Moonbeam, with a website that looks like something out of a detective novel, is a highly specialized Layer 1.5 chain, Ethereum-compatible developer platform targeted to Ethereum and Solidity developers. It is also a parachain on the Polkadot, which means it benefits from the shared security and interoperability that the Polkadot network provides. Many chains are pursuing a multi-chain deployment strategy which often includes deployments to Ethereum and also on BSC and Moonbeam.
Moonbeam extends the base of Ethereum’s feature set with extra features such as on-chain governance, staking, and cross-chain integrations. The full package. According to the CEO, Derek Yoo, somebody had to do something about the impracticality of Ethereum’s main challenges.
We spoke to Derek Yoo from Moonbeam to discover their angle.
IM: Hi Derek, what is Moonbeam all about?
Given the sometimes outlandish gas prices, projects are motivated to find an environment with cheaper transaction fees. We aim to provide the easiest development environment and the richest set of developer integrations on Polkadot. By making it easy for developers to build on Moonbeam, we are able to attract and onboard new and existing applications to the Polkadot ecosystem very quickly, which promise transactions at a snippet of the cost.
IM: Why are developers looking for different solutions outside of the Ethereum chain?
We have been talking to a lot of Ethereum based projects and protocols. At this point, a majority of projects are looking to expand via a multi-chain deployment strategy. Our value proposition for these projects is that they can use their existing Ethereum codebase, and with minimal-to-no changes deploy it to Moonbeam, and in doing so have a Polkadot based deployment. Projects are interested in having Polkadot based deployments to be able to serve different users and use cases than they are able to serve on Eth mainnet. And at the same time they are interested in access to Polkadot based assets, and to be a first mover in this new and quickly growing ecosystem.
IM: What advantages can building with Moonbeam bring?
Moonbeam is designed to simplify the experience for Ethereum developers as they expand to Polkadot. This has a few key components:
Minimal Codebase Changes: if you have an existing contract, it will work right away with no need to rewrite or reconfigure
Language Support: write smart contracts in Solidity or anything that compiles to EVM bytecode
Core Developer Integrations: integrations with the most-requested developer tools and services like APIs (The Graph, Biconomy, Covalent, OnFinality), assets (Ocean Protocol), bridges (ChainSafe, Interlay, and an NFT bridge in the works), DeFi protocols (SushiSwap, IDEX), oracles (Chainlink, Band Protocol) and many more.
Unified Accounts, Addresses, and Signatures: use your existing Ethereum H160 accounts & ECDSA signatures to interact with Moonbeam
IM: Why would I build on Moonbeam rather than creating my own parachain or parathread on Polkadot?
By far the most important decision a project makes when building on Polkadot is this question of whether to build your own parachain/parathread or whether to build on top of an already existing parachain. Your options are:
Building a parachain which involves using the Substrate development framework that Parity provides to build your own blockchain. This blockchain will connect to the Polkadot relay chain for shared security and cross-chain communication.
Building on an already-existing parachain (like Moonbeam) which will largely take the form of building your application using smart contracts, leveraging one of the smart contract parachains that are connected to Polkadot. There are multiple smart contract parachain options available supporting different smart contract programming languages.
Building a parathread which are Substrate-based runtimes that run in shared parachain slots reserved for parathreads. They are very similar to parachains from a development and responsibilities perspective. The key difference is that you avoid the upfront cost for the parachain slot, but you need to pay for each block you want included on your chain. So there will be a market-based fee model for transaction inclusion similar to how smart contracts chains work. From an implementation and responsibilities perspective, they are similar to parachains. From a scalability and cost perspective, they are similar to smart contracts, as they execute in a shared environment and the deployment and ongoing transaction costs are smart contract-like.
Many teams just starting out on Polkadot are opting for a smart contract based approach. This makes sense as smart contracts are much easier, faster, and cheaper to implement. This fits well for teams that want to get going quickly and prove out product market fit before making more investments. These teams always have the option of migrating to a full parachain if and when required. In this case they can take advantage of Polkadot interoperability to make this a smooth transition.
Another important consideration is if your project is considering a multi-chain deployment approach. For teams that are pursuing a multi-chain deployment approach, it is almost always the case that Ethereum is one of the deployment platforms. Projects with existing Ethereum-based deployments will naturally tend toward the smart contract approach on Polkadot and working with an existing smart contract parachain. The reason is that by working on a parachain like Moonbeam, they can leverage the same single codebase for both their Ethereum based deployment and their Polkadot based deployment (via Moonbeam). This is much more efficient than building and maintaining 2 independent implementations of their application using 2 different technology stacks.
IM: What is the difference between Substrate and Moonbeam?
Substrate is a Rust-based development framework for building blockchains. It is the technology used to build Polkadot and parachains that connect to Polkadot. Moonbeam is built with Substrate. Developers that want to build a parachain that is directly connected to Polkadot will use Substrate and Rust. Developers that want to develop a smart contract based application can use Solidity and the Ethereum developer toolchain on Moonbeam and use Moonbeam’s parachain implementation to connect to Polkadot.
IM: What kind of projects would you serve best?
Many of the project teams we are supporting are pursuing a multi-chain deployment strategy. Since Moonbeam is designed to ease the transition for Ethereum developers as they expand to Polkadot, the types of projects adopting it are quite broad. See here for a list of projects currently building on Moonbeam: https://moonbeam.network/community/projects/. Projects adopting Moonbeam include DeFi apps and protocols, NFT platforms, and even games. One thing many of the developers working with Moonbeam have in common is a preference for developing in Solidity over Substrate / Rust.
IM: Any launch dates in mind?
Launch timing is very much dependent on parachain availability coming to Kusama and Polkadot, and there are no fixed launch dates for this. Once Parity releases parachain functionality, we plan to first launch Moonriver to Kusama, which we expect in the next two months. Later this year, we expect to be able to launch Moonbeam to Polkadot.