Horizen vs. Polkadot: Which One Is The Better Sidechain Platform?

The battle to solve the blockchain trilemma rages on.

One project, Horizen, is embracing a sidechain system designed to support scalable and decentralized applications with the Zendoo project. 

Another blockchain venture, Polkadot, offers an interoperable solution where blockchains can connect to a central network, and work in parallel as “parachains.”

Decentralization: Horizen vs Polkadot

Decentralization is central to the ethos of blockchain. The technology allows for trustless interactions between peers without the need for intermediaries. However, achieving decentralization in a permissionless blockchain network is no easy task. 

It requires the development of robust consensus mechanisms and governance systems to ensure that decisions are made collectively by users rather than through centralized entities. 

Decentralization also comes at a cost: Scalability and throughput can suffer when nodes are spread across multiple geographic regions or powered by low-powered devices. Horizen aims to solve these challenges with its sidechain solution, Zendoo, while Polkadot simply isn’t as decentralized.

Polkadot aims to achieve interoperability by allowing blockchains to send messages to each other through a Relay Chain. This pools security across chains, and allows scalability through multiple parachains running in parallel. 

Parachains connect to the Relay Chain through so-called “slot auctions,” where slots are private to enable fast transactions without clogging up the main Relay Chain. Parachains can then link into and upload the transaction into any other blockchain.

One concern is that a limited number of parachains are available, so slots are sold via auction, and this may price out smaller use-cases. Further, while shared security makes individual parachains less susceptible to 51% attacks, it also makes overall security dependent on the Relay Chain, such that if the Relay Chain is compromised, then all connected chains will be as well. In other words, this is a potential single point of failure, making Polkadot less decentralized than many would hope.

Further, while Horizen has nearly 50,000 nodes around the world, Polkadot has less than 300 validators, as of writing. Validators in Polkadot are simply servers that verify the validity of information in assigned blocks. Over time, Polkadot aims to boost that number to 1,000, which is still not particularly decentralized. For comparison, Facebook had 30,000 servers over a decade ago.

Scalability: Horizen vs Polkadot

Scalability is a major concern for blockchain developers. Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with each other, but it’s not without its challenges. 

The first challenge is achieving consensus among network participants on the order of events that have occurred. Blockchain nodes must be able to agree on what has happened before they can agree on what will happen in the future. This requires a robust mechanism for determining consensus among nodes and ensuring that no node groups control more than 50% of the network. 

Horizen solves this problem through fully-customizable sidechains, or parallel blockchains that enable interoperability via a two-way peg. Horizen is based on an unencumbered, transactional mainchain, with the ability for developers to experiment through sidechains. From block size to store of value versus useful functionality discussions, it’s all up to developers on how to customize sidechains.

Blockchain transactions are verified by network nodes, which requires significant computational power. This is why most blockchain networks have a cap on the number of transactions they can process at any given time.  Developers on Horizen can operate as many as 10,000 independent blockchains simultaneously while handling up to 10 million transactions per second across all sidechains (an average TPS of 1,000 per chain). 

In other words, Zendoo allows developers to create their own sidechains that operate independently from the Horizen mainchain and scale according to demand without compromising decentralization or security. 

Polkadot enables a high TPS as well, but with the compromise of greater centralization.

Privacy: Horizen vs Polkadot

Privacy is a particularly tricky challenge for blockchain networks. The technology offers a number of benefits when it comes to transparency and security, but it also opens up the technology to a number of threats. 

One of the most common threats is data mining and surveillance by third parties. Blockchain transactions are publicly recorded on a ledger, which means that anyone with access to the network can see what you’ve been buying and selling.

Horizen offers optional privacy features through zk-SNARKs, which allows users to send and receive private transactions without revealing their identities or addresses to the network. Polkadot does not offer any form of privacy at this time.

Privacy is of particular importance for businesses that deal with personally-identifying information (PII). This is information that can be used to identify an individual, such as their name, address, or bank details. For instance, privacy in the financial services industry is of importance because it protects consumers from fraud and other dangers. If a business doesn’t offer privacy options for its customers, then they might not use their service at all. 

Additionally, there are many laws and regulations relating to PII and how it can and cannot be shared. For instance, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the European Union requires that PII be protected and handled responsibly. Businesses that don’t offer privacy options will be at a disadvantage to those that do.

Security is another related challenge that blockchain technology must overcome. The fact that a transaction is recorded on the blockchain doesn’t mean it can’t be tampered with. The best way to prevent this type of tampering is through encryption. Encryption allows you to send sensitive information — such as your banking details — in an unreadable format to anyone who might intercept it. 

When you use Horizen’s optional privacy features, your transactions are encrypted before they’re sent across the network. This protects you from third parties who might try to steal your funds or identity by viewing your transactions on the public ledger. Whether you’re building a messaging app, a social media platform, a voting system, or a cryptocurrency, the need for privacy is essential.

Horizen’s unique zk-SNARKs approach allows users to communicate privately without having to rely on a central server, or a validator. These optional features mean that there is no way for anyone to track your activity on the network based on who you communicated with or what you purchased.

Zero-Knowledge proofs allow people to prove knowledge while concealing its actual nature. They can be applied to verify data integrity, create anonymous distributed systems, enable zero-knowledge auditing of sensitive data sharing protocols, and many other applications. 

Further, Horizen’s zkAudit system is the only privacy-enabled audit system that doesn’t need 3rd-party validators. It also uses zk-SNARKs to keep transactions confidential. Polkadot, on the other hand, does not offer these privacy features.

Horizen vs Polkadot: Conclusion

In this article, we compared Horizen and its Zendoo sidechain solution to Polkadot. We focused on scalability, privacy, and decentralization as major factors in deciding which project to build on. 

Horizen offers a unique sidechain solution that allows developers to build their own scalable blockchains with the ability to support tens of thousands of transactions per second, while maintaining true decentralization across tens of thousands of nodes. Horizen also offers unique optional privacy features.

While Polkadot also aims to solve the blockchain trilemma, it falls short when it comes to meaningful decentralization, having just under 300 validators on its network. If you’re looking for a truly decentralized network, Horizen is the clear winner.

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