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Libra member Bison Trails adds Polkadot to its platform

In briefBison Trails will allow users to set up Polkadot validators on its platform.
The company has been running validators on Polkadot’s trial network, Kusama.
Polkadot is moving toward a mainnet launch.

Polkadot’s inexorable march toward mainnet continues. Today, Bison Trails said it will support the nascent network. Users will be able to set up and run Polkadot validators via Bison Trails’ platform.

Polkadot is a proof-of-stake network (which some industry insiders consider a threat to Ethereum) that brings other blockchain networks together. As Decrypt wrote in February 2019, “Its ultimate aim is to act as a framework for all blockchains that opt-in, a bit like how HTML allows sites, browsers, and servers to interact with each other.” Part of that involves parachains, which are “application-specific blockchains” that can then be connected to other parts of the network and external blockchains.

Bison Trails, meanwhile, calls itself an infrastructure-as-a-service company. Essentially, it’s a platform for people to start running nodes on blockchain protocols without the hassles of, you know, running their own nodes. But it doesn’t do Bitcoin because it’s into proof-of-stake. As evidence, it joined the Proof of Stake Alliance at the end of January. 

Earlier this month, Bison Trails added Ontology to its platform to go along with other proof-of-stake networks, such as Tezos and Cardano. [Disclosure: ConsenSys, which funds Decrypt, is also an investor in Bison Trails.] The company is also a member of the Facebook-led Libra Association—and one of the very few true blue blockchain companies part of the Association at that. Bison Trails CEO Joe Lallouz, in fact, is a founding member of Libra’s Technical Steering Committee.

Bison Trails has already been running validators on Kusama, the test network for Polkadot. According to a press release from Bison Trails, none of its customers lost stakes “as a result of slashing on Kusama.” That’s important because it’s a big selling point for the company. If Polkadot or Kusama validators break the rules, they can have their staked tokens “slashed,” or taken away. Since Bison Trails is setting up the validator nodes for customers, it has an incentive not to lose their money. 

But, just in case, the company said it would also introduce a “double-signing feature [that] will include a protective software to ensure there will never be a double-sign on any block, a major protection against slashing.”

With Polkadot’s mainnet just around the corner—it made its DOT tokens available on Coinbase Custody on February 10—Bison Trails is already looking forward to the real deal, but will still keep Kusama.

“Launching a Parachain on Polkadot is hard because you need to build and test everything as well as fundraise a large amount of DOTs to put down as a deposit to get a parachain slot,” Bison Trails CEO Joe Lallouz told Decrypt. 

“We made the prediction that teams will use Kusama as a launch pad, securing a parachain slot there first, before moving onto Polkadot, and that’s exactly what’s happening,” he said. “We expect to see many more projects that want to enter the Polkadot ecosystem start out on Kusama before making the transition to Polkadot, which will directly transfer demand onto Polkadot.” 

Thus far, however, Polkadot has not firmed up a date for mainnet launch. A Polkadot spokesperson told Decrypt that it’s waiting on full results from multiple audits. 

But it’s still making waves: The company announced yesterday that Chainlink is providing oracles for the network. KILT, Laminar, and Acala also have said they’ll be integrating Polkadot, while Celer, Polymath, and Centrifuge plan to build on top of Substrate, a framework for building customizable blockchains. Parity Technologies created and used Substrate to build Polkadot; any blockchains built with it can automatically work with Polkadot.

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