Moonbeam Smart Contracts for Polkadot

Moonbeam: A Smart Contract Parachain with Ethereum Compatibility

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We announced Moonbeam today, a smart contract platform that provides a scalable and accessible alternative to other developer platform options.

Moonbeam aims to provide developers with the ability to port existing Ethereum DApps or to create new DApps using familiar Ethereum development tools. This will substantially decrease the barrier to entry for successful Ethereum DApps that want to move to a more performant and cost-effective platform. Since Moonbeam is based on Substrate, the blockchain development framework from Parity Technologies, we are able to create a native Ethereum execution environment that provides Web3 RPC and EVM implementations to support most Ethereum DApps without significant modification. Moonbeam’s scalability and security is derived from running under Polkadot’s sharded design and shared security umbrella.

As a parachain on the Polkadot network, Moonbeam will also enable a number of interoperability scenarios, including integration with other chains to provide services such as Oracles, DEXes, and token transfers from chains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Why We Decided to Build Moonbeam

We started last year as a validator on the Kusama network. Since then, we have engaged with the community, the technology, and the emerging ecosystem of tools and services. During this evolution of our engagement with Polkadot, we realized that an accessible smart contract parachain would fill a strategic need within the Polkadot ecosystem.

The primary development framework for building applications on Polkadot is the Rust-based Substrate framework. Substrate is very powerful, but it also is quite complex, where DApp developers need to account for things like how to incentivize node operators, how the resultant chain will be governed, and what the underlying token economics looks like. For some projects, it will make sense to use Substrate to build a full parachain or parathread. But for many others, a smart contract backend will be much easier and make more sense as a starting point.

By making it easier to create and migrate DApps to Polkadot, we believe we can help existing projects address the scalability challenges they are facing today. At the same time, we want to enable new cross-chain interoperability use cases — based on Polkadot — that will extend each developer’s ability to reach new users and assets. As more and more app-specific blockchains are developed to solve problems in a scalable way, this extension of developers’ reach to work with users and tokens on remote chains will be increasingly needed.

Our Focus on Ethereum Compatibility

This is a strategy motivated by practicality. Getting traction for a new developer platform is a numbers game. By providing Ethereum compatibility, we give ourselves access to the largest market of existing blockchain developers. It also allows us to leverage the relatively mature ecosystem of tools that exist in the Ethereum ecosystem such as Truffle and MetaMask.

There are also many Ethereum-based projects today that are facing serious scalability challenges due to the expense and constraints of the network. We have had conversations with projects that are considering a variety of strategies including Layer 2 solutions such as Plasma and ZK-Rollups, sidechain solutions, and also porting to other more scalable platforms. There are pros and cons to each of these strategies. The key friction in porting to another platform lies in all of the work that is required: project developers would need to reimplement existing Solidity backend contracts and DApp front ends using an entirely different technology stack, thus losing most of the valuable work they have already done. We believe that offering Ethereum compatibility on Moonbeam will greatly reduce this friction, and thus increase the attractiveness of the porting option.

Moonbeam Longer Term Vision

While our near-term energy is focused on implementing Ethereum compatibility and other base functionality on Moonbeam, we are very excited about supporting cross-chain interoperability scenarios. As XCMP, SPREE and other interoperability protocols are enabled on the Polkadot relay chain to power cross-chain token movement and remote chain RPC-like functionality, we will be actively adding integrations to other parachains into Moonbeam.

We anticipate that parachains on Polkadot will be purpose-built chains that provide specific functionality to the network and to their users. We envision that Moonbeam can serve as a simple and accessible place for these different parachain functionalities to be composed and combined into novel forms.

Naturally, this will position Moonbeam as an experimentation ground for building new applications that leverage Polkadot’s interoperability and shared security. If applications built on Moonbeam need more direct control over their resources and economy over time, they can always upgrade to a full parachain or parathread. This migration, if necessary, can be done using a gradual and co-existent approach, minimizing risk and providing project developers with multiple roadmap options.

Interested in Learning More?

We want to engage with you as we build out the Moonbeam ecosystem.  We’re actively seeking:

  • Substrate/Rust developers
  • Node operators interested in running collators

We’d also love to hear from:

  • Polkadot projects who are interested in collaborating
  • Ethereum projects that could benefit from Moonbeam

To learn more about the Moonbeam smart contract parachain, visit the project website or tune into my Sub0 talk (which will be focused on the technology).

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