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Guide to Moonbeam and Moonriver

February 24, 2022

Moonbeam, a Polkadot parachain, and Moonriver, its sister parachain on Kusama, provide Ethereum-compatible environments for smart contract deployment in the Substrate ecosystem

  • Moonbeam and Moonriver are sister blockchains deployed as parachains on Polkadot and Kusama, meaning they share software and security with the networks’ Relay Chains (Polkadot for Moonbeam and Kusama for Moonriver). 

  • By offering a fully Ethereum-compatible development environment, Web3 RPC API support, and pre-made tooling for tokens and data, Moonbeam and Moonriver simplify the process of deploying Ethereum-based decentralized apps within the Substrate ecosystem. 

  • Collators on Moonbeam and Moonriver collect transactions from the network and submit them to the Relay Chain’s validators to be finalized, and help to secure the chain. 

  • Because Moonbeam has both Ethereum’s Web3 RPC API and Substrate RPCs available, developers can use Ethereum or Substrate tools when interacting with Moonbeam or Moonriver nodes.

An introduction to Moonbeam and Moonriver

Moonbeam, a Polkadot parachain, is a fully Ethereum-compatible smart contract platform for building interoperable DeFi applications. Its sister chain Moonriver brings the same Ethereum-compatible development environment to Kusama, Polkadot’s canary network. 

Moonbeam and Moonriver aim to simplify the process of building and/or deploying interoperable applications in the Polkadot ecosystem, where they can leverage the Substrate development framework’s tools and logic. Moonbeam and Moonriver achieve this by offering an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) environment that supports un-modified native Ethereum tooling. 

Moonbeam also integrates Ethereum’s Web3 RPC API so that existing dapp front-ends can be migrated with minimal change required, offers integrations for asset compatibility with ERC-20s and Substrate-based assets (such as DOT and KSM) along with pre-made data indexing solutions, and supports all Ethereum-based development languages. As a result, there are minimal changes needed for the stack to deploy existing EVM-compatible decentralized applications to Polkadot’s ecosystem via Moonbeam.

The Moonbeam and Moonriver networks were developed by the Moonbeam Foundation. They secured places as Kusama and Polkadot parachains after being early winners of their slot auctions on each network in July 2021 and December of 2021 respectively, with Moonbeam locking over 35 million DOT in support of their parachain bid from over 200,000 Polkadot token holders. This strong showing of community support, along with the potential offered by enabling EVM compatibility in the Polkadot ecosystem — recently identified as the most developer-heavy ecosystem of 2021 in Electric Capital’s web3 development report — culminate in Moonbeam’s expectation to be a hotspot for development activity once fully launched. 

Source: Polkadot

What are parachains?

Parachains, or “parallelized blockchains,” are application-specific blockchains within the Polkadot ecosystem. The Polkadot blockchain is responsible for achieving consensus and transaction delivery (message passing) among parachains. For Kusama’s parachains, Kusama serves as the Relay Chain.

Which projects become parachains are determined by Polkadot and Kusama’s community members, who lock DOT or KSM into parachain slot auctions to show their support. Each slot represents a fixed-term lease, for up to a 96 week duration on Polkadot or 48 week duration on Kusama, to operate a parachain in either the Polkadot or Kusama network. 

While each parachain is an entire blockchain in and of itself, with its own logic and features, by nature parachains share software and security with the other parachains. The Polkadot Relay Chain connects these parachains by sharing state and validation logic to provide a secure environment for trust-free message passing. 

This shared security model across chains represents a big draw for developers to work with the Polkadot ecosystem. Currently, over $2.67 billion worth of DOT has been locked into Polkadot’s parachain slot auctions, representing 11% of the overall supply of DOT.  

Why does EVM compatibility matter for Moonbeam and Moonriver?

Deploying, and using, Ethereum-based applications within alternative blockchain ecosystems has become a multi-billion dollar facet of web3. While Ethereum’s maturity and large user base make it a great place to build web3 applications, this in turn leads to congestion, which can cause high operating fees and slow transaction speeds.

EVM-compatible environments like Moonbeam and Moonriver allow developers to launch these same applications to a broader set of token holders — those of Polkadot, Kusama, and the Substrate ecosystem’s system of interconnected parachains — who in turn can access the utility the apps have to offer. By adopting Ethereum’s tooling standards and implementing the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) environment, Moonbeam and Moonriver minimize the work needed to deploy existing Ethereum-based applications to Polkadot and Kusama.

How to participate on Moonbeam and Moonriver

The shared security of Polkadot and Kusama’s parachains is made possible by Polkadot’s proof of stake hybrid consensus model, which separates the work of block finality and block production. While finality is handled by Polkadot’s validators, block production on the networks’ parachains is executed by collator nodes. The parachains submit their blocks to their assigned validators through collators, and the validators determine if the collator blocks are valid and should be included in the block of the Relay Chain (Polkadot or Kusama).

Collators on Moonbeam and Moonriver collect transactions from the network and submit them to the main Relay Chain’s validators. Moonbeam uses the Nimbus consensus framework, used for building slot-based consensus algorithms on Cumulus-based parachains, to determine which collators will be selected to conduct the work of submitting transactions. 

Collators are selected pseudorandomly from within the active set. A higher total stake on the node ensures it is more likely to remain in the active set. This incentivizes participants to increase their staked tokens to improve the chain’s overall security. However, within the active set, a higher total stake does not impact collator selection. The Cumulus library is used to provide integration to the Polkadot Relay Chain.

There are three node types on Moonbeam and Moonriver: 

  • Full nodes: A parachain full node is similar to a typical Substrate full node, participating in storing the chain’s current state and gathering transactions. They are more resource intensive than the typical Substrate full node as they also contain code to run the parachain itself, as well as code to sync to the Relay Chain and to facilitate communication between the two chains. 

  • Collators: Collators include a full node for the Relay Chain and a full node for their parachain (Moonbeam or Moonriver). This means that they retain all necessary information to be able to author new blocks and execute transactions. Unlike validators, collator nodes do not secure the network. If a parachain block is invalid, it will be rejected by the Relay Chain’s validators. 

  • Archive nodes: Archival nodes store the full historical state of the blockchain, making it convenient to query what the past state of the chain was (or is) at any point in time.

To operate a collator on Moonbeam or Moonriver, operators must lock a minimum of 100,000 GLMR or 500 MOVR in stake to their node. An additional key association bond of 10k GLMR for Moonbeam and 100 MOVR for Moonriver is required to be locked when mapping one’s session keys to the account for block rewards.  For Moonbeam, the active set is made up of the top 64 collators by total stake, a number which can be expanded via governance. Moonriver's active set is made up of the top 64 collators by total stake.

For application execution, Moonbeam was built using both custom and factory Substrate Pallets, or blocks of code from the Substrate library that add functionality. The runtime is compiled to a WebAssembly (Wasm) binary as well as a native binary. The Moonbeam networks are constructed so that the development execution behavior and semantics of Moonbeam-based smart contracts will be as close to that of Ethereum as possible. Because Moonbeam has both Ethereum’s Web3 RPC API and Substrate RPCs available, developers can use Ethereum or Substrate tools when interacting with Moonbeam or Moonriver nodes. 

Deployments on Moonbeam will be able to communicate with other spokes of the Polkadot ecosystem through the XCMP protocol, once that communication protocol has been completed and implemented. The Moonbeam team is also exploring options for bridging mechanisms to connect Moonbeam and Moonriver directly to Ethereum. 

Delegation, represented in the Polkadot ecosystem as nominating stake support to a selection of eligible nodes, is enabled on Moonbeam and Moonriver

Rewards and economics on Moonbeam and Moonriver

Parameters

Moonbeam

Moonriver

Token name

GLMR

MOVR

Initial token supply

1B

10M

Total planned inflation (pa)

5%

5%

Maximum token supply

No limit

No limit

Current token supply

80,984,816 GLMR as of 2.6.22

3,002,674 MOVR as of 2.6.22

Active set of collators

64

64

Minimum collator self-bond

100k GLMR

500 MOVR

Minimum collator total bond

100k GLMR

1000 MOVR

Collator key association bond

10k GLMR

100 MOVR

Minimum delegation

50 GLMR

5 MOVR

Round duration

1800 blocks (6 hours)

600 blocks (2 hours)

Reward payout delay

2 rounds (12 hours)

2 rounds (4 hours)

Collator commission

Fixed at 20% of annual inflation

Fixed at 20% of annual inflation

Unbonding period

28 rounds (168 hours)

24 rounds (48 hours)

Decrease delegation delay

28 rounds (168 hours)

24 rounds (48 hours)

Reward payout

Automatic

Automatic

Reward compounding

No

No

Reward payout frequency

Every 6 hours

Every 2 hours

*Note: On Moonriver and Moonbeam, delegations earn rewards while unbonding as long as their collator is still in the active pool and producing blocks. This is not the case for Polkadot. 

GLMR is the native token of Moonbeam, and MOVR is the token for Moonriver. The protocols’ tokens are used for staking, governance and transaction (gas) fees on the networks.  80% of transaction fees are burned, and 20% are sent to the network’s Treasury to be used by the governing body for network development. 

The network’s 5% annual inflation is distributed as follows: 

  • 1% is distributed evenly to active collators

  • 1.5% is distributed to the parachain Treasury

  • 2.5% is distributed to delegators

At the end of every round (approximately every 6 hours for Moonbeam and every 2 hours for Moonriver), rewards are paid out for the round that ended two rounds prior. This is due to the networks’ reward payout delay period of two rounds. Rewards are paid out to both collators and their delegators automatically by the network; there is no need to submit a rewards claim transaction. 

Risks of participation on Moonbeam and Moonriver

There is currently no slashing on Moonriver or Moonbeam. If a collator does not perform as expected, they will simply not receive rewards. 

The Moonbeam team is working on a staking dashboard that will allow nominators to view collator performance. If a collator fails to produce blocks, nominators will be able to see that poor performance and can stop nominating their stake to poorly performing collators.

Governance on Moonbeam and Moonriver

Moonbeam and Moonriver inherit Polkadot’s governance structure. GLMR or MOVR holders can use their tokens to:

  • propose a public referendum

  • prioritize public referenda

  • vote on all active referenda

  • vote for council members

  • become a council member

All changes to the protocol are executed through a referendum. Once approved, the referendum must wait a period of time before it is enacted on-chain. This delay allows token holders who disagree with the change an opportunity to leave the network, while those who voted in support have their tokens locked until the upgrade is enacted. 

Voters are not required to lock up their tokens to participate in voting. If they choose 'no lock period,' their vote weight will be 10% of their lock balance. If they choose 'one lock period' (one day in Moonriver, two days in Moonbeam), their vote weight will be equal to their lock balance. Up to 32 lock periods can be specified, in which case their vote weight will be 6x their lock balance. The amount of tokens under ownership by the voter also weighs the votes.

A 6-24 member council represents the interests of passive stakeholders who may not be able to vote on every referendum. Council members are selected through rolling elections, with one council member up for election every two weeks. The length of their tenure depends on the size of the council, where a term equals 2 weeks times the total number of council members.

You can learn more about this decentralized governance structure in Polkadot’s documentation

Why run a Moonbeam or Moonriver node?

Running a collator on Moonbeam or Moonriver helps to secure the chain, and to ensure it’s long-term stability and function bringing EVM-compatible use cases to the Substrate ecosystem. Running a collator also establishes your credibility and long term alignment with the Moonbeam and Moonriver communities and network, and improves your chances of attracting nominations (delegations).

Why run Moonbeam nodes with Coinbase Cloud?

Coinbase Cloud will offer read/write and collator node infrastructure for both Moonbeam and Moonriver. If you want to participate in Moonbeam or Moonriver without operating your own infrastructure, you can stake your tokens to our non-custodial public validator.

  • Benefit from Coinbase Cloud’s deep experience operating infrastructure for other Substrate and Ethereum-based chains, including eth2, eth1, Polkadot, Kusama, Acala and Karura, and more. Coinbase Cloud’s team also has a close relationship with Moonbeam, and we have been building for Moonbeam since its testnet phase.  

  • Protocol Knowledge: Our dedicated protocol specialists keep Coinbase Cloud’s customers up-to-date about known changes to the ecosystem. They provide advice, insights, and guidance that helps arm our customers with critical information they can use to better manage their participation and governance decisions. 

  • Enterprise-Grade Infrastructure Security: As one of the most trusted names in the blockchain infrastructure industry, we have best-in-class security augmented by information, application, and incident management policies — driving optimized participation, reliable web3 applications, and a better track record to attract delegation.

  • Easy-to-Use Platform: We designed an intuitive user experience that is surprisingly simple given the complexity of the underlying technology. Our platform’s automatic node management workflow frees our customers from the worry of constantly checking or managing their active participation. We also keep our customers in full control.

  • Infrastructure and Protocol Engineering Experts: We’re node, participatory infrastructure, and protocol experts. We test all software, infrastructure, and protocol upgrades on our own infrastructure first ensuring any breaking issues are caught well before propagating changes to our customers’ infrastructure.

  • Custodian Agnostic: As a non-custodial infrastructure provider, we can work with you to participate in Cosmos regardless of your custody solution.

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