Polkadot Messaging/Positioning/Narrative Thoughts

Hey everyone - I have missed seeing many of you on calls recently and hope you’re doing great. I wanted to check in after having spent a couple months now outside of Polkadot for the first time, which has been enlightening to say the least. My goal in this post is to give some thoughts on how Polkadot positions itself in the market and some potential changes that could help in more correctly describing Polkadot to potential blockchain dev teams who right now are not even considering Polkadot as an option. Almost every good chain dev team is choosing ETH L2 (Polygon Supernets, Arbitrum L3, or OP Stack) or Cosmos for building new chains.

One of the things I’ve noticed most, especially now working on an interoperability protocol, is the fact that Polkadot’s narrative and messaging framed first and foremost as an ‘interoperability solution’ is really missing the point of what Polkadot provides as the most important benefit(s) to top blockchain development teams like Frax, dYdX, or opBNB Chain.

Current Positioning:

The Polkadot Twitter describes itself as “a sharded protocol that enables blockchain networks to operate together seamlessly”. Similarly, Polkadot’s main selling point on its website says “Polkadot unites and secures a growing ecosystem of specialized blockchains called parachains. Apps and services on Polkadot can securely communicate across chains, forming the basis for a truly interoperable decentralized web.”

I really think the main selling point (interop) of Polkadot right now is completely missing the point because Polkadot provides Polkadot-only interoperability. Protocols like Axelar, LayerZero, and Wormhole are doing a vast majority of the volume for actual crypto-wide interoperability, making Polkadot’s main selling point irrelevant to nearly every potential new appchain dev team (the main target dev audience for Polkadot). Interoperability within Polkadot’s world only becomes a benefit to chain dev targets when there is significant user activity and volume on multiple parachains.

Recent teams choosing a chain development platform:

  1. BNB Chain just announced opBNB as a L2 chain on the OP Stack. Why would they do this? Optimism has momentum, it has users, and it has liquidity (in the OP Stack ecosystem as well as on ETH mainnet, just one bridge transaction away) and it’s relatively easy to build with.
  2. Frax just announced Frax Chain as an ETH L2. Why? They want to be close to the ETH mainnet liquidity. They are not launching on Polkadot because Polkadot doesn’t have liquidity or users and they don’t need interoperability from Polkadot because you only need that if the other chains on Polkadot are valuable to interact with. Frax also needed more utility for its token, as most teams transitioning from app-to-chain do, so an ETH L2 gives it the ability to use the token for gas.
  3. dYdX is launching a chain in the Cosmos ecosystem. They did this because Cosmos SDK gives them flexibility, there are a decent amount of strong chains in the cosmos ecosystem, cosmos has momentum, and cosmos has a decent amount of liquidity. Teams like dydx are also launching chains because they need their token to have more utility (operating as the chain’s fee token) than it would as just a governance token for their app.

The key takeaway is that these chains aren’t choosing their chain development stack for the interoperability benefit. They’re choosing it for ease of development / speed to market, regulatory strategy regarding token, and liquidity/userbase. Polkadot can provide all of these technical benefits, often even better than competitors, and can work its way to solving the liquidity/user problem later.

These are some of the main things blockchain teams actually care about that Polkadot can provide:

  • Modular & Customizable - all the benefits of Substrate plus flexibility to fit each team’s use case
  • EVM compatibility - Polkadot’s modularity also allows any chain to be EVM-compatible
  • Security - high-grade security provided to parachains. No setting up validator set required.
  • Regulatory Compliance - DOT is software narrative + native gas token to operate your chain - a strong consideration for most teams transitioning from app to chain
  • On-chain Governance - Polkadot is so far ahead of its time with governance, and luckily governance is starting to pick up in other mono-chain ecosystems. This is a great added benefit, although not something to lead with.

Case in Point: Polygon Supernets (Selling Polkadot better than Polkadot)

Look at Polygon’s supernets site for an example of how Polkadot could be building its messaging. They are selling Polkadot much better than Polkadot is: “Polygon Supernets allow you to create high-performing, customizable App-chains with compliance implementation options, in a fast seamless way.” What they are selling: “high-performance, customization, compliance, fast.” When you scroll down, they also sell “Native gas token”. Polygon likely has a much better pulse on the actual needs of its developer audience and this comes through beautifully in their messaging.

Polkadot’s tech is incredible and no one denies that, but Polkadot still needs to go from 0 to 1 in terms of adoption and momentum. In all honestly, Polkadot right now is not even in the conversation, whatsoever, and something needs to change. With a bit of thought on messaging and positioning with the blockchain dev teams’ real needs in mind, it could help a lot in selling the true value of Polkadot. The other challenge will be to figure out what makes Polkadot different, even with the shift in messaging away from interoperability. Modularity/Substrate, Security, Regulatory, and Governance are all good angles that other mono-chains or L2 ecosystems aren’t doing super well.

Anyway, I hope this at least gets some creative juices flowing and helps to think about Polkadot from a slightly different perspective. I want nothing but success for the Polkadot ecosystem and am excited to see things continue to progress over the years.


Thank you for sharing this, Dan. It was very well written & full of very important insights.

I sincerely note that a change happens in the ecosystem. We need users, we need liquidity, and we need to be relevant in the eyes of others. The current path we are on has not been working, unfortunately. A change is needed; a new strategy to execute.

Personally, I would very much like to see more promotion of parachains providing end-user products & solutions for more everyday individuals in the industry. I would prefer that this focus, wherever possible, double down on XCM use cases. I believe that applications & services that take advantage of XCM to realize unique experiences & solutions are among our most powerful weapons.

I think an immediate low-hanging fruit would be a change to the Polkadot website, something better promotes the ecosystems & its parachains while also effectively communicating solutions to builders that those builders care about.

Polkadot as a common fee token across the ecosystem would also go a long way, in addition to having a multichain block explorer that comes with building in the ecosystem. Many things can be improved on, some are big & some are small, but I hope that these things are addressed with a sense of urgency.


Nothing will change if current heavy tech focus doesn’t change. Governance proposals for actual xcm usecases getting downvoted because current community is salty from betting on the wrong horse and now blocking development out of spite.

Good example is currently ongoing kilt and invarch votes. Both providing updated cross chain experience and getting super downvoted

Current low prices allow other teams to buy up token and downvote everything. Major business decisions for the future of polkadot shouldn’t be reliant on community

Also community needs to get off the high horse as Dan says we are not leading in anything at the moment.

Interoperability wise solutions that came out recently blow polkadot out of the water so why is the community parroting best tech and best interoperability?

Honestly the L0 narrative was a big miss.

Going forward I suggest:

  • setting up business related governance committee who can vote based on experience. Community downvoting out of spite paralyzed the ecosystem already. Parity has enough tokens to swing votes why aren’t they voting

-dropping L0 narrative, it failed

  • focusing everything on xcm and ease of interoperability

-focusing on highlighting things you can do better and faster on Polkadot vs other protocols
Good example would be DEXs without bridges.
Truly onchain identity from kilt
NFT standard from Uniqe
Multisig from invarch

All of these existed outside Polkadot for years and community is downvoting these additions currently.


We talked about this in Paris one year ago. Or was it two? Where someone from the Hydra team (I think, please correct me if I am mistaken) said in the Polkadot Marketing meetup where we met Peter for the first time:

“Sony does not advertise Playstation. Sony advertises the games you can play on the PS, so you want to buy the PS to play them. Polkadot should have the same approach.”

But two years later, nothing has really changed, and imo, nothing will until Parity joins the web3 ecosystem. I don’t mean join PolkaHaus. I mean, at the very least, mandate a weekly web3 day for every employee, where every single person or team MUST go on crypto twitter or into crypto groups or try interacting with crypto protocols and wallets and systems and report back. These reports should be overseen by a web3 native (Web3 Integration Supervisor) who can tell who’s bullshitting and avoiding web3-ification, and who’s actually out there being a pioneer.

Not even 10000 people hired by Parity can ever make the messaging good if they are not part of the ecosystem and know what resonates. Where are the memes? Where are the short and sweet explainers, demos, or thread drop-ins on twitter? Where are the conversations in the key telegram groups? 50 “coca cola” execs or whoever at 500k per year won’t be able to ship a good message because this is not a crowd that reacts to such messages. Devs in web3 are degens too, and unless you add some degen to your soup, it’s going to remain flavorless and out of people’s plates.


Thanks @danreecer for sharing these insights! I think these are timely and much needed.

I also agree with @swader that parity should be marketing all the teams that are building on Polkadot a lot more. Projects have to almost beg to get featured. It has gotten a bit better but not to a level where I as a founder could tell other founders confidently to build on Polkadot because the support for builders is great.

On @XCAstronaut excellent point on promoting XCM use cases. I think there is another big problem with XCM itself. Not the technology but the product. Last time we had a meetup with Parity and a bunch of the parachain teams, Parity declared that XCM should be a standard outside Polkadot itself. However, there’s not even a dedicated website for XCM AFAIK. Compare this with IBC that has it’s dedicated repo with standards (GitHub - cosmos/ibc: Interchain Standards (ICS) for the Cosmos network & interchain ecosystem.) and a protocol dedicated website (https://ibcprotocol.dev/). For XCM, you got to search around github issues to find what it does. That’s not an attractive way to onboard builders IMO.

From my perspective, Polkadot should focus on the points mentioned by Dan and then make it so ridicluly easy for builders to launch and scale a product:

  • Parity could get a parachain slot to launch with the contracts pallet. Allow anyone to develop ink apps in a matter of weeks.
  • If the apps find traction, have a clear way for them to become parathreads or chains.

Then there can be a way for Polkadot to thrive.


Have fun.

Build weird shit that uses the tools that already exist and stop worrying about what doesn’t work, or isn’t ready. Creativity loves constraints.

Stop being so corporate and worrying about what everyone else is doing. If you pivot to that you’re already behind the curve.

You cannot fix this top down.
Innovation doesnt come via committee.
Kusama had/has the right idea.


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I wrote The state of DotSama 9 months ago.

Everyone is still stuck having the same conversations, desperately attempting to make Polkadot a better Ethereum.

DotSama’s narrative will be made famous by collectives.

That is where culture and impact and awareness wlll come.


Lol flattered but agree this is not the answer, it certainly helps connect some folks in Parity into the fold with community sentiment and conversations but agree that this needs to be professionalized in a way that accountability exists for all those ultimately servicing Polkadot.

We sometimes forget that the Web3 Foundation is the entity that funds the servicing of Polkadot and personally I think if things do not begin to change other entities outside of Parity should submit proposals to the Web3 Foundation to service Polkadot where failures are observed in the ecosystem.

Certainly Parity has done many things right, but does not have a great track record so far in a few areas. I am still baffled at how this is surprising to some and find the hesitation to at least try to change it up a bit perplexing. No single entity can service a multi-billion dollar project, internationally and do it well, all major multi-nationals have regional corporate offices yet we seem to think it’s ok and expected that Parity can service the entire globe and understand every market. ngmi

Do we know if they read this criticism? Or are we just talking among ourselves?

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Personally, I believe we are moving in the right direction. Someone has already mentioned the various proposal that is ongoing. Yes, KILT Protocol and Invarch had some downvotes, and we need the community to understand that these are trying to add more unity within our ecosystem.

The more we work together, the more narrative we can throw to the outside world. For example, Our DID solution would love to have Multi-sig, and we have spoken to Invarch about this at conferences. Once delivered, we can start to use it.

I believe the Core Teams are producing great stuff. One aspect of building all these Parachains is that we are focused more on the building of these Parachain and our pipelines are filled to the brim with development work. Therefore, it will be harder for the Core Teams to build out use cases together with other Core Teams. Though I am not saying impossible, we do it as much as possible to make it happen. Constantly communicate with different teams on how we can integrate or work together. Always happy for people to reach out.

We attempt to lower the barrier for these integrations from our proposals to do the development work that is needed in order to reduce this. Some may downvote this, but we need these proposals to make our integrations easier for the other Parachains. Our workloads are massive, and using the treasury to incentive building to make it frictionless or reduce the barrier for other Parachain teams to use our XCM, etc., is better. I think the community sees this too. However, we need more push from those in the community with more weight to vote.

  • Do we need a weekly or monthly highlighting of Proposals that go through the community to have them actively vote?
  • Do we need more people delegating their votes to another?
  • If so, do we need a round of advocating for candidates and a showcase of their exploits to ensure we choose candidates we trust and wish to vote on our behalf?

Another thing is bringing other developers in to work on bridging the Parachains by utilising the XCM use cases or different chains functionality to build awesome projects. This can be done on the dApp layer that unique projects have these available for people to build.

How do we make each Parachain available to these dApp projects?

People mentioned that Parity needs to highlight the Parachains. This is true, and we will hopefully see this come. I believe, Parity sees this and will showcase the Parachains. One thing I can mention is that more common good needs to be funded by the community. An example of Parachain is the Apillion team building out. Again, much friction in the proposal is coming in as people are worried about spending. I agree we must vet and make the teams are building intended to deliver outstanding projects. I believe Apillion can have and will deliver. With them, they should reduce the onboarding of teams to allow new developers to utilise the different functionality and XCM use case we are building out.

I am Dudley from KILT Protocol Developer Relations Lead. w3n:dudley

I am not disagreeing with individuals’ concerns but putting my positive light into the situation. It’s not all dark and gloomy.

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Another example posted today with very similar chain dev-focused messaging to what I outlined above:

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Celo moving to an Ethereum L2 with OP Stack / Eigenlayer.

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I have had this thread on my reading list for a long time, and I am glad I finally did. Very thought provoking.

Here are my comments on various topics touched here:

Tech Stack: While our tech stack, primarily Substrate and Cumulus, are both impressive in many ways, they are admittedly lacking either major simplifications, or major documentation improvements before we can call them “accessible to the mass developer audience”. I believe this is easy to solve, and just requires time and effort. I think ink! is in fact far superior in this regard.

Polkadot Website and Parachains: I am not aware of the why and how of the Polkadot website decides on what to display, but I think the opposite would also be a good improvement to see. Something like “Secured by Polkadot” banner in all parachains. Using Accords and SPREE, Polkadot can offer a unique type of interoperability that is truly unique to Polkadot, and it is only possible because of the shared security.

XCM as a Product: I really agree, and I have personally tried to motivate a few people that I know and are involved in taking XCM, not the format, rather the product, and pushing it out there as something that can be evangelized and learned independently. I think the same can be said about multiple other products as well, such as new system chains, and relay chain features.


@danreecer, thank you for the very well-written post. I also beloved that Polkadot could use better messaging, especially on their website, which is the main reference point for most users. “Ease of development and speed to market” are crucial points that must be stressed more.

Thanks to @danreecer for the insightful post! Here’s a quick overview of my thoughts:

  1. The Polkadot ecosystem is seeing significant investment and has over a 50% chance of solidifying its use and community growth.
  2. Developers primarily seek affordable block space. While community is essential, it’s not the primary concern.
  3. Polkadot’s real need? A game-changing dapp. They’re on the right track.
  4. Current chains focus predominantly on DEXes, decentralized derivatives, and a sprinkle of NFTs. But activity is at an all-time low, dipping 99% from its peak.
  5. Despite the current trend towards platforms like Polygon, Zk, Op, Arbitrum, and Tendermint, they have their limitations when it comes to decentralisation.
  6. Polkadot stands out in one critical area: true decentralization. This is the essence of a public blockchain, providing resilience against censorship.
  7. The chances of Polkadot surpassing ETH? I’d say 51%. We should focus on fostering genuine innovation instead of simply building for the sake of it. True utility will come from addressing real needs, and if everyone desires what Polkadot offers, its success will be inevitable.

Having said all of that, what we miss is a real solid algorithmic stable coin on Polkadot - I hope/expect to see ACALA at some point manage this and would hope to see the polkadot bootstrapping initial demand for that stable coin by providing liquidity there - EG - Do monthly DOT deposit and use 10% of what is in the trove for funding instead of burning DOTs which doesn’t make much sense…

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