Can Polkadot’s on-chain governance be a major issue for DApps?

Polkadot is a promising and highly innovative project by Parity Technologies aiming at creating a framework for interoperable blockchains. As Parity is also one of the providers of Ethereum clients, recently, there has been a huge controversy about the tweet by one of Parity’s developers Afri Schoedon (now removed) saying “‘Polkadot delivers what Serenity ought to be.’ Change my mind.”

The ensuing brouhaha raised a lot of issues and even conspiracy theories that we are not going to touch upon here. However, given that Polkadot certainly appears to be a serious competitor to the scalable version of Ethereum as well as other such serious efforts (Cosmos, Algorand, Cardano, Dfinity, RChain, etc.), it is important to throw light upon the core features that are unique to it and the implications that they may have.

One of such features has apparently been alluded to in a tweet by Gnosis’s founder Brian Coppelman.

At a very high level, Polkadot, like other similar architectures will have a structure consisting of the base chain (called the Relay Chain) and the chains that depend on it for security and interchain communication, named Parachains.

The key difference to which Koppelman alludes, however, is that parachains are apparently supposed to be specific to each decentralized application (DApp), and the addition and removal of all parachains will be subject to the decision-making by the holders of the Polkadot native token DOT. DOT tokens will also need to be staked to any particular parachain.

It must certainly be noted that at the time of writing, despite our best efforts, we did not manage to find an accessible description of the exact procedures to be used to enable DOT holders to vote with regard to particular parachains. Nonetheless, it may be argued that allowing tokenholders to decide in some form on which DApps may use the blockchain framework may contradict the spirit and greatest promise of public blockchain technology. This core feature of Polkadot may in the future at least limit its attractiveness for at least some use cases.

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