Inside the blockchain developer’s mind: Proof-of-burn blockchain consensus


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Cointelegraph is following the event of a wholly new blockchain from inception to mainnet and past by means of its collection, Contained in the Blockchain Developer’s Thoughts. In earlier components, Andrew Levine of Koinos Group mentioned some of the challenges the workforce has confronted since figuring out the important thing points they intend to unravel, and outlined three of the “crises” which can be holding again blockchain adoption: upgradeability, scalability and governance. This collection is concentrated on the consensus algorithm: Part one is about proof-of-work, part two is about proof-of-stake and half three is about proof-of-burn. 

Within the first article within the collection, I explored proof-of-work (PoW) — the OG consensus algorithm — and defined the way it works to bootstrap decentralization but in addition why it’s inefficient. Within the second article, I explored proof-of-stake (PoS) and the way it’s good for decreasing the working prices of a decentralized community relative to proof-of-work, but in addition why it additional entrenches miners, requires complicated and ethically questionable slashing circumstances and fails to stop “alternate assaults.”

On this article, I’ll clarify the third consensus algorithm that was proposed a couple of yr after proof-of-stake however, for causes that ought to turn out to be clear, has by no means really been carried out as a consensus algorithm on a common function blockchain. No less than, not till now.


As I defined within the first article, from a game-theoretical perspective blockchains are a sport during which gamers compete to validate transactions by grouping them into blocks that match the blocks of transactions being created by different gamers. Bitcoin (BTC) works by assigning extra weight to blocks produced by individuals who have most likely sacrificed extra capital which they “show” by means of “work.”

Since these folks have already spent their cash to amass {hardware} and run it to provide blocks, their punishment is straightforward as a result of they’ve already been punished. Proof-of-stake, nonetheless, operates in a basically totally different method that has essential game-theoretical penalties.


As an alternative of forcing block producers to sacrifice capital to amass and run {hardware} to be able to achieve the power to earn block rewards, in proof-of-stake, the token holders want solely sacrifice the liquidity of their capital to be able to earn block rewards. The issue is it decreases community safety as a result of the attacker want solely purchase 51% of the bottom foreign money of the platform and stake it to take management of the community.

To thwart this assault, PoS methods that should implement difficult methods designed to “slash” block rewards from person accounts, which provides to the computational overhead of the community, raises reputable moral considerations and solely work if the attacker fails to amass 51% of the token provide. Implementing these slashing circumstances is certainly not trivial, which is why so many proof-of-stake initiatives like Solana have, by their very own admission, launched with centralized options in place, and why so many different initiatives like Ethereum 2.0 (Eth2) are taking so lengthy to implement PoS. The standard answer is to provide a basis a big sufficient stake in order that it alone has the ability to find out who’s a malicious actor and slash their rewards.

That is particularly problematic in a world with centralized exchanges that characteristic custodial staking which implies it might discover itself answerable for over 51% of a given token provide with out having incurred any threat, making the price of an assault deminimus. The truth is, this has already occurred in latest historical past on one of the crucial used blockchains on the earth, at one time valued at practically $2 billion: Steem.

Associated: Proof-of-stake vs. proof-of-work: Differences explained

Holy Grail consensus

As I stated on the finish of my final article, what we will likely be discussing on this article is the hypothetical query of whether or not there’s a “best-of-both-worlds” answer that delivers the decentralization and safety of proof-of-work with the effectivity of proof-of-stake. Right now, we’re excited to announce the discharge of our white paper on proof-of-burn. In that white paper, we argue that proof-of-burn is strictly that better of each worlds answer.

Iain Stewart proposed proof-of-burn in 2012 — a yr after proof-of-stake — as a thought experiment designed to distinction the variations between proof-of-work and proof-of-stake. We imagine that he unwittingly found the “holy grail” of consensus algorithms that bought misplaced within the sands of time due largely to historic accidents. As Iain Stewart noted:

“I believed it might be attention-grabbing to invent a activity that’s completely, nakedly, unambiguously an instance of the distinction between the 2 viewpoints. And sure, there’s one: burning the foreign money!”

The alternate assault

As the previous core growth workforce behind the Steem blockchain, we have now intimate expertise with alternate assaults. Because of this mitigating this assault vector was of the utmost significance and impressed blockchain architect Steve Gerbino to discover various consensus algorithms seeking an answer that might nonetheless give us the efficiency and effectivity crucial for a excessive efficiency world laptop, all whereas mitigating this essential assault vector.

Proof-of-burn as a consensus algorithm is remarkably easy and its distinctive worth is straightforward to know. Like proof-of-work, it requires that the price of attacking the community be paid “upfront.” Like proof-of-stake, no precise {hardware} must be bought and run apart from the {hardware} required to provide blocks. Like proof-of-work, the alternate assault is thwarted as a result of the block producer has already misplaced their cash, as they’re merely attempting to get it again by sustaining an accurate ledger.

With a view to mount a 51% assault, the malicious actor doesn’t simply want to amass 51% of the token provide, they should provably eliminate it by buying digital mining {hardware}. The one solution to recoup that loss is by producing blocks on the chain that in the end wins. It’s a remarkably easy and chic answer to the issue. There isn’t a want for slashing circumstances as a result of the block producer successfully slashed their very own stake on the very starting.


Iain Stewart proposed proof-of-burn for Bitcoin a yr earlier than a common function blockchain was even conceived of by Vitalik Buterin. Maybe that’s the reason it has taken this lengthy for folks to comprehend that these two issues work collectively extremely effectively. Normal function blockchains place a excessive premium on effectivity whereas permitting for token financial designs with out max provide caps, a requirement for proof-of-burn implementations. A part of the issue may additionally have been that a number of modern ideas like nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and market makers, and options corresponding to upgradeable sensible contracts are extraordinarily useful to the implementation and solely emerged after the proposal.

NFT miners

Maintaining monitor of which accounts have burned what quantities and once they had been burned could be a computationally demanding activity and this elevated load on the community may very well be one of many explanation why folks have prevented this implementation.

Thankfully, nonfungible tokens present us with a robust primitive which the system can use to effectively preserve monitor of all of this info for the aim of distributing block rewards to legitimate block producers. The tip result’s an NFT that successfully capabilities as a digital miner, but in addition one that’s infinitely and exactly customizable.

Blockchain builders can exactly regulate the accessibility of their platforms primarily based on how they value their miner NFTs. Pricing the miners excessive can be like requiring the buying of ASICs (miner machines) to be able to take part in block manufacturing. Pricing the miners low can be like permitting anybody to mine on commodity {hardware}. However, one of the best half is that no precise {hardware} is required both method.

Since Koinos is all about accessibility, miner NFTs will probably have a low value, which is successfully like having the final word GPU and ASIC resistant algorithm attainable. However, this begs the query: “What in the event you choose the fallacious quantity?” This highlights the significance of modular upgradeability. On Koinos, all enterprise logic is carried out as sensible contract modules that are individually upgradeable with out a laborious fork. Because of this if, for instance, the worth of KOIN had been to blow up to the diploma that the fastened value of miners was not sufficiently accessible, governance may merely vote to decrease that value and the quantity can be up to date the second there was a consensus.

Centralization resistance

Fixing the price of miner NFTs is like constructing essentially the most GPU- and ASIC-resistant algorithm attainable as a result of nobody can achieve a bonus by buying specialised {hardware}. Higher but, it makes the miner NFTs extra uniform and subsequently simpler to promote (extra fungible) on a decentralized alternate, that means that block producers are taking up much less threat as a result of they’ll all the time liquidate their miners.

The facility of proof-of-burn in the end stems from the truth that we’re internalizing the mining {hardware} to the system. It’s digital {hardware}, which signifies that it’s infinitely customizable by the system designers to maximise the efficiency of the community. One consequence of that is that the system will be designed to make sure that the miner will earn again their burn plus some extra tokens — a assure that can’t be made by proof-of-work methods.

This customizability additionally permits us to mitigate 51% assaults by designing the system in order that because the demand for miners will increase, the payback interval will get prolonged.

Now, think about that somebody (like an alternate) needs to take over block manufacturing. First, they would wish to burn extra tokens than everybody else mixed. Even then, they may have gotten nothing for it. They might want to start producing blocks on the profitable chain to start to earn again their rewards. Throughout that point, different community contributors would be capable of see what is occurring and reply accordingly. In the event that they really feel that the actor is making an attempt to take management of governance, they’ll merely buy extra miners, pushing again the payback window for the malicious actor till they “get in line.”

Token economics

Proof-of-burn additionally has attention-grabbing financial properties that separate it from each PoW and PoS. For instance, in the event you had been to repair the speed of recent token creation (aka “inflation”), then, at a sure level, if too many individuals had been to take part in block manufacturing, then the token financial system would flip deflationary as a result of rewards can be getting pushed again sooner than new tokens had been being created. This might present efficiency advantages to the community, if crucial.

Many individuals producing blocks can negatively affect latency. This deflationary element would serve to dynamically disincentivize extreme block manufacturing, whereas additionally offering the ecosystem with an essential financial lever, or deflation.

It was my purpose with this collection to provide the reader an insanely deep understanding of the subject of consensus algorithms in a method that was nonetheless accessible and, hopefully, attention-grabbing. We’ve coated the historic arc of the foremost consensus algorithms and what I believe is the subsequent evolution: proof-of-burn. I hope that you’re now outfitted to guage totally different consensus implementations for your self and are available to your individual conclusions about what’s innovating and what’s not.

The views, ideas and opinions expressed listed below are the writer’s alone and don’t essentially mirror or signify the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Andrew Levine is the CEO of Koinos Group, a workforce of trade veterans accelerating decentralization by means of accessible blockchain know-how. Their foundational product is Koinos, a fee-less and infinitely upgradeable blockchain with common language assist.