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Moonbeam: A Smart Contract Platform for Cross-Chain Apps on Polkadot

4.5 | by Joel Agbo

Key Takeaways

  • Moonbeam Network is a layer one blockchain that is a top destination for cross-chain applications.

  • As a parachain on Polkadot, Moonbeam uses native protocols to communicate with the Polkadot “Relay Chain” and other parachains on Polkadot.

  • As a leader in cross-chain compatibility, Moonbeam also features support from the top general message passing protocols including Axelar, LayerZero, Wormhole, Hyperlane and more. This allows applications on Moonbeam to also interact with applications on Ethereum, Polygon, Avalanche, major Layer 2 protocols, and more — without the need for a bridge.

  • It is fully Ethereum-compatible and natively supports a wide array of wallets, dashboards and developer tools/integrations.

  • Moonriver, Moonbeam’s companion network, is a parachain on Kusama with its own ecosystem of applications, some of which are also deployed on Moonbeam.

  • The token of Moonbeam network is Glimmer (GLMR). It is used to pay fees for transactions executed on the network and more.

What is Moonbeam GLMR

Blockchain projects are often made to choose between scalability (and speed), stability and security. This is where the Moonbeam network comes into play, offering a superior development environment while benefiting from the faster transaction speed, lower fees, and shared security of the Polkadot ecosystem. Polkadot’s unique architecture allows networks like Moonbeam to operate as independent layer one blockchains while enjoying the interoperability and security that comes with the broader Polkadot network.

What is Moonbeam Network (GLMR)?

Moonbeam is a smart contract platform for building cross-chain applications. Moonbeam network unites the functionality of Ethereum, Cosmos, Polkadot, and more into a single platform through its diverse support of secure messaging protocols. It is built on the Substrate framework, but also Ethereum-compatible, meaning you can develop dApps with Ethereum’s tools and integrations while still natively accessing tokens and resources throughout Polkadot. 

While smart contract blockchains provide a platform for decentralized applications and smart contract projects to build, Polkadot provides a base layer for other blockchains. It is the blockchain of blockchains, rendering it a Layer 0 metaprotocol. The Layer 1 blockchains hosted by Polkadot are known as parachains while Polkadot maintains the Relay Chain. Moonbeam network is a parachain on the Polkadot blockchain.

Moonbeam network reportedly processes over 10,000 transactions per second and charges about $0.015 for an average smart contract transaction. It matches the Polkadot blockchain’s block time of 6 seconds.

History of Moonbeam Network

The Moonbeam network is one of the most active parachains on Polkadot. It also has a record of attracting and retaining reputable projects that have added value to its ecosystem.

Prior to winning a Polkadot parachain slot in the last quarter of 2021 and transitioning into the Polkadot ecosystem in the first quarter of 2022, Moonbeam has been working on improving communication between independent blockchains as early as 2020.

Moonbeam launched its Kusama parachain, Moonriver, in September 2020. The parachain auction event for Moonriver saw over 200,000 KSM contributed by community members.

Since then, over 100 projects have launched on Moonbeam, including wallets, DeFi dApps, NFT marketplaces, bridges, and oracles

What are Parachains?

Parachains are special. Like any other Layer 1 blockchain, they present an autonomous layer for decentralized applications to operate on and maintain their own ecosystems of applications In contrast to standalone blockchains, parachains rent their slot on the Relay Chain, which creates a supply-and-demand system for occupying space on the network. Polkadot’s parachains are collectively secured by Polkadot’s security systems.

Parachains are designed to communicate with each other and with the Relay Chain efficiently using built-in tools. Apart from accessing and using assets across the Relay Chain, parachains can easily exchange block data, price feeds, and applications using Cross-Consensus Message Format (XCM) and other protocols.

What is Moonriver?

Moonriver is a companion network to Moonbeam, a fully functional blockchain that provides a permanently incentivized canary network with tradable tokens. New code can be tested on Moonriver and verified under real economic conditions. The testnet for Moonriver and Moonbeam is called Moonbase Alpha. 

Moonriver is powered by a tradable native token (MOVR). The MOVR token is used to incentivize developers and testers on its network to use these applications in just the way they intend to use them on any other network.

Enhancements intended for the Moonbeam network are tested out first on Moonbase Alpha before moving to Moonriver and, if approved by the community, are ultimately applied to the Moonbeam network’s core codebase. Moonriver hosts its own vibrant ecosystem. It supports Moonbeam through a system that ensures that basic strength and security tests are performed on the runtime code before the changes are deployed to the Moonbeam network.

Moonriver’s native token serves more purposes apart from being a payment token for transaction fees and rewards for holders and platform users. MOVR is also required for Moonriver’s decentralized governance system.

MOVR is currently listed on some top-tier exchanges including Binance, Kucoin, Kraken, and Crypto.com. See the full list of active markets for MOVR.

The Glimmer Token (GLMR)

GLMR overview

The Moonbeam network is powered by its native token, Glimmer (GLMR). It supports the infrastructure of the Moonbeam ecosystem. Fees for advanced and basic transactions are paid in GLMR, and validators are incentivized to protect the Moonbeam network through GLMR rewards. By creating a reward system for validators as a proof of stake network, GLMR plays a central role in Moonbeam’s security structure.

Through voting portals, holders of GLMR are able to vote on community-lead governance proposals and also submit their suggestions and plans to be voted on by the rest of the holders, including requests for the distribution of Grants and Treasury funds.

Glimmer Token can be traded on Binance, Kraken, Crypto.com, Kucoin, and other centralized exchanges. See the full list of active GLMR markets.

Features of Moonbeam Network

Here are some of the characteristics of Moonbeam network that make it stand out:

Note: Do note that this is not financial advice or promotional. The subsequent sections only reflect on the strengths of Moonbeam as a platform that can be utilized by developers and blockchain users.

Interoperability and Cross-Chain Applications 

Being a substrate-based parachain on Polkadot, Moonbeam natively supports Cross-Consensus Messaging (XCM) to communicate with the Polkadot Relay Chain and other connected blockchains with efficiency. 

Smart contracts on Moonbeam can access the functionality of remote blockchains using XCM to reach the parachians, and other secure messaging services like Axelar, LayerZero, Wormhole, and Hyperlane outside of the ecosystem. 

This means that applications on Moonbeam can communicate with Polkadot and its Relay Chain, and connect to other chains outside of the exosystem like Ethereum, Avalanche, Cosmos, and more. From a single application on Moonbeam, users can access their assets from any chain and use them across multiple blockchains. 

Moonbeam network is designed to be flexible and operate an open system, at least, relative to other non-Substrate blockchains.

EVM-Compatible Environment for Developers and Users

Moonbeam network offers an ideal development environment with complete Ethereum compatibility and tool support, making it accessible for building. Moonbeam is compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) within a Polkadot-native environment. Its designs are similar to the core design of Ethereum blockchain and other EVM blockchains. 

This means that applications like wallets, accounts, and protocols initially built on other blockchains for the EVM can be migrated to or deployed on Moonbeam network, without requiring developers to make changes to their original code. By this, new and existing applications have an avenue to leverage Moonbeam network’s enhanced speed, low transaction fees, and interoperability.

Moonbeam created XC-20s, which are substrate tokens, like the ones used on the parachains, formatted to be used as ERC-20s. Tokens can be deposited from other chains onto Moonriver and Moonbeam and used in Ethereum-compatible dApps there. 

For users, there is no need to worry about adapting to a new structure when their existing platforms and dApps are moved to Moonbeam network. They enjoy the perks of running smart contract transactions on a faster and cheaper platform in a familiar EVM format.

Wallet addresses on both platforms are similar and users can retain their old Ethereum wallets like Metamask, with Moonriver and Moonbeam.

Adding Moonbeam to MetaMask

As the Moonbeam network is an EVM-compatible blockchain, users can add Moonbeam to their MetaMask wallet. Select the option to “Add Networks”, and paste Moonbeam (GLMR)’s RPC details on the page.

  • Network Name: Moonbeam

  • URL: https://rpc.api.moonbeam.network

  • ChainID: 1284 (hex: 0x504)

  • Symbol (Optional): GLMR

  • Block Explorer (Optional): https://moonscan.io

Alternatively you can scroll to the bottom of https://moonscan.io and click the MetaMask “Add Moonbeam Network” button.

Decentralization, Security, and Scalability

Moonbeam is making way for the next generation of applications by removing the constraints of solo chains and the fragmented user experience they create with cross-chain applications that unify access to users, assets, and services across existing blockchains. Effectively, Moonbeam is a hub connecting blockchains with integrated cross-chain messaging to being together Ethereum, Polkadot, Cosmos, and more.

Built with the Substrate Framework

Substrate framework is a collection of pre-packaged applications, protocols, and algorithms that can be used by blockchain developers to develop blockchains that conform to the virtues of modern-day blockchain technology. Components of the Substrate Developers Kit are known as Pallets. These Pallets range from simple algorithms to fully developed libraries programmed using highly scalable programming languages like Rust.

These developer kits can be easily installed and reused by developers. Substrate-based blockchains are designed with special communication channels for interacting with other blockchains including the bitcoin blockchain. This is made possible via the Cross-Consensus Messaging format. The Substrate framework is open source and entertains contributions from the wider developer communities.

This simplifies building on the Moonbeam network as when combined with the interoperability features, developers can leverage infrastructures from other parachains and the Polkadot blockchain as well.

Scalability and Interoperability

According to resources from its developers, Moonbeam is “designed to last”. Developers claim that its fast transaction processing speed and low transaction fees will be able to stay put amidst a changing demand. If these claims stay true, Moonbeam network is scalable with novel interoperability features.

Projects built on the Moonbeam network enjoy a good level of exposure at launch. This is due to the connection with Polkadot and Moonbeam, both of which have gained popularity and positive reputation from the wider crypto communities.

Incentivized Testnet

Moonriver is a fully functional blockchain with tradable tokens, but also a preparation ground for technology upgrades and applications set to be deployed to the Moonbeam network.

Moonriver’s strategy serves a very important purpose as the real financial value to projects built on Moonriver attracts investors and enthusiasts to use these applications just the way they intend to use them on the main network.

Moonbeam adopts this strategy from its relay chain – Polkadot. For Polkadot, Kusama chain is a financially autonomous ecosystem for developers to test applications set to be deployed on Polkadot.


The Glimmer token staking program offers up to 24% APR in passive rewards for holders who participate in its staking program. Stakers benefit from the inflation of GLMR according to the number of tokens they commit to the staking pool. Over 180 million GLMR tokens have since been committed to the staking program by validators and holders.

Moonbeam Ecosystem

Moonbeam Ecosystem

The Moonbeam network has welcomed a number of decentralized projects focused on building better utilities in different sectors. These projects have seen tangible success and have utilized Moonbeam and Polkadot’s infrastructures positively. 

Projects on the Moonbeam ecosystem cut across decentralized finance, Non-Fungible Token (NFT) projects, decentralized utility platforms, and independent developer tool projects.


A total of over $65 million worth of assets are currently locked on DeFi projects that operate on Moonbeam network. About 30% of this figure is controlled by popular decentralized exchange – Curve Finance. Moonbeam’s lending protocol – Moonwell Artemis controls a TVL of over $20 million at the time of this writing.

Other prominent DeFi projects on the ecosystem include Lido finance, Frax decentralized exchange, BeamSwap, StellaSwap, and other projects that make up the twenty-nine (29) DeFi platforms currently operating on the platform.


Moonbeam is home to NFT marketplaces such as Treasureland, NFTrade, TofuNFT, Moonbeams, myNFT, Seascape, and Mintverse. 

Seascape, an NFT and GameFi project currently operating on Moonriver, create game characters as NFTs with each character’s ability reflected in their attributes. Seascape also integrated a swap protocol (SeaDEX) into its platform to allow timeless asset exchange.

Moonbeam’s Jambb NFT is an NFT marketplace that allows fans to view, rent, or purchase unique, never-before-seen content like performances, backstage footage, and merchandise from their favorite comedians, musicians, athletes, and entertainers.

Other NFT projects on the platform include Exiled Racers, and NFTScan.

Decentralized Utility Platforms

Apart from DeFi and NFT projects, many other projects that offer utility are currently being built on the Moonbeam network.

Human protocol, a decentralized marketplace on Moonbeam; rewards users for contributing their skills and ideas to solving a problem. Moonbeam developers claim that the faster infrastructure potential presented by Moonbeam and Polkadot will enable Human protocol to make the number of tasks in a job smaller and to break up what they are doing into smaller jobs.

Authtrail is also building a comprehensive data integrity SaaS tool for enterprise users on the Moonbeam network. The platform comprises advanced APIs, Dashboard, Validator, Public Explorer, and Authtrail Demo. It works as an end-to-end solution for equipping enterprise data with integrity and allowing all authorized users to check its veracity and history. 

Moonbeam is currently housing over 100 projects and the list is growing.

Final thoughts

The future of cryptocurrency is uncertain, as is the future of blockchain technology. One thing for sure is that both ideas will be around for a (very) long time. It is possible that both crypto and blockchain will change in form over the next few years. Whether we will have a single gigantic blockchain that powers every decentralized application or if the proliferation of blockchains will continue is to be decided in the future.

But whatever becomes the general system for blockchain, interoperability remains essential. Moonbeam is positioning itself to remain relevant, regardless of what design block systems take up in the future.

Along with its relay chain, it is creating a supportive ecosystem for blockchain developers and their solutions. Its financial systems are also expected to sustain current development and stay prepared for the future.

Community-driven governance, like Moonbeam, may have its shortcomings, but is more suitable for projects that plan to stay updated on the latest trends. Part of Moonbeam and its ecosystem's progress is tied to the relay chain (Polkadot); but regardless of how much Polkadot progresses in the future, Moonbeam is expected to move at its own pace.

 As a standard, do note that cryptocurrency investment is a risky venture and smart contracts are high-level computing commands with the potential for security vulnerabilities, so DYOR before any investment in the space. 

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Joel Agbo
Joel Agbo

Joel is deeply interested in the technologies behind cryptocurrencies and blockchain networks. In his over 7 years of involvement in the space, he helps startups build a stronger internet presence through written content. He is the founder of CryptocurrencyScripts. Follow the author on Twitter @agboifesinachi

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