What are Parachains?
A Guide to Polkadot & Kusama Parachains
Parachains are custom, project-specific blockchains that are integrated within the Polkadot (DOT) and Kusama (KSM) networks.
Parachains can be customized for any number of use cases and feed into the main blockchain, called the Relay Chain, considered to be the heart of the Polkadot and Kusama networks.
The Relay Chain is responsible for the network’s shared security, consensus and transaction settlements, and thus, by being integrated into the Relay Chain, all parachains benefit from the Relay Chain’s base features.
Among other things, this design structure may allow parachain users to perform transactions faster and at lower costs, and parachain developers to create blockchains that don’t disclose user data to the public network or that do not need to process a large number of transactions.
Parachains optimize their functionality for specific use cases and, in many instances, support their own tokens. In order to become a parachain on Polkadot and Kusama, projects have to participate in a parachain auction.
Examples of projects hoping to participate in auctions and secure a parachain slot include Moonriver, an Ethereum-compatible blockchain environment for Kusama, and Karura (KAR), a decentralized finance (DeFi) hub that will allow users to earn yield on their crypto and act as a credit giving infrastructure for Kusama.
How Parachains Work
Polkadot and Kusama are networks that allow both information and tokens to be transferred on them. Unlike Ethereum, where decentralized applications are created within the bounds set by its blockchain, Polkadot and Kusama allow developers to create their own independent blockchains.
This means that each parachain can have its own parameters such as block times, transaction fees, governance mechanism and mining rewards.
Parachains benefit from the Polkadot and Kusama network’s security, maintained by the Relay Chain, rather than having to rely on their own set of validator nodes. Instead, parachains are maintained by collator nodes that store a full history for each parachain and aggregate parachain transaction data into blocks to be added to the Relay Chain.
Polkadot and Kusama are expected to only support up to 100 parachains slots on their networks, a number that is flexible and subject to change.
Each parachain has a dedicated parachain slot to attach to the Relay Chain, and, in order to gain access to one of the slots, Web3, the team behind Polkadot and Kusama, has created what they call Parachain Auctions as a method to distribute the available slots in an equitable manner.
Parachain auction participants have a determined amount of time to place bids on the projects they wish to see get a parachain slot, and the project that garnered the most support at a randomly determined time during the bidding process will generally obtain the ability to use a parachain slot.
If you would like to know more about parachain slot auctions, head over to our Parachain Auction page.
Useful Polkadot and Kusama Parachain Resources
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