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Amid a hushed and reverent silence, Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum and, more recently, Parity—developer of much-anticipated interoperability blockchain Polkadot—threw off the wrapper of a brand-new Apple Mac Pro. The objective? To demo how Parity’s about-to-be-released software, Substrate, the foundation for the Polkadot protocol, could launch a blockchain in under 60 minutes, from scratch.
His audience, largely composed of man-bun sporting, hardcore blockchain developers, packed the vaulted, wood-panelled former concert hall, scene of GDR-era radio broadcasts at Berlin’s Funkhaus. Their concentration was intense. For them, this was the highlight of the Web3 Summit.
The event, saw developers (and other lesser mortals) treated to three days of talks, debates, and workshops with the aim of enabling a fully functional and user-friendly decentralized web. It was organized by the Web3 Foundation, which “stewards technologies and applications in the fields of decentralized web software protocols.” Wood is the Foundation’s president and the Polkadot protocol its flagship project. So it felt a bit like preaching to the converted.
Still, Wood was excited to show off Substrate, especially its minimal set-up time and pared-back toolkit, which Parity hopes will become one of the key pillars of Web 3.0 architecture. The software reduces blockchain launch-time from days or even weeks, to a mere hour. This seemed to go well with the blockchain developers; though not the most demonstrative of mortals, their silent “wow” was plain to see in their bobbing buns.
“Maximum freedom with minimal effort,” was how Wood described Substrate, adding that it encapsulated the lessons learned from developing both Ethereum and Polkadot, which have been “distilled down into a single stack of tooling that allows you to get all these advantages, in terms of time, cost and money.” The framework is designed to allow developers to build highly advanced blockchains customized for any project.
Substrate not only promises the effortless creation of a working blockchain, complete with user interface, but also the ability to shape smart contracts and change consensus mechanisms “on the fly,” with no need to worry about mundane considerations such as security.
A foundational element of Polkadot, Substrate is scheduled for release in mid-November. The project is already beginning to announce initial partners, which include Chainlink, an oracle provider.
Wood ended his presentation on a bullish note: “It’s my hope that, when we put out Substrate 1.0., this will be a turning point that makes the promise of a multi-chain world a captivating one.”
A new technology that will make it quick and easy to build blockchains and create cryptocurrencies is certainly a captivating prospect. Substrate will also be re-licensed to Apache 2, the most commonly used Web server software, which Wood hopes will “instantly open the door to all of the Fortune 500 to actually experiment with it.” With Substrate, Parity’s aim is to enable the whole blockchain developer ecosystem to jump forward years. For everyone else, it's about time.