Accounts and wallet addresses in Polkadot.js

If you are one of those people who has found the whole concept of accounts and wallet addresses difficult to understand, this explanation will make it easier for you to understand how it works.

Imagine that you live in a house and your address is 13 Bridge Street .

If you want to know what this address would correspond to in another language, you can put it into Google Translate and get the translated version in that language.
Below you can see what that address would correspond to in five random languages:

All of those five translations are just different representations of the same address, which is 13 Bridge Street .

Now, if you have an account (the house) in Polkadot.js extension

your public key (the address) could look something like this:


If you want to know what this would correspond to on a specific network, you can change the display of that public key by clicking on the three dots and selecting that network in the extension - just like we used Google Translate to convert 13 Bridge Street into different languages.

If you select Centrifuge Chain, it will display your CFG address (starts with “4”):

If you select Altair, it will display your AIR address (starts with “k”):

If you select Polkadot Relay Chain, it will display your DOT address (starts with “1”):

If you select Kusama Relay Chain, it will display your KSM address (starts with a capital letter):

We have now seen four different representations of the same address and you can change your account to work on every supported network, and the extension will display the address format for that network - but technically, they are all the same address.
But when you want to send funds to your account, you should send them to the correct addresses; so send AIR to your AIR wallet address, DOT to your DOT wallet address etc.

Another way to see all your different representations of your account is to paste either of your addresses on Subscan and it will display them.


Thanks for this explanation @Rhano. Great way to look at it. In this context/with this analogy in mind, how would you explain the options under the Settings Icon >> “DISPLAY ADDRESS FORMAT FOR”. Here there are more options: Altair, Kusama etc…

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@Rhano this is what I’m referring to

Good question @Shumba. Very simply put - if you set an account to “Allow use on any chain” then the address displayed will be determined by the setting in “Display address format for”.

So if you set all your accounts to “Allow use on any chain” and set “Display address format for” to “Altair”, then all addresses in your extension will start with a “k”.

It is a bit hard to explain, using the same analogy, but I’ll try: “Allow use on any chain” would correspond to using Google Translate to translate into some universal language that everyone understands.

“Display address format for” would then correspond to Google Translate always translating into the selected language instead, when trying to translate into this universal language.

I hope that makes sense.

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