The Polkadot network had a phased roll-out plan, with important milestones toward decentralization marking each phase.
The PoA Launch
The Genesis block of the Polkadot network was launched on May 26, 2020, as a Proof of Authority (PoA) network. Governance was restricted to the single Sudo (super-user) key, which was held by Web3 Foundation to issue the commands and upgrades necessary to complete the launch process. During this time, validators started joining the network and signaling their intention to participate in consensus.
Nominated Proof of Stake
Once Web3 Foundation was confident in the stability of the network and there was a sufficient number of validator intentions, Web3 Foundation used Sudo - a superuser account with access to governance functions - to initiate the first validator election. Following this election, the network transitioned from PoA into its second phase, Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS), on June 18, 2020.
After the chain had been running well with the validator set, the Sudo key issued a runtime upgrade that enabled the suite of governance modules in Polkadot; namely, the modules to enable a Council, a Technical Committee, and public referenda.
Removal of Sudo
The Sudo module was removed by a runtime upgrade on July 20, 2020, transitioning the governance of the chain into the hands of the token (DOT) holders.
From this point, the network has been entirely in the hands of the token holders and is no longer under control of any centralized authority.
To enable balance transfers, the community made a public proposal for a runtime upgrade that lifted the restriction on balance transfers. Transfer functionality was subsequently enabled on Polkadot at block number 1,205,128 on August 18, 2020, at 16:39 UTC.
On August 21, 2020, redenomination of DOT, the native token on Polkadot, occurred. From this date, one DOT (old) equals 100 new DOT.
Polkadot is now moving to the next stage of opening up its core functionality, like parachain slot auctions, parathreads, and cross-chain message passing. These upgrades will require runtime upgrades that will pass through Polkadot's normal governance processes. The core functionality does not have to be unlocked sequentially — several features can be unlocked with a single proposal.
With the release of Polkadot 1.0, researchers have begun research for the next version of the Polkadot network. With many questions yet to be answered, as of now, some big areas of research will be in:
- Economics and Networking (Zero-Knowledge): How will scalability work in Polkadot 2.0?
- Horizontal vs. Vertical scalability: What is the breaking point of the maximum number of parachains built with horizontal scalability?
- Nested Relay Chain: How can multiple Relay Chains exist connected through parachains? How many tiers of Relay Chains can be nested? How will validators work together to validate blocks on various Relay Chains? How is XCMP working in the nested setup? How is AnV going to work there?