Displayed address format
How do different wallet addresses work on Polkadot and Kusama?
Platforms like Kusama and Polkadot are enhancing the scope of what people can accomplish with crypto, so we knew we wanted to build Equilibrium and Genshiro using the relevant relay chain. But a lot of early users get tripped up on how wallet addresses work in these kinds of interoperable environments, so we thought we’d share this explainer.
If you’re coming from the world of Ethereum, you’re probably used to addresses looking something like this:
But in the world of Polkadot and Kusama, you might be used to addresses that look something like this:
- Polkadot addresses always start with the number 1.
- Kusama addresses always start with a capital letter.
- Generic Substrate addresses start with 5.
To be clear on what’s going on in that list of wallet addresses above here, that’s six different addresses written in a few different formats that all pertain to one account. Polkadot and Kusama serve to bridge otherwise disconnected blockchains so that they can communicate and transact with each other. So how does that all work together?
Interoperable wallet addresses are the lynchpin for making sure crypto funds reach their intended recipient on the appropriate network. The different address formats which are necessary for different networks, are merely different representations of the same public key in a private-public keypair (that’s generated by a dedicated software tool). This makes these addresses compatible across Substrate-based chains, as long as the format’s been properly converted.
Let’s draw an analogy to the world of language to more fully illustrate this. If we want to express “house” in a number of different ways, we have a list of suitable potentials that might look like this:
These are merely a bunch of different ways to express the same idea (house), and they all represent the same thing (house), but none of them is that actual thing itself.
Your addresses in Polkadot and Kusama effectively work the same way. Your wallet will hold your public and private key, as well as and all the different formats you see depending on the chains you attach to are all just different representations of that same public key.
For example, suppose we have this public key:
On Polkadot it would be represented like this, starting with a 1 per that platform’s standard:
On Kusama would be represented like this, starting with a capital letter:
In the Substrate generic address, it would be something like this, starting with the number 5:
So this is pretty cool — it means that you can use one address or one account across all these different chains. This is easy to set up in the Polkadot browser extension. Now you know a little bit more about these game-changing pieces of fintech software!