Gavin Wood’s Polkadot:
A Blockchain Innovation in Motion
When Bitcoin was launched in 2009, Dr. Gavin James Wood (@gavofyork on Twitter), the co-founder of Bitcoin’s biggest rival Ethereum, was knee-deep in the computer visualization of music and wholly uninterested in the hype around cryptocurrency. By the end of 2013, the British programmer had 15 years of open-source coding experience (and had been coding for 25 years of his 33), and came across Jonny Bitcoin and Vitalik Buterin. Jonny hoped Wood’s coding experience would help Buterin transform Ethereum from a white paper to a fully functional blockchain. His hope bore fruit and within weeks Wood joined Buterin in Miami to write the PoC-1 of Ethereum and present it in the North American Bitcoin Conference in January 2014.
Six months after the conference, the founders met in Zug, Switzerland to officially found Ethereum. During that time, Dr. Wood was busy ideating and putting down the groundwork of the smart contract language Solidity, writing down the first formal specification of any blockchain protocol, the Yellow Paper, and shaping other similar blockchain-based infrastructures.
Two years into his role as chief technology officer of Ethereum, Dr. Wood and Ethereum alumna Dr. Jutta Steiner founded Parity Technologies to develop core blockchain infrastructure for Ethereum and other Web 3.0 networks. Wood’s vision far surpassed average cryptocurrencies and relied on blockchain infrastructure to decentralize the web, precipitating a new wave of technological evolution. So naturally, someone who had a penchant for designing his own complicated board games in his youth jumped at the chance to disrupt the current centralized node-based software application status quo by launching Parity Technologies and Web3 Foundation.
How the Polkadot Protocol Began
Parity‘s initial name was "EthCore" and was focused on developing core infrastructure for the Ethereum blockchain ecosystem and addressing issues including usability, performance and privacy. EthCore managed to raise pre-seed funding and began developing Parity Ethereum, a free, open-source software solution that allows an individual to run a node on the public Ethereum network and mine Ether.
While developing it and awaiting the release of a new Ethereum specification that would include sharding, Dr. Wood began pondering the sharding hurdles a blockchain would face. From mild musing to a white paper, it took him about four months to come up with a vision for a heterogeneous multi-chain framework, the Polkadot Protocol.
The protocol was introduced in 2017 following the concentrated efforts of Parity Technologies and the Web3 Foundation. The technology surrounding Polkadot is set to help support the decentralization of the web, a thoughtfully radical ideology pioneered by Dr. Wood and aptly coined ‘Web 3.0’. The subsequent innovations that followed Polkadot were Substrate, a framework to efficiently build your own blockchains; and the “canary” network Kusama that is independent of Polkadot but runs on the same software as a proving ground for bleeding-edge technology.
Polkadot, Parity, Web 3.0, and the intricately complex world of blockchain - Dr. Wood aims to sew all these together and pioneer his vision of a world with a ‘consensual Internet’. Considering Facebook and Google’s dominating control of our private data, such an internet evolution seems to be a reasonable pursuit.