The Three Pillars of Polygon Governance, Call for Proposals
Given the incredible pace of growth of the Polygon ecosystem, both in terms of adoption as well as emergence of new protocols, such as Polygon zkEVM, we believe it’s important to reintroduce and reinvigorate the efforts around long-term thinking on Polygon governance. We’ll use this post to provide a high-level vision and an overview of the three key areas of governance we believe should be addressed as Polygon protocols, ecosystem and community mature.
We’d love to see discussion happening around how we think about governance, and we invite you to contribute by discussing below and/or posting standalone proposals that may eventually translate into Polygon Improvement Proposals (PIPs) or non-formal proposals for topics outside of the PIP framework’s scope. The ultimate goal of this exercise is to come up with specifications for an overarching governance framework, capable of pushing the Web3 ethos and decentralized decision-making forward.
We believe in an equitable, inclusive world brought forward by decentralized technology.
To achieve this vision, our team will work with the community to propose decentralized frameworks that allow for optimal maintenance and development across Polygon protocols.
First, we will focus on ensuring that Polygon protocols require no single coordinating entity by design. We believe that the role of Polygon Labs (a development and growth team for the decentralized Polygon protocol) in the ecosystem will naturally further decrease over time and want to enable that transition, especially as it concerns the maintenance and development of Polygon protocols. This being said, Polygon Labs’ decreasing role cannot happen in a void; rather, it should be accompanied by the emergence of a vibrant decentralized community.
3 Pillars of Polygon Governance
We believe 3 pillars of Polygon governance can be distinguished, each of them with its own characteristics. Together, they form the overarching decision-making framework that helps Polygon to sustain itself as a decentralized network of protocols. We plan on publishing separate posts to address each one of them, along with proposals on how to approach them on a case-by-case basis to open the discussion to the community and hopefully bootstrap new relevant approaches.
The roots of open source development grow deep. In fact, the entire discipline of software engineering arguably comes from the open and transparent collaboration between academics and researchers in the 1950’s and 1960’s, back when “programmers were paid for the act of programming, not for the programs themselves”. (Perens 1) This collaborative culture eventually became a victim of its own success with the gradual commercialization of software.
However, the principles of open and democratized development persisted. From language development, such as Python’s proposal framework, through RFC standardization at the Internet Engineering Task Force, all the way to the more familiar examples of decentralized network governance (Ethereum and Bitcoin), one can clearly see the old foundations of collaborative open-source programming.
For Polygon PoS, the PIP framework was recently introduced to provide space for decentralized network development and maintenance.
A successful PoS network upgrade requires buy-in from various parts of the ecosystem, including core infrastructure developers, validating and full nodes, dapps, and infra providers. While ⅔ of the validating $MATIC stake defines the canonical chain, the community provides an ultimate check via a potential fork of the PoS network, were it to be hijacked by malicious actors.
Because of a resulting deep need for consensus-finding, the PIP process is used to coordinate upgrades in a formalized manner, emulating the EIP framework on Ethereum. It consists of several components that enable decentralized decision-making:
The PIP repository which serves as both a versioned and canonical source of truth for proposals, as well as an educational tool for the community;
The community forum, a modern-day agora for the community to define the direction of Polygon protocols;
The Polygon Builder Sessions which are protocol developer-oriented calls to discuss PIPs, similar to Ethereum all-core-dev calls.
While the PIP framework is arguably sound and draws protocol governance lessons from historically the most resilient networks (Bitcoin and Ethereum), it will never be capable of achieving its full potential without a vibrant community behind it, like what you see in the Ethereum ecosystem, e.g., Eth Magicians. In these early days of Polygon protocol development, we look forward to exploring this subject, both by providing our thoughts, as well as taking in proposals brought forward by the community. Ultimately, the PIP framework should be a self-sustaining community ecosystem, covering all of the Polygon protocols for unified development and governance.
System Smart Contracts Governance
As has been mentioned oftentimes in the past, the highest priority with regards to Polygon protocols is security.
Security of the infrastructure, user funds, and ultimately the new permissionless internet being built as we speak, relies on various design decisions that have to be made at the start of every project. This commitment to security should accompany the development happening within the Polygon ecosystem both in the short and long term.
Bridge and staking contract governance serves as one current example of system smart contracts governance and the above commitment in action. In order to secure the chain and reduce smart contract risk on bridged assets, a security council, composed of Polygon community members and security experts, was formed at the outset of the Polygon PoS protocol and now Polygon zkEVM. The purpose of these councils is to provide necessary guardrails as Polygon protocols make their way to an ever-increasing number of users, translating to the councils’ ability to upgrade various contracts, including bridging.
Security councils operating using implicit or explicit community mandate to secure and enable upgrades of L2’s is nothing new. All L2 protocols need to, at some point, try to balance multiple potentially-competing interests, including decentralization, immutability, and security. However, as the space keeps evolving, various seemingly-unsolvable dilemmas may yet see their solutions.
In the same way we’re committed to security, we’re equally committed to finding answers to the security and decentralization dilemma.
In order to improve the current state, reduce overall reliance on security councils without compromising on security, and finally introduce community checks, we want to actively research improvements and seek guidance. And there’s no better place to do that than in the broad blockchain community that was able to bootstrap the decentralized ecosystem from nothing to a $1.3 trillion industry in 13 years. This is also where our last commitment on the governance of system smart contracts comes from:
We’re committed to work hand-in-hand with the industry and community, leveraging on the joint expertise and passion to push the space forward.
Public Goods Funding
We believe that Polygon protocols should be able to not only maintain themselves but also evolve in a decentralized fashion.
If we consider decentralized infrastructure a public good, we quickly realize that the same way a lack of electrical grid can hold societies back, a lack of participation at a protocol’s core layer by developing clients, upgrades, and infra is single-handedly capable of halting progress.
When looking at various decentralized protocols, we can see a plain divergence between the incentives for dapp builders and core protocol developers. While dapp builders rely on commercial success of their project, core protocol devs need to depend on grants and other sources of funding.
It’s a natural and understandable process, but what the markets tend to forget is that without core infrastructure maintenance and development, blockchain networks risk becoming obsolete and unable to support application needs.
In addition to core infrastructure development, a decentralized community should likely be able to autonomously allocate capital towards the growth of a protocol’s ecosystem.
For the above reasons, we want to start exploring models that address public goods funding of a decentralized ecosystem, and how they may be introduced in a measured and assessment-driven manner.
Note: the recently-announced PIP Bounty Program can be considered one of the first steps towards sustainable public goods funding for Polygon protocols.
Call for Proposals
We’re glad to bring the conversation on the above-mentioned pillars to the community.
Do you agree with how we lay out the main pillars of Polygon Governance? Did we miss anything?
In going back to the foundational principles of collaborative infrastructure building, we’re looking to hear from users, dapps, industry experts, and any other ecosystem participants.
The ability for ecosystem actors to participate in shaping the underlying protocol via governance is one unique to Web3. It provides a way for any type of user or builder to both influence core development and infuse Polygon tech with their values, as well as leverage on existing Web3 values in a new scalable environment.
Let us know your thoughts below or in a standalone proposal.
Perens, B. (1999). The Open Source Definition in Open Source: Voices from The Open Source Revolution. 1st edition. Available at Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (accessed in April 2023).