot. It brings together the missing pieces of the ecosystem that facilitate DApp development in an all-in-one production environment

Sophisticated DApps, especially in the DeFi and NFT space, don't just need an execution environment. They need a combination of different services that are part of their business logic.

We are talking about services like identity management, document storage, and external data feeds through Oracles, to name a few. 

Current developer-oriented smart contract platforms on Polkadot generally provide two things only; Interoperability and EVM compatibility. They don't offer built-in support to the DApps for the essential supplementary services they need alongside the interoperable execution environment. 

PolkaFoundry solves this problem by providing a range of different services alongside the EVM-compatible execution environment. Here is a sky view of the PolkaFoundry's all-in-one production hub: 

  • PolkaFoundry blockchain (Substrate-based blockchain)
  • PolkaID (an identity management service)
  • DocuGuard (document storage and management service)
  • Decentralized PolkaGate (providing data feeds through Oracles)

These are the building blocks that facilitate developers to build sophisticated Defi and NFT apps without worrying about integrating these essential services independently.

PolkaFoundry platform provides everything so that the developers could focus more on the design and business logic of their DApps.

PolkaFoundry also comes with an EVM pallet that supports Solidity-based smart contracts, making it super easy for the developers to migrate their existing DApps from Ethereum to the PolkaFoundry's production hub.

Developers can also use their favorite Ethereum Developer tools like Remix, Truffle, Metamask, etc., making it a frictionless process for the developers to build or migrate their DApps to the PolkaFoundry platform in a hassle-free way.

PolkaFoundry is a Substrate-based blockchain built on top of Polkadot, inheriting all the Polkadot ecosystem features that include shared security from the Relay Chain, interoperability with other parachains on the network, and connecting to external chains like Bitcoin, Cosmos, Ethereum, and others via bridges.

Solving the UX issues

Another exciting aspect of PolkaFoundry is that it also focuses on solving the UX issues faced by most DApps. Not every user is familiar with crypto, and they get overwhelmed once they see things like private keys, gas fees, KYC elements, etc.

PolkaFoundry aims to solve this problem of bad UX by introducing the followings novel concepts:

Signing key: A key that replaces your private key and comes with an expiration date with a small set of permissions. The signing key improves security and provides an efficient signing process that improves the overall UX significantly.

Flexible payer: With this flexible payer feature, the onboarding process for a user becomes seamless. Developers can employ flexible monetization strategies for their DApps, like free, freemium, on-demand, and in-DApp purchase models.

PolkaID: It is an off-chain service that converts user keys into different parts (shards) and spreads them across multiple Key Management services. PolkaID prevents custodial model and provides more security in a decentralized manner.

Strategic Partnerships

PolkaFoundry is making waves and is bringing strategic partners that will bring value to the overall PolkaFoundry ecosystem by providing support, and building products and services.

Since its inception, PolkaFoundry has partnered with Kylin Network, Paralink Network, Orion Protocol, MANTRA DAO, Genesis Shards, Tidal, Apron, Plethori, Phala Network, and Raze Network. It doesn't stop here; PolkaFoundry is actively pursuing more strategic partnerships to advance its ecosystem.

PKF token

PolkaFoundry comes with a native PKF token used to pay for transaction fees and the execution of smart contracts. PKF token is also used as a utility in a newly launched crypto launchpad, Red Kite, by the PolkaFoundry team.

PolkaFoundry is undoubtedly one of the most promising developer-oriented platforms on Polkadot, offering not just an all-in-one production hub but also enabling developers to solve some of the pressing UX issues in DApps.

3) Plasm Network

Plasm Network is a multi-virtual machine smart contract platform and the first Layer-2 scaling solution, bringing Plasma and State Channels (and potentially Rollups) to the Polkadot ecosystem.

At its core, Plasm Network is a Substrate-based scalable DApps platform that is implementing Layer-2 solutions.

The team behind Plasm Network believes that Layer-1 blockchains will act as a trust and settlement layer, and Layer-2 solutions will act as a transaction layer, improving scalability by many folds, which is otherwise a challenge in Layer-1.

Polkadot achieves horizontal scaling through heterogenous sharding, and Plasm Network brings vertical scaling by introducing Plasma and State Channels. The horizontal scaling might soon hit the limits, affecting all the DApp platforms on the Polkadot Network.

Developers can use Plasm Network without worrying about hitting the scalability limits. Like the other DApp platforms we discussed here, Plasm Network is also EVM-compatible and supports Solidity. Developers can easily migrate their DApps to Plasm Network without much of a hassle.

Plasm Network comes with the following main features:

Optimistic Virtual Machine (OVM): A Substrate runtime module for the Plasm Network, providing a unified architecture for different types of Layer-2 protocols such as Plasma, State Channels, and Rollups. Optimistic Virtual Machine is the core module that makes Plasm Network a Layer-2 powerhouse.

DApp Rewards: A mechanism for providing a basic income to DApp developers for building DApps on the Plasm Network. In this rewards mechanism, the individual block reward splits in half that goes directly to the nominated DApp. The community nominates the DApps; think of it like investing in a project.

Operator Trading: The operator is the owner of a DApp (basically an address that can receive DApp rewards). Operator trading goes along with the DApp rewards, allowing the operators to trade the ownership of their DApps. Think of it like 'flipping' your DApp in the marketplace, making a viable business model for DApps.

Multi-lockdrop: It is a new token distribution model where instead of distributing the tokens once, Plasm Network will repeat the lockdrop three times; ETH lockdrop - ETH, BTC lockdrop, and ETH, BTC, DOT lockdrop. Lockdrop is just like airdrop where the token holders timelock their tokens for a certain period in exchange for PLMs.

Plasm Network will be one of a kind parachain on Polkadot that is not only EVM-compatible but solves scalability issues with Layer-2 solutions (Plasma, State Channels).

It also adds a layer of abstraction for Layer-2 to enable easy implementation of DApps and comes with a rewards mechanism, and gives developers the ability to transfer the ownership of DApps.

4) Moonbeam

Moonbeam is a developer-oriented, EVM-compatible smart contract parachain on Polkadot. You can think of Moonbeam as a full native Ethereum implementation on the Polkadot network.

Aside from having a full EVM implementation, Moonbeam provides Web3-compatible API and cross-chain bridges that connect Moonbeam to the existing Ethereum network.

Ethereum is congested, and the cost efficiency and scalability challenges drive projects to build on other chains, making it a fragmented market for both users and developers.

Moonbeam solves this problem by providing an ideal platform for DApp developers that is Ethereum compatible and has a fully functioning bridge implementation that connects Ethereum to Moonbeam.

Due to its strong native compatibility with Ethereum, developers can use all the existing tools from the Ethereum ecosystem to build DApps for both Ethereum and Moonbeam network. Some of those tools are:

  • Remix
  • Truffle
  • HardHat
  • Web3.js
  • Ethers.js

Moonbeam also supports Oracles, including Chainlink, Band Protocol, and Razor Network, to serve as a data feed for your DApps.

You can deploy smart contracts to Moonbeam in Solidity, Vyper, or any language that can compile your contract code to EVM-compatible bytecode.

Moonbeam mirrors everything that Ethereum offers; Web3 RPC, accounts, keys, subscriptions, logs, and add some enhanced feature sets like on-chain governance, staking, and cross-chain integrations.

Below is an interaction flow diagram between an external Web3 RPC call and a Moonbeam node. As you can see, the node has both Web3 RPC and Substrate RPC available so that you could interact with the Moonbeam node by either Ethereum or Substrate tools.

The Substrate runtime functions handle these incoming RPC calls, check signatures, and pass the contract call to the EVM pallet to execute state transitions.

The cross-contract calls are all synchronous as on Ethereum Layer-1 because Moonbeam operates as a single shard. Moonbeam provides a much better platform for Ethereum DApp developers who are hitting the scalability limits on Ethereum.

  • Existing Ethereum DApp developers can look at Moonbeam as a scalability strategy for their applications.
  • By coming to Polkadot, DApp developers can add up a massive userbase from the Polkadot ecosystem.
  • Moonbeam provides an easy entry point for DApps, with an upgrade path, i.e., smart contracts can always migrate to a native parachain if more performance and control is needed.

However, things like difficulty, uncles, pending blocks, or apps that rely on Eth internals (like Proof-of-work) won't work on Moonbeam.

Moonbeam has a native token called Glimmer (GLMR), used to pay for the execution of smart contracts, transaction fees, and governance.

Moonbeam will include a custom collator incentive pallet (rather than the staking frame pallet) because it ensures reliable block production and censorship resistance and is in no yield competition with DeFi protocols built on Moonbeam.

Being a parachain on the Polkadot Network, Moonbeam also inherits the shared security of the Relay Chain and will also be fully interoperable with other parachains on the Polkadot network.

5) ParaState

ParaState is 'Ethereum on Steroids'; that's what they call themselves, but how much of it is true? Let's find out.

We have seen many projects on the Polkadot network that are EVM-compatible, such as Moonbeam, Acala, Clover, Plasm, and others. All these projects integrate the EVM runtime pallet developed by Parity into their Substrate blockchains with Web3 RPC calls.

This EVM runtime pallet developed by Parity mirrors the same EVM runtime infrastructure on Ethereum. Since many of the projects use the same EVM runtime pallet, there will be no noticeable difference in the execution speed of smart contracts.

Substrate-based blockchains offer higher TPS and transaction throughput, but the compute performance and execution speed are much more important for a smart contract platform.

Therefore, aside from the regular EVM pallet, ParaState uses EWASM (Ethereum favored WebAssembly) that provides a much better execution environment for smart contracts.

So it is not just the Ethereum compatibility like all other parachains are currently providing, but a better and more efficient execution environment for smart contracts.

On ParaState, you can use more than 20 programming languages to code your smart contracts. Some examples include Solidity, Fe, Rust, JavaScript, MOVE, DeepSEA, and Marlowe.

ParaState also comes with the necessary DeFi infrastructure apps that include a Uniswap exchange, stable coins, lending protocols, and price oracles. It also provides a Pallet SSVM, so other Substrate-based blockchains could use it to provide Ethereum compatibility and take advantage of the modern WebAssembly ecosystem.

To help improve adoption among the developers, ParaState comes with STATE token backed by the developer treasury. All Substrate-based blockchains that use Pallet SSVM will collect a small portion of the gas fee on every EWASM transaction, which goes directly to the developer treasury, managed by the ParaState foundation.

The STATE token is backed by all those fees collected in native parachain tokens added to the developer's treasury. ParaState is bringing the WebAssembly developer community to the Polkadot ecosystem.

The team is also introducing another token, pDOT, issued to those DOT holders who staked and locked their tokens in the parachain auction. pDOT will be an ERC-20 compatible token on ParaState, with a 1:1 ratio with the locked DOT tokens.

DOT holders can trade, borrow, and use their pDOT tokens across the network. ParaState is indeed Ethereum on steroids and a perfect platform for the developers who want to build high-performance applications for the Web3 ecosystem.

This is it from my side! The Polkadot ecosystem is getting better, and will attract a lot of developers to build different decentralized applications.

Over and out! 👋