We Need To Make ink! Showcase Projects

I talked with Ben White and Peter Ruchatz from Parity and this is a follow-up post to share what we have talked about and get feedback from the rest of the community members.

Background
Substrate’s core thesis lies around the idea of application-specific blockchains. This is true (in the long run. Probably it takes more than 3 years from now in my opinion). But the reality is different at this moment. Majority of people who have recently joined the Polkadot ecosystem deploy smart contracts on smart contract parachains, either Astar or Moonbeam rather than making a parachain from scratch. This may be a bit subjective, but objectively, the number of dApps is much more than the number of parachain projects now.

  • Commercial applications on Astar in 7 months: At least 41.
  • Commercial applications on Moonbeam in 7 months: At lesat 49.
  • Number of live parachain projects in 8 months: 26

In Q4 and 2023, I assume this trend continues since making smart contracts is much easier for developers (I am excluding Parity devs here lol) than making their own parachain with Substrate. From a risk control and financial perspective, the former option makes sense for early projects. Starting from making a dApp first and eventually making your own chain sounds like a more realistic and reasonable approach just like some big Ethereum projects like DYDX did. In addition to that, making a parachain takes a longer time (more money), and needs to win a slot auction. Therefore, from my perspective, it makes sense for Polkadot to push more dApps.

For short-term Polkadot adoption, having great dApps in the Polkadot ecosystem is necessary. Without short-term wins, we keep losing momentum and projects leave from Polkadot ecosystem (some people are calling it “expansion to other ecosystems”)

Problem Statement
Having great dApps on smart contract parachains is necessary to win in 2023 and we need to make our Polkadot ecosystem more attractive not because of technical superiority but because of its network effect and the ecosystem momentum. Based on that the problem right now is that the Polkadot ecosystem doesn’t have Polkadot dApps. Almost 100% dApps on Astar and Moonbeam are fork projects from the Ethereum ecosystem or making something that Ethereum can do at this moment. EVM is not a default and suitable environment for Polkadot Network. In the coming months, we should make what only Polkadot Network can do by leveraging Polkadot’s unique features i.e XCMP and Wasm smart contracts, and deliver the best and most optimized user experiences for users. This is what we should make with ink!. Then, another problem comes in here. There are very few ink! developers (They are mainly at Parity, Astar, and Supercolony) and people don’t understand what ink! can do and competitive advantages over solidity.

Solution
Having EVM dApps in the Polkadot ecosystem is great. But using EVM dApps on Polkadot is like Apple’s users using PowerPoint on MacOS while running VirtualBox and reproducing WindowsOS. It is better to use KeyNote or PowerPoint for Mac.
As a Polkadot ecosystem, we should push ink! more to make Polkadot native use cases that leverage Polkadot’s technologies.

To do so, we need more showcase ink! projects that attract more ink! developers. And because ink! developers are limited, as a founder of Astar, I would like to make a dedicated task force among teams like Astar, Parity, and more. Astar, Parity, and others make a joint budget that incentivizes developers to make showcases projects. Through this ecosystem-driven task force, we will decide which use case we will implement (ink! smart contract and basic UI) and which team is going to work on it. Since Shiden, a smart contract Kusama parachain is the only environment that supports ink! smart contracts at this moment, it may be interesting if we could deploy these smart contracts on Shiden and make showcase projects. But it doesn’t need to be Shiden.

Do you think it is possible? Any feedback is welcomed!

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I think it’s a great suggestion, Sota!

Thinking out loud here: Maybe we could do it as an on-chain bounty on Kusama from the treasury? We could have teams that are involved with ink! (Astar, Supercolony, Phala, peaq, Pendulum, Aleph Zero, t3rn, …) be curators of the bounty. Maybe each team could suggest one idea that showcases their specific technology using ink!.

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I think this would be a great initiative. I was part of the RoosterDao team who are keen to do more ink projects and could really use some mentorship and financial help to continue on it.

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I will be working with an ink related side project. I think we should even separate grants offering from substrate and ink. I have talked with some few people and they are planning on an ink project but right now the grants program is like congested with alot request . If it can be separated people will have the power to budl lots of cool ink projects and showcase them.

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I’m not sure how accessible and well maintained ask! is, but as an assemblyscript alternative for wasm smart contracts compatible with pallet-contracts, I believe demos and showcases would be an incredible resource to bring people into the ecosystem, as it would bring smart contract platforms in Polkadot and Kusama to the hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of typescript developers!

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I’m generally in favor of promoting ink! and other polkadot native smart contract solutions via additional tools, but I also want to point out that the Web3 grants program is very much still interested in supporting these projects (especially compared to solidity smart contracts). It’s true that we currently have a backlog (some internal restructuring), but we are still interested in additional applications. Also, feel free to ping me if anyone is already waiting for a longer period of time for a response on an application.

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I love this statement and agree with it.

Can someone explain to me why/how ink! will bring network effects? I’m not disagreeing with Sota’s take, I’m just looking for more information on how this will help us achieve our objectives.

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this is the key. is there at least a video on this somewhere? if it exists, some budget should go into promoting it imho.

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I can share from OAK’s perspective that EVM + XCM is really really hard. So while we’re working on EVM, ink makes things much easier for us in terms of bringing our automation functionality to any smart contract platform. If anyone is working on a DEX, subscription platform, or other ink project we’d loved to get involved and help however we can since the more projects we can bring automation to the better it is for our network.

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Agreed. I would like to make more use cases only Polkadot can realize. And this discussion is the first step to making a community-driven initiative. Regarding the demo, we are going to disclose demos at Sub0.

Thanks, Sota, I totally agree with your proposal as a core contributor to the DotSama ecosystem!
Hi all, this is Kyo, a core member of ArthSwap.

As Sota mentioned, tho we’re building DEX on Astar EVM, I strongly think we have to put importance on the growth of wasm ecosystem so that we maximize the advantage of Polkadot. Now ArthSwap team is developing wasm DEX template so let me introduce it briefly.

Purpose

  • By organizing templates, it makes the ecosystem more scalable since developers can build new defi dapps easily.

What we’re making

  • We’re making Wasm DEX template using ink!

Not to mention, we’re pretty positive to support the expansion of Polkadot ecosystem, so we hope we’ll work together and if there’s any financial support, I’m certain that it would be more attractive for developers.

The only way to get dapps to birth one after another is to have the documentation and source in place to make it easy for developers to develop. Astar and ArthSwap are eager to lead those movements!

Appreciate your continuous support!

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How about we host a youtube session from solidity and ink devs showing whats possible and not possible on both sides

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@everyone Thank you for your feedback. I am glad to see that this is one of the hottest topics in the Polkadot forum.

Here are the next steps I have in my mind.

  • Form a task force together with ink! shareholders (by October 14th)
  • Initiate the first discussion and identify the scope
  • Make a Kusama treasury proposal (by October 21st)

Please reach out to me if your project has been working on ink! and would like to join the task force.

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This is awesome to hear. Would definitely want to learn more about what you’re building - this is the first ink DEX I’ve heard of and we’ve been looking for one to partner with for a while if you’re open to discussion.

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out of interest, why wouldn’t this initiative just be funded by the well funded Ink! teams in the ecosystem - i was under the impression that the relay treasuries were there for public goods?

Or is this how it’s being framed?

Because ink! use cases under this initiative are common goods. These ink! templates are 100% open source and they can be deployed on any chain on Kusama or Polkadot that supports the contract pallet which is made by Parity.

In addition, the most well-funded projects in the ecosystem are Polkadot and Kusama. The budget size is at least 10 times bigger than relatively well-funded teams in the ecosystem like Astar, Moonbeam, and Parallel. Astar can compensate a part of the budget if you want but we will only fund Astar projects just like Polkadot funds only Polkadot projects. If a parachain leads this initiative with their own fund, the size is very small and there is a political issue since i don’t think it is possible for new small projects to compensate funds to join this initiative.

Plus, Kusama is burning around $40k every week and Polkadot is burning around $2M every week. Why not use them for ecosystem developments instead of burning tokens?

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I would love to support this with doing a Seminar or even a short video series. Right now we’re already planning a Seminar for the ink! 4.0 release: [Topic Proposal]: ink! 4.0 Release Online Event · Issue #27 · substrate-developer-hub/substrate-seminar · GitHub. Please chime in with any ideas in the issue!

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This is a great idea. I’ve been chatting about this exact same thing with a client and a friend. A showcase project is very important. It will also help produce better tooling because we won’t be creating library code in a vacuum, but for code in production with specific needs. I think we should offer grant money and developer hours for the right projects. Everyone wins.

  1. If this is something we can kick off immediately I have two projects to discuss. sam.ruberti@parity.io
  2. I have a talk on ink! for Sub0. Perhaps we can use that as a platform to announce something to attract developers?
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Any way OAK can help promote that talk let me know! Unfortunately we’re not speaking but @matt and I will be in the building trying to help push adoption so happy to assist however we can.

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Hi all!

@sota this is a great initiative, we would love to be a part of it! Let me give a little background on our project - Aleph Zero:

As of now, we’re not a parachain but a sovereign chain built with Substrate. However, we plan to get a parachain slot when the substrate-to-substrate bridge is production ready and we can connect our chain to the dotsama ecosystem.

The pallet-contracts debuted on our testnet in June, and we’re waiting to push it to the mainnet when ink! 4.0 is released and the corresponding changes to the pallet contracts are released as well. Till now, there are more than 1200 contracts deployed on our testnet Aleph Zero/Substrate Portal. Those are only wasm contracts as we don’t have the pallet-evm.

Here is a list of most notable projects building on our chain that use Ink!:

We’re also preparing in-house a showcase dapp that will debut shortly after pushing pallet-contracts to the mainnet. This is meant as a surprise so I cannot disclose too many details, but it will be quite a large dapp built with several contracts.

We plan to add several privacy features like snarks and MPC accessible from the contracts. This is the main point we chose ink! over EVM. We’re currently working on the snark part and will add MPC later on.

We’re about to announce a grant program that will focus mainly on dapps but we’re more than happy to support any initiative that will increase ink! adoption, e.g. all the ideas mentioned above :slight_smile:

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