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Discover Unikname Network: Episode 4 – The Consensus Evolution

2 September 2021 | News

Juliette Mégret

Discover Unikname Network: Episode 4 - The Consensus Evolution

Blockchains are living matter. Just like the beloved pokemons, they evolve with the community that supports them. Unikname Network is no exception.

With the upcoming $UNIK token sale, the arrival of many delegate candidates, and the multiplication of service providers on the Network, community interests have changed. So, the decision making process must also evolve. This evolution has been in the works for a while, and will take place gradually.

The consensus evolution

If you are not familiar with DPoS (Delegate Proof of Stake) or with Unikname Network consensus during Phase 1 (the Launch Phase), we strongly recommend you take a look at Episode 2 of the “Discover Unikname Network” series.

This article covers the changes you can expect in the Unikname Network consensus protocol with the beginning of Phase 2. Phase 1 introduced a new kind of DPoS based on colleges, and proved that the project was sound. Phase 2 will accompany the growth of the network and the corresponding project. The new (and improved) consensus protocol is built around 4 pillars. The first two pillars, Confidence in Commitment and Peer Support, were already present in Phase 1. Phase 2 adds two new pillars: the Rewarding of qualitative Services and the Valuation of Recent Support.

Let’s dive into the fourth episode of the Discover Unikname Network series, to learn more about what to expect in Phase 2 of the Unikname Network Consensus, and its concrete impacts for current actors.

Unikname Network Consensus evolves in Phase 2

At the beginning of the Unikname Network, most of the blocks were empty and few delegates were aware of the project. The Network was in a so-called Launch Phase, where rules were calibrated to incite the forging of empty blocks as well as the forging of the ones containing transactions. They didn’t encourage competition between delegates but aimed to reward early supporters for making the Unikname project possible.

Unikname launch phase

But now, the baby project has grown up. Every day, more delegates discover Unikname Network and want to be a part of it, every day the amount of transactions on the blockchain increases.

It’s time to change ! Let’s see the future, when the Unikname Consensus will evolve to its Phase 2!

An innovative DPoS as foundation for a healthy network

As in all Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) consensus, Unikname transactions are written in the network by being registered in blocks signed by delegates.

For doing so, delegates are rewarded by the network with $UNIK for each block they sign. But it is not enough to just register as a delegate to start signing blocks. They have to be elected by network actors among a long list of competitors.

Delegates are elected when they are among the delegates with the most support (we will prefer the term support over vote, for explanations, see the article Delegated Proof of Stake with a twist.

DPoS

The health of the network relies on the elected delegate activity, so designing the consensus protocol is a very sensitive operation.

To design the Unikname Consensus, the question « what is a healthy network ? » has to be answered. For Unikname it is a fully decentralized network where collusion is not possible ; it is a blockchain where blocks are signed frequently and regularly ; and it is an open community in which newcomers are welcome, and the quality of service is recognized and rewarded.

To build such a network, Unikname erected four pillars: the Peer Support, the Confidence in Commitment, the Rewarding of Qualitative Services and the Valuation of Recent Support. The first two are already effective in the Launch Phase. Let’s remember them, and take a look at the specificity of Phase 2.

Peer Support

The actors behind each type of UniknameID (individual, organization or network) defend very different interests. To represent the interest of each group equitably, we introduced the concept of colleges. All actors with the same type are in the same college and can only support their peers.

Peer Support

There are 23 elected delegates, and seats are allocated to represent each college: 10 for individuals, 10 for organizations and 3 for network players. However, seat allocations can be transferred between individuals and organizations if there are not enough delegates of a given type.

Colleges mitigate two common pitfalls of DPoS blockchains, centralization and cartelization. They also constitute an anti-fork measure.

Confidence in commitment

This pillar is the very essence of the Delegated Proof of Stake. Like in classical DPoS, the weight of an actor is derived from its stake in the network. The more they stake $UNIK tokens, the more they are committed to the network, and the more weight they gain in the consensus process.

Actors who are staking $UNIK are called the stakeholder. We consider that stakeholders commit with the network insofar that they had to buy these tokens, or had to work to get them. That is to say they are believing in the $UNIK token value from today and until their last day.

A delegate score is computed by adding all their supporters’ staked tokens, including their own. This way, those who secure the network are those who are most interested in making it safe, because they have the most to lose.

Les interactions entre objets connectés

Rewarding of Qualitative Services

By being a part of the network consensus, delegates get great power, and with it comes great responsibility. Elected delegates are in charge of signing a new block every 8 seconds. If they don’t, new transactions cannot be registered and services relying on the network can’t work properly anymore.

Rewarding of Qualitative Services

That is why delegates that do not provide a good service (i.e. low availability, not up to date, often missing the window to sign a block etc) are penalized. In the Launch Phase, a delegate’s rank was determined by adding up all their support weights. From Phase 2 onwards, this sum is affected by the score of the delegate’s node uptime.

If the node skips signing too many blocks, the score decreases. The decrease is gradual. It begins slowly to allow a delegate to stay elected if its reaction is quick. Indeed, a technical problem on the server of its node can occur, independently of the good will of the delegate. Unikname Network will not penalize the delegate in this case.

The bigger number of missed blocks, the heavier the score is impacted. It could result in effectively a temporary ban for a delegate that has stopped signing altogether. This is necessary if a delegate lost its private key for example. The ban and the negative weight affectation is only temporary: if the delegate re-activate its node, its score of node uptime will gradually recover to its best level.

The Valuation of Recent Support

On many DPoS type blockchains, a somewhat perverse effect occurs: once they are well established, elected delegates are very hard to dislodge. Indeed, with the block reward which ensures them a regular entry of tokens, the quantity of stacked $UNIK increases. So delegates are elected when they have the most tokens (by themselves and with their supporters), and then get $UNIK faster afterwards. After a few months spent signing blocks, it becomes very difficult, and especially very expensive for a newcomer to take their seats.

It’s not really a problem for the network as long as elected delegates do their job correctly. But if they don’t, delegates have enough staked $UNIK to allow themself to skip some blocks signatures.

If their supporters don’t monitor their quality of service and don’t withdraw their support in the event of repetitives failures, they will support an average delegate, rather than supporting a more motivated newcomer.

update

This lack of competition does not encourage the delegates to be fully operational. This is why, as on the EOS blockchain, recent support is enhanced on the Unikname Network.

For the same amount, the delegate with the most recent support wins. In some cases, a delegate with less staked $UNIK in its supports but newer supports may even trump a delegate with more staked tokens but older support. That way, delegates are encouraged to advertise frequently, to encourage their supporters to support them again. And for that, they have to be convincing all the time. Thanks to this valuation of recent support, the network maintains competition between delegates, and it is very healthy for its own functioning.

In summary, what impact for who?

Now it is clear what will happen on the Unikname Network, let’s see the concrete impacts.

Unikname Network

What happens to delegates currently elected?

Immediately after entering Phase 2: not much. The general ranking of delegates will change a bit with the « Enhance recent support » rule, but elected delegates will remain elected. But for this to last, they will need to activate their community of supporters to ask them to support them again, and this regularly.

In addition, a delegate who stops signing blocks completely over a long time will be dismissed, and a new more active delegate will take its place.

How can newcomers become delegates?

By proving that they will make a good delegate! Of course, they’ll have to collect a certain amount of tokens to compete with current delegates. But they won’t need to buy that many if they can build a community of supporters.

What impact on colleges?

On the college side, nothing has changed. The rules set out above are valid for all colleges, but it is still not possible to support a delegate from a college other than your own. Indeed, the interests defended by each college remain different. As such, it is still important that each can have their representatives in the consensus process.

If an active delegate stops forging, what happens?

If the delegate skips signing just one or two blocks, nothing will happen. A technical problem can exceptionally occur, the network will not penalize the delegate for it. Supporters can leave if this happens too often, but there will be no network sanction. On the other hand, if the situation continues, the weight of the delegates will be gradually reduced according to an exponential law. At the start very little, to allow the delegate to reestablish their node, then much faster to get them out of the elected delegate list if they do not react at all. They will be able to re-enter the competition if they re-activate their node… and if they convince their support that an incident like this will not happen again!

Conclusion

Eventually the principle of consensus changed very little. Unikname Network remains based on a DPoS system where staking is the main way to influence the consensus system. The difference with the consensus of the Launch Phase is the valuation of recent support and the penalization of skipping block signatures. Thanks to these additions, delegates are encouraged to bring a community of actors to life on the network, and to offer a perfect quality of service.

Want to know more about the Unikname Network? Look at the previous episode of the Discover Unikname Network: Supply heading into Phase 2.

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