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What is Substrate?

Substrate is a toolbox for building special types of blockchains. It’s not a blockchain itself, but the set of tools that developers use to create unique and powerful blockchains.

Substrate lets developers make their own blockchain with the specific features they need and want, without being tied to existing designs. Substrate uses a modular architecture called FRAME to help make different parts of your blockchain, like building blocks. This makes it easy to put together and customize a blockchain’s features.

Substrate is part of a larger vision of Web3, which aims to make the internet more decentralized and user-friendly. Substrate helps make sure that new blockchains can work well together, like Polkadot and the parachains, advancing not just Polkadot’s mission but also bringing enough power and flexibility to benefit all blockchains.

Where did Substrate Come From?

Substrate was created by Parity Technologies, a blockchain technology company. Parity Technologies was founded by Gavin Wood, who is also one of the co-founders of Ethereum and the founder of Polkadot.

The team at Parity Technologies designed Substrate to address the limitations and challenges they encountered while building Polkadot, a multi-chain blockchain platform. Substrate empowers developers to create innovative blockchains tailored to their specific use cases, without needing to start from scratch.

Moonbeam Chose Substrate

The Moonbeam platform uses integrated cross-chain messaging to allow developers to create smart contracts that access services across many remote blockchains. The flexibility of Substrate enables Moonbeam to adapt to evolving blockchain standards and requirements while also being EVM compatible. This means that Moonbeam is well positioned for innovative use cases with new Dapps, and connections to remote chains like Ethereum, Avalanche, and Solana.

Many new use cases require fast finality and high security. Substrate is designed for efficiency and performance, making it suitable for Moonbeam’s focus on smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps). It ensures that Moonbeam’s blockchain can handle a high transaction throughput efficiently. By leveraging Substrate, Moonbeam can benefit from the security of the Polkadot network, including its shared security model, which enhances the overall safety and resilience of the Moonbeam network.

Being a part of the Polkadot, and thereby Substrate ecosystem provides Moonbeam with access to a community of developers, tools, and resources. This support accelerates development and enhances the overall capabilities of the Moonbeam platform. Moonbeam’s choice to build on Substrate reflects its commitment to creating a versatile, secure, and interoperable blockchain platform capable of supporting a wide range of decentralized applications and use cases while benefiting from the advantages of the broader network of Substrate based chains.

Powering the Polkadot Ecosystem with Substrate

Substrate is the foundational blockchain framework used to build the various interconnected blockchains within the Polkadot network, though anyone can use Substrate to build blockchains. A number of Substrate-based chains function independently outside of the Polkadot ecosystem.

Inside Polkadot, Substrate serves as the technological backbone that enables the creation of specialized blockchains, known as parachains, which together form the Polkadot ecosystem. With Substrate, Polkadot and its parachains customize, communicate, share governance functions, and keep things consistent for developers in a secure environment.

Polkadot, often referred to as a “Layer Zero” , is a platform designed to bring heterogeneous blockchains into a unified network. These blockchains are the parachains which have autonomy to customize their own technology and use case yet be connected to the entire Polkadot ecosystem. Substrate supports and enhances this structure.

Parachains are Customizable Shards
In Polkadot, Substrate allows developers to create customized blockchains with tailored features and logic, without the need to build everything from scratch. This ease allows developers to future-proof, innovate and experiment, while supporting quick adoptions to changing technology and needs.

Cross-Chain Communication
Polkadot’s Relay Chain coordinates the interaction between these parachains, enabling them to communicate, share data, and transact securely using Polkadot tools like XCM. Substrate’s architecture overcomes the limitations of traditional blockchains by allowing different blockchains to specialize in specific tasks while collaborating efficiently. This means that parachains can serve different purposes and work together, even using the functionality of other parachains natively. This benefits all the parachains and remote chains connected to the Polkadot ecosystem through a parachain like Moonbeam.

Shared Security
Substrate helps Polkadot provide a shared security model, where the security of all parachains is interconnected with the Polkadot Relay Chain. Parachains validate their own transactions, but also make use of Polkadot validators for finality. This process is called Nominated Proof of Stake. Substrate contributes to this security by providing a consistent standardized format for all parachains so they are fully compatible and therefore able to take full advantage of the Relay Chain’s security, interoperability, and native messaging.

Built with Substrate, a parachain connected to the Polkadot Relay Chain becomes part of a larger security network. Parachains do not need to establish individual security mechanisms from scratch, and benefit from the interconnectedness of the ecosystem as a whole, making the whole network more resistant to attacks.

Substrate-based parachains can implement their governance mechanisms, enabling decentralized decision-making within individual parachains. Thanks to Substrate’s customizability parachains can model their own governance and upgrade protocols along with community decision making with no reliance on centralized authorities. This innovation empowers the communities and stakeholders to participate in protocol upgrades and decision processes furthering decentralization.

Substrate Enhances Transaction Efficiency

In comparison to other blockchain frameworks, Substrate is efficient. Substrate’s flexibility in consensus selection, support for parallel processing, lightweight design, sharding capabilities, low-latency communication, and runtime upgradeability all contribute to its ability to enhance transaction efficiency, making it an attractive choice for blockchain projects aiming to achieve high transaction throughput and low confirmation times i.e. finality, which can still vary depending on the design choices made by developers.

Substrate allows developers to choose and implement their own consensus mechanisms. This flexibility enables blockchain projects to select consensus algorithms that align with their specific use cases. For example, they can opt for faster consensus protocols like Proof of Authority (PoA) or Proof of Stake (PoS) if high transaction throughput is a priority.

Substrate supports parallel processing of transactions, which means multiple transactions can be validated simultaneously, significantly increasing transaction throughput. This feature is particularly advantageous for applications requiring high transaction speed, such as DeFi platforms and gaming applications.

What is a Substrate Pallet?

A “pallet” refers to a modular and composable runtime module. Substrate is designed in this way so that developers can pick and choose different functionalities to include in their blockchain, making it easier than building everything from scratch.

Developers use Substrate Pallets to add specific features and capabilities to their chains, like democracy to administer stakeholder voting, or lottery pallet which enables network participants to purchase tickets. There can be pallets for governance, token transfers, smart contracts, identity management, oracles, and many other features, and more.

Pallets are composable, meaning they can be “stacked” to create more complex blockchain logic. This makes building with Substrate simple without sacrificing any ability to innovate. For the non-developer, using applications on a Substrate-based blockchain means access to more secure cross-chain interoperability.

Read more about Substrate and Moonbeam.