Parachains – application-specific blockchains that connect to the main network and benefit from its security and computing capacity – are viewed as the building block of Polkadot’s ecosystem. Initially, the plan was for 100 parachain slots, with an auction process determining who gets to ‘lease’ parachains for defined time periods.
However, according to a blog post published by the team on February 25, some slots will be made available for ‘governance-allocated parachains,’ also known as common good parachains. These common good parachains have been conceived to address the so-called “free rider” problem, wherein parachains can forgo contributing to elements (such as bridges) that may benefit the ecosystem as a whole.
Solving the Free-rider Problem
The free-rider problem is best understood with reference to an analogy. Supposing a levy is imposed on car manufacturers to offset pollution: in turn, vehicles’ cost is increased, and all drivers are forced to pay extra.
Although everyone will subsequently benefit from a less toxic atmosphere, only those who actually buy a car will have contributed: the others (cyclists, for example) are considered free riders.
Polkadot’s governance process will essentially earmark parachain slots for consideration outwith the auction process, with a Council and Technical Committee representing passive stakeholders and supplying technical guidance. Both groups will then decide whether to accept or reject the direct registration of certain parachains.
According to the blog post, both system-level chains and public-utility chains may emerge as blockchain categories that qualify as common good chains.
Any parachain, in other words, that the Polkadot team deem beneficial for the overall ecosystem – bridges, identity projects, and smart contract platforms and governance would all theoretically be under consideration.
Chains that help remove transactions from the Relay Chain and enable more efficient parachain processing seem the likeliest to be considered ‘common good.’
As noted in Polkadot’s blogpost:
“By allocating a subset of parachain slots to common good chains, the entire network can realize the benefit of valuable parachains that would otherwise be underfunded due to the free-rider problem.
Polkadot’s governance system is on the bleeding edge of social coordination and it will be exciting to see how it helps the network evolve to meet the needs of its constituent parachains and stakeholders.”
Polkadot Gears Up for Parachain Launch
The Polkadot team recently published a roadmap noting that all upcoming parachains will be tested on regular parachain testnets, like Rococo and on Kusama Network. The latter being Polkadot’s canary network.
Kusama is a proving ground for parachains, allowing developers to build and deploy them and experiment with Polkadot’s governance, staking, nomination, and validation functionality.
Once parachains are live, community members will have their say on which additional features and network upgrades should be incorporated over time.