Introducing Frequency: A Polkadot Parachain for Scaled Messaging

We are excited to introduce a Polkadot parachain that we are building: Frequency! While designing DSNP, we realized there was a missing layer for information-centric, decentralized networks. Frequency fills the gap to provide scalable messaging as a backbone of new shared protocols. We want to provide greater transparency, authenticity, and user choice over the technology they use.

Frequency is composed of several core ideas, many of which are covered in previous concept posts (with more to come!) Each idea is simple, but together they combine into a powerful and flexible tool.

Core Idea 1: Different Classes of Transactions

Transactions in blockchain have primarily been financial in nature, even when they didn’t need to be. Frequency distinguishes between financial transactions and data focused transactions. These data focused transactions center around the creation and source of new data. They started us down a different path than what financial focused chains target. Creating new data doesn’t have the same concerns as transferring tokens, so we can reduce some requirements such as defending against the double-spend attack. Frequency messages retain other blockchain guarantees such as authenticity and data validation.

Core Idea 2: Broadcast as a Key to Decentralization

The traditional web systems are centered around point to point communications. Any information that is desired to transmit to an unknown third party requires a centralized system to compile and then distribute the data to known requestors. Frequency focuses on broadcasting messages so users, be they creators or consumers, can control their choices of tools. Users then tune in to the data they want, ensuring user control without losing the power and value of a network.

Core Idea 3: Different Economic Structure

The tremendous volatility of blockchain transaction pricing, while normal for emerging technology, creates an unacceptable level of uncertainty for many businesses trying to build on a blockchain. Even if costs are low on average, unpredictable price spikes lead to businesses not being able to budget or control their costs. (Exhibit A: CryptoKitties on Ethereum)

Frequency uses a staking system for sending messages called Capacity, designed to shift transactions from an operational expense to closer to a capital expenditure. It is parallel to the difference between renting and buying a car. Capacity is explained in more detail in Frequency Economics Part 1.

Core Idea 4: Collaborative Standardization

Much of the power of Blockchain has not been in custom smart contracts, but the ability for those contracts to follow standards. Custom tokens would not be possible without ERC-20 nor NFTs without EIP-721. Even once those standards are complete, implementations can be flawed or allow for twisted results. Frequency tries to enable collaborative standardization instead of individual customization. Frequency is not a replacement for smart contracts, but instead a large subset of the benefits of smart contracts can be realized through Smart Schemas. With clear usage data and information structures, Frequency allows users to collaborate faster and iterate on standards in new ways.

Complementary Idea 1: dApps as a First-Class Concept

dApps are a critical layer of the blockchain ecosystem. They are extensions of the user, facilitating the crafting of the user’s online presence. Yet, most dApps operate without clear presence or transparency. We believe in user ownership, and this extends to the relationship between users and dApps. Frequency allows users to choose to trust dApps in limited ways. dApps can transparently transact selected actions on the blockchain. Users shouldn’t be bogged down by endless wallet signature requests or worse trust a dApp with their private key. Either of these reduces security. Transparent user delegation of permissions to a dApp empowers users to make the right choices for themselves without sacrificing more security than necessary.

Complementary Idea 2: Separating User Economics from Data Propagation Costs

Frequency is constructed as a layer and we want it to easily compose with other layers. We don’t force certain user economics. Through delegation, Frequency has the option for coinless users. dApps can easily cover the blockchain costs if a user actively chooses to use them. Applications and services are free to construct the economic structure they believe is best for their users. Users can choose the economic structures that best match their needs while still interacting with their network that might make different choices.

Complementary Idea 3: Context Validation

Humans change their minds all the time. An obvious statement, but one that greatly influences our design choices for Frequency. We focused on authenticity and context validating data. While sending someone tokens shouldn’t be reversible, users should control the state of their creations. Metadata, such as who created the data, when it was submitted to the blockchain, or when the person edited the content, remains indelible to maintain authenticity and transparency. The interpretation and display of that information should best represent the wishes of the user.

Complementary Idea 4: Layer 2 as a First-Class Data Structure

Layer 2 technology enables scaling by shifting some of the work to secondary chains. Instead of secondary chains, with source-dependent messages and delegation, we can shift entire groups of messages to off-chain batches. Low-cost, high-volume messaging becomes possible with high transparency and authenticity.

Everything is a Remix

We acknowledge that none of these individually are new ideas. They come from a variety of chains and sources that we have seen and read about. These ideas inspired our approach to Frequency and the unique combination of capabilities. Just as we stand on the shoulders of giants, we hope our contributions will support others to new heights.

We encourage you to take a look and comment or participate in the open source code and development of Frequency. We have forums, and a concept blog. You are also welcome to reach out directly via email. We hope to hear your voice and ideas.