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Why i’m bullish on Zilliqa (long read)

Edit: TL;DR added in the comments
 
Hey all, I've been researching coins since 2017 and have gone through 100s of them in the last 3 years. I got introduced to blockchain via Bitcoin of course, analyzed Ethereum thereafter and from that moment I have a keen interest in smart contact platforms. I’m passionate about Ethereum but I find Zilliqa to have a better risk-reward ratio. Especially because Zilliqa has found an elegant balance between being secure, decentralized and scalable in my opinion.
 
Below I post my analysis of why from all the coins I went through I’m most bullish on Zilliqa (yes I went through Tezos, EOS, NEO, VeChain, Harmony, Algorand, Cardano etc.). Note that this is not investment advice and although it's a thorough analysis there is obviously some bias involved. Looking forward to what you all think!
 
Fun fact: the name Zilliqa is a play on ‘silica’ silicon dioxide which means “Silicon for the high-throughput consensus computer.”
 
This post is divided into (i) Technology, (ii) Business & Partnerships, and (iii) Marketing & Community. I’ve tried to make the technology part readable for a broad audience. If you’ve ever tried understanding the inner workings of Bitcoin and Ethereum you should be able to grasp most parts. Otherwise, just skim through and once you are zoning out head to the next part.
 
Technology and some more:
 
Introduction
 
The technology is one of the main reasons why I’m so bullish on Zilliqa. First thing you see on their website is: “Zilliqa is a high-performance, high-security blockchain platform for enterprises and next-generation applications.” These are some bold statements.
 
Before we deep dive into the technology let’s take a step back in time first as they have quite the history. The initial research paper from which Zilliqa originated dates back to August 2016: Elastico: A Secure Sharding Protocol For Open Blockchains where Loi Luu (Kyber Network) is one of the co-authors. Other ideas that led to the development of what Zilliqa has become today are: Bitcoin-NG, collective signing CoSi, ByzCoin and Omniledger.
 
The technical white paper was made public in August 2017 and since then they have achieved everything stated in the white paper and also created their own open source intermediate level smart contract language called Scilla (functional programming language similar to OCaml) too.
 
Mainnet is live since the end of January 2019 with daily transaction rates growing continuously. About a week ago mainnet reached 5 million transactions, 500.000+ addresses in total along with 2400 nodes keeping the network decentralized and secure. Circulating supply is nearing 11 billion and currently only mining rewards are left. The maximum supply is 21 billion with annual inflation being 7.13% currently and will only decrease with time.
 
Zilliqa realized early on that the usage of public cryptocurrencies and smart contracts were increasing but decentralized, secure, and scalable alternatives were lacking in the crypto space. They proposed to apply sharding onto a public smart contract blockchain where the transaction rate increases almost linear with the increase in the amount of nodes. More nodes = higher transaction throughput and increased decentralization. Sharding comes in many forms and Zilliqa uses network-, transaction- and computational sharding. Network sharding opens up the possibility of using transaction- and computational sharding on top. Zilliqa does not use state sharding for now. We’ll come back to this later.
 
Before we continue dissecting how Zilliqa achieves such from a technological standpoint it’s good to keep in mind that a blockchain being decentralised and secure and scalable is still one of the main hurdles in allowing widespread usage of decentralised networks. In my opinion this needs to be solved first before blockchains can get to the point where they can create and add large scale value. So I invite you to read the next section to grasp the underlying fundamentals. Because after all these premises need to be true otherwise there isn’t a fundamental case to be bullish on Zilliqa, right?
 
Down the rabbit hole
 
How have they achieved this? Let’s define the basics first: key players on Zilliqa are the users and the miners. A user is anybody who uses the blockchain to transfer funds or run smart contracts. Miners are the (shard) nodes in the network who run the consensus protocol and get rewarded for their service in Zillings (ZIL). The mining network is divided into several smaller networks called shards, which is also referred to as ‘network sharding’. Miners subsequently are randomly assigned to a shard by another set of miners called DS (Directory Service) nodes. The regular shards process transactions and the outputs of these shards are eventually combined by the DS shard as they reach consensus on the final state. More on how these DS shards reach consensus (via pBFT) will be explained later on.
 
The Zilliqa network produces two types of blocks: DS blocks and Tx blocks. One DS Block consists of 100 Tx Blocks. And as previously mentioned there are two types of nodes concerned with reaching consensus: shard nodes and DS nodes. Becoming a shard node or DS node is being defined by the result of a PoW cycle (Ethash) at the beginning of the DS Block. All candidate mining nodes compete with each other and run the PoW (Proof-of-Work) cycle for 60 seconds and the submissions achieving the highest difficulty will be allowed on the network. And to put it in perspective: the average difficulty for one DS node is ~ 2 Th/s equaling 2.000.000 Mh/s or 55 thousand+ GeForce GTX 1070 / 8 GB GPUs at 35.4 Mh/s. Each DS Block 10 new DS nodes are allowed. And a shard node needs to provide around 8.53 GH/s currently (around 240 GTX 1070s). Dual mining ETH/ETC and ZIL is possible and can be done via mining software such as Phoenix and Claymore. There are pools and if you have large amounts of hashing power (Ethash) available you could mine solo.
 
The PoW cycle of 60 seconds is a peak performance and acts as an entry ticket to the network. The entry ticket is called a sybil resistance mechanism and makes it incredibly hard for adversaries to spawn lots of identities and manipulate the network with these identities. And after every 100 Tx Blocks which corresponds to roughly 1,5 hour this PoW process repeats. In between these 1,5 hour, no PoW needs to be done meaning Zilliqa’s energy consumption to keep the network secure is low. For more detailed information on how mining works click here.
Okay, hats off to you. You have made it this far. Before we go any deeper down the rabbit hole we first must understand why Zilliqa goes through all of the above technicalities and understand a bit more what a blockchain on a more fundamental level is. Because the core of Zilliqa’s consensus protocol relies on the usage of pBFT (practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance) we need to know more about state machines and their function. Navigate to Viewblock, a Zilliqa block explorer, and just come back to this article. We will use this site to navigate through a few concepts.
 
We have established that Zilliqa is a public and distributed blockchain. Meaning that everyone with an internet connection can send ZILs, trigger smart contracts, etc. and there is no central authority who fully controls the network. Zilliqa and other public and distributed blockchains (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) can also be defined as state machines.
 
Taking the liberty of paraphrasing examples and definitions given by Samuel Brooks’ medium article, he describes the definition of a blockchain (like Zilliqa) as: “A peer-to-peer, append-only datastore that uses consensus to synchronize cryptographically-secure data”.
 
Next, he states that: "blockchains are fundamentally systems for managing valid state transitions”. For some more context, I recommend reading the whole medium article to get a better grasp of the definitions and understanding of state machines. Nevertheless, let’s try to simplify and compile it into a single paragraph. Take traffic lights as an example: all its states (red, amber, and green) are predefined, all possible outcomes are known and it doesn’t matter if you encounter the traffic light today or tomorrow. It will still behave the same. Managing the states of a traffic light can be done by triggering a sensor on the road or pushing a button resulting in one traffic lights’ state going from green to red (via amber) and another light from red to green.
 
With public blockchains like Zilliqa, this isn’t so straightforward and simple. It started with block #1 almost 1,5 years ago and every 45 seconds or so a new block linked to the previous block is being added. Resulting in a chain of blocks with transactions in it that everyone can verify from block #1 to the current #647.000+ block. The state is ever changing and the states it can find itself in are infinite. And while the traffic light might work together in tandem with various other traffic lights, it’s rather insignificant comparing it to a public blockchain. Because Zilliqa consists of 2400 nodes who need to work together to achieve consensus on what the latest valid state is while some of these nodes may have latency or broadcast issues, drop offline or are deliberately trying to attack the network, etc.
 
Now go back to the Viewblock page take a look at the amount of transaction, addresses, block and DS height and then hit refresh. Obviously as expected you see new incremented values on one or all parameters. And how did the Zilliqa blockchain manage to transition from a previous valid state to the latest valid state? By using pBFT to reach consensus on the latest valid state.
 
After having obtained the entry ticket, miners execute pBFT to reach consensus on the ever-changing state of the blockchain. pBFT requires a series of network communication between nodes, and as such there is no GPU involved (but CPU). Resulting in the total energy consumed to keep the blockchain secure, decentralized and scalable being low.
 
pBFT stands for practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance and is an optimization on the Byzantine Fault Tolerant algorithm. To quote Blockonomi: “In the context of distributed systems, Byzantine Fault Tolerance is the ability of a distributed computer network to function as desired and correctly reach a sufficient consensus despite malicious components (nodes) of the system failing or propagating incorrect information to other peers.” Zilliqa is such a distributed computer network and depends on the honesty of the nodes (shard and DS) to reach consensus and to continuously update the state with the latest block. If pBFT is a new term for you I can highly recommend the Blockonomi article.
 
The idea of pBFT was introduced in 1999 - one of the authors even won a Turing award for it - and it is well researched and applied in various blockchains and distributed systems nowadays. If you want more advanced information than the Blockonomi link provides click here. And if you’re in between Blockonomi and the University of Singapore read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 2 dating from October 2017.
Quoting from the Zilliqa tech whitepaper: “pBFT relies upon a correct leader (which is randomly selected) to begin each phase and proceed when the sufficient majority exists. In case the leader is byzantine it can stall the entire consensus protocol. To address this challenge, pBFT offers a view change protocol to replace the byzantine leader with another one.”
 
pBFT can tolerate ⅓ of the nodes being dishonest (offline counts as Byzantine = dishonest) and the consensus protocol will function without stalling or hiccups. Once there are more than ⅓ of dishonest nodes but no more than ⅔ the network will be stalled and a view change will be triggered to elect a new DS leader. Only when more than ⅔ of the nodes are dishonest (66%) double-spend attacks become possible.
 
If the network stalls no transactions can be processed and one has to wait until a new honest leader has been elected. When the mainnet was just launched and in its early phases, view changes happened regularly. As of today the last stalling of the network - and view change being triggered - was at the end of October 2019.
 
Another benefit of using pBFT for consensus besides low energy is the immediate finality it provides. Once your transaction is included in a block and the block is added to the chain it’s done. Lastly, take a look at this article where three types of finality are being defined: probabilistic, absolute and economic finality. Zilliqa falls under the absolute finality (just like Tendermint for example). Although lengthy already we skipped through some of the inner workings from Zilliqa’s consensus: read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 3 and you will be close to having a complete picture on it. Enough about PoW, sybil resistance mechanism, pBFT, etc. Another thing we haven’t looked at yet is the amount of decentralization.
 
Decentralisation
 
Currently, there are four shards, each one of them consisting of 600 nodes. 1 shard with 600 so-called DS nodes (Directory Service - they need to achieve a higher difficulty than shard nodes) and 1800 shard nodes of which 250 are shard guards (centralized nodes controlled by the team). The amount of shard guards has been steadily declining from 1200 in January 2019 to 250 as of May 2020. On the Viewblock statistics, you can see that many of the nodes are being located in the US but those are only the (CPU parts of the) shard nodes who perform pBFT. There is no data from where the PoW sources are coming. And when the Zilliqa blockchain starts reaching its transaction capacity limit, a network upgrade needs to be executed to lift the current cap of maximum 2400 nodes to allow more nodes and formation of more shards which will allow to network to keep on scaling according to demand.
Besides shard nodes there are also seed nodes. The main role of seed nodes is to serve as direct access points (for end-users and clients) to the core Zilliqa network that validates transactions. Seed nodes consolidate transaction requests and forward these to the lookup nodes (another type of nodes) for distribution to the shards in the network. Seed nodes also maintain the entire transaction history and the global state of the blockchain which is needed to provide services such as block explorers. Seed nodes in the Zilliqa network are comparable to Infura on Ethereum.
 
The seed nodes were first only operated by Zilliqa themselves, exchanges and Viewblock. Operators of seed nodes like exchanges had no incentive to open them for the greater public. They were centralised at first. Decentralisation at the seed nodes level has been steadily rolled out since March 2020 ( Zilliqa Improvement Proposal 3 ). Currently the amount of seed nodes is being increased, they are public-facing and at the same time PoS is applied to incentivize seed node operators and make it possible for ZIL holders to stake and earn passive yields. Important distinction: seed nodes are not involved with consensus! That is still PoW as entry ticket and pBFT for the actual consensus.
 
5% of the block rewards are being assigned to seed nodes (from the beginning in 2019) and those are being used to pay out ZIL stakers. The 5% block rewards with an annual yield of 10.03% translate to roughly 610 MM ZILs in total that can be staked. Exchanges use the custodial variant of staking and wallets like Moonlet will use the non-custodial version (starting in Q3 2020). Staking is being done by sending ZILs to a smart contract created by Zilliqa and audited by Quantstamp.
 
With a high amount of DS; shard nodes and seed nodes becoming more decentralized too, Zilliqa qualifies for the label of decentralized in my opinion.
 
Smart contracts
 
Let me start by saying I’m not a developer and my programming skills are quite limited. So I‘m taking the ELI5 route (maybe 12) but if you are familiar with Javascript, Solidity or specifically OCaml please head straight to Scilla - read the docs to get a good initial grasp of how Zilliqa’s smart contract language Scilla works and if you ask yourself “why another programming language?” check this article. And if you want to play around with some sample contracts in an IDE click here. The faucet can be found here. And more information on architecture, dapp development and API can be found on the Developer Portal.
If you are more into listening and watching: check this recent webinar explaining Zilliqa and Scilla. Link is time-stamped so you’ll start right away with a platform introduction, roadmap 2020 and afterwards a proper Scilla introduction.
 
Generalized: programming languages can be divided into being ‘object-oriented’ or ‘functional’. Here is an ELI5 given by software development academy: * “all programs have two basic components, data – what the program knows – and behavior – what the program can do with that data. So object-oriented programming states that combining data and related behaviors in one place, is called “object”, which makes it easier to understand how a particular program works. On the other hand, functional programming argues that data and behavior are different things and should be separated to ensure their clarity.” *
 
Scilla is on the functional side and shares similarities with OCaml: OCaml is a general-purpose programming language with an emphasis on expressiveness and safety. It has an advanced type system that helps catch your mistakes without getting in your way. It's used in environments where a single mistake can cost millions and speed matters, is supported by an active community, and has a rich set of libraries and development tools. For all its power, OCaml is also pretty simple, which is one reason it's often used as a teaching language.
 
Scilla is blockchain agnostic, can be implemented onto other blockchains as well, is recognized by academics and won a so-called Distinguished Artifact Award award at the end of last year.
 
One of the reasons why the Zilliqa team decided to create their own programming language focused on preventing smart contract vulnerabilities is that adding logic on a blockchain, programming, means that you cannot afford to make mistakes. Otherwise, it could cost you. It’s all great and fun blockchains being immutable but updating your code because you found a bug isn’t the same as with a regular web application for example. And with smart contracts, it inherently involves cryptocurrencies in some form thus value.
 
Another difference with programming languages on a blockchain is gas. Every transaction you do on a smart contract platform like Zilliqa or Ethereum costs gas. With gas you basically pay for computational costs. Sending a ZIL from address A to address B costs 0.001 ZIL currently. Smart contracts are more complex, often involve various functions and require more gas (if gas is a new concept click here ).
 
So with Scilla, similar to Solidity, you need to make sure that “every function in your smart contract will run as expected without hitting gas limits. An improper resource analysis may lead to situations where funds may get stuck simply because a part of the smart contract code cannot be executed due to gas limits. Such constraints are not present in traditional software systems”. Scilla design story part 1
 
Some examples of smart contract issues you’d want to avoid are: leaking funds, ‘unexpected changes to critical state variables’ (example: someone other than you setting his or her address as the owner of the smart contract after creation) or simply killing a contract.
 
Scilla also allows for formal verification. Wikipedia to the rescue: In the context of hardware and software systems, formal verification is the act of proving or disproving the correctness of intended algorithms underlying a system with respect to a certain formal specification or property, using formal methods of mathematics.
 
Formal verification can be helpful in proving the correctness of systems such as: cryptographic protocols, combinational circuits, digital circuits with internal memory, and software expressed as source code.
 
Scilla is being developed hand-in-hand with formalization of its semantics and its embedding into the Coq proof assistant — a state-of-the art tool for mechanized proofs about properties of programs.”
 
Simply put, with Scilla and accompanying tooling developers can be mathematically sure and proof that the smart contract they’ve written does what he or she intends it to do.
 
Smart contract on a sharded environment and state sharding
 
There is one more topic I’d like to touch on: smart contract execution in a sharded environment (and what is the effect of state sharding). This is a complex topic. I’m not able to explain it any easier than what is posted here. But I will try to compress the post into something easy to digest.
 
Earlier on we have established that Zilliqa can process transactions in parallel due to network sharding. This is where the linear scalability comes from. We can define simple transactions: a transaction from address A to B (Category 1), a transaction where a user interacts with one smart contract (Category 2) and the most complex ones where triggering a transaction results in multiple smart contracts being involved (Category 3). The shards are able to process transactions on their own without interference of the other shards. With Category 1 transactions that is doable, with Category 2 transactions sometimes if that address is in the same shard as the smart contract but with Category 3 you definitely need communication between the shards. Solving that requires to make a set of communication rules the protocol needs to follow in order to process all transactions in a generalised fashion.
 
And this is where the downsides of state sharding comes in currently. All shards in Zilliqa have access to the complete state. Yes the state size (0.1 GB at the moment) grows and all of the nodes need to store it but it also means that they don’t need to shop around for information available on other shards. Requiring more communication and adding more complexity. Computer science knowledge and/or developer knowledge required links if you want to dig further: Scilla - language grammar Scilla - Foundations for Verifiable Decentralised Computations on a Blockchain Gas Accounting NUS x Zilliqa: Smart contract language workshop
 
Easier to follow links on programming Scilla https://learnscilla.com/home Ivan on Tech
 
Roadmap / Zilliqa 2.0
 
There is no strict defined roadmap but here are topics being worked on. And via the Zilliqa website there is also more information on the projects they are working on.
 
Business & Partnerships
 
It’s not only technology in which Zilliqa seems to be excelling as their ecosystem has been expanding and starting to grow rapidly. The project is on a mission to provide OpenFinance (OpFi) to the world and Singapore is the right place to be due to its progressive regulations and futuristic thinking. Singapore has taken a proactive approach towards cryptocurrencies by introducing the Payment Services Act 2019 (PS Act). Among other things, the PS Act will regulate intermediaries dealing with certain cryptocurrencies, with a particular focus on consumer protection and anti-money laundering. It will also provide a stable regulatory licensing and operating framework for cryptocurrency entities, effectively covering all crypto businesses and exchanges based in Singapore. According to PWC 82% of the surveyed executives in Singapore reported blockchain initiatives underway and 13% of them have already brought the initiatives live to the market. There is also an increasing list of organizations that are starting to provide digital payment services. Moreover, Singaporean blockchain developers Building Cities Beyond has recently created an innovation $15 million grant to encourage development on its ecosystem. This all suggests that Singapore tries to position itself as (one of) the leading blockchain hubs in the world.
 
Zilliqa seems to already take advantage of this and recently helped launch Hg Exchange on their platform, together with financial institutions PhillipCapital, PrimePartners and Fundnel. Hg Exchange, which is now approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), uses smart contracts to represent digital assets. Through Hg Exchange financial institutions worldwide can use Zilliqa's safe-by-design smart contracts to enable the trading of private equities. For example, think of companies such as Grab, Airbnb, SpaceX that are not available for public trading right now. Hg Exchange will allow investors to buy shares of private companies & unicorns and capture their value before an IPO. Anquan, the main company behind Zilliqa, has also recently announced that they became a partner and shareholder in TEN31 Bank, which is a fully regulated bank allowing for tokenization of assets and is aiming to bridge the gap between conventional banking and the blockchain world. If STOs, the tokenization of assets, and equity trading will continue to increase, then Zilliqa’s public blockchain would be the ideal candidate due to its strategic positioning, partnerships, regulatory compliance and the technology that is being built on top of it.
 
What is also very encouraging is their focus on banking the un(der)banked. They are launching a stablecoin basket starting with XSGD. As many of you know, stablecoins are currently mostly used for trading. However, Zilliqa is actively trying to broaden the use case of stablecoins. I recommend everybody to read this text that Amrit Kumar wrote (one of the co-founders). These stablecoins will be integrated in the traditional markets and bridge the gap between the crypto world and the traditional world. This could potentially revolutionize and legitimise the crypto space if retailers and companies will for example start to use stablecoins for payments or remittances, instead of it solely being used for trading.
 
Zilliqa also released their DeFi strategic roadmap (dating November 2019) which seems to be aligning well with their OpFi strategy. A non-custodial DEX is coming to Zilliqa made by Switcheo which allows cross-chain trading (atomic swaps) between ETH, EOS and ZIL based tokens. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a (soon to be announced) USD stablecoin. And as Zilliqa is all about regulations and being compliant, I’m speculating on it to be a regulated USD stablecoin. Furthermore, XSGD is already created and visible on block explorer and XIDR (Indonesian Stablecoin) is also coming soon via StraitsX. Here also an overview of the Tech Stack for Financial Applications from September 2019. Further quoting Amrit Kumar on this:
 
There are two basic building blocks in DeFi/OpFi though: 1) stablecoins as you need a non-volatile currency to get access to this market and 2) a dex to be able to trade all these financial assets. The rest are built on top of these blocks.
 
So far, together with our partners and community, we have worked on developing these building blocks with XSGD as a stablecoin. We are working on bringing a USD-backed stablecoin as well. We will soon have a decentralised exchange developed by Switcheo. And with HGX going live, we are also venturing into the tokenization space. More to come in the future.”
 
Additionally, they also have this ZILHive initiative that injects capital into projects. There have been already 6 waves of various teams working on infrastructure, innovation and research, and they are not from ASEAN or Singapore only but global: see Grantees breakdown by country. Over 60 project teams from over 20 countries have contributed to Zilliqa's ecosystem. This includes individuals and teams developing wallets, explorers, developer toolkits, smart contract testing frameworks, dapps, etc. As some of you may know, Unstoppable Domains (UD) blew up when they launched on Zilliqa. UD aims to replace cryptocurrency addresses with a human-readable name and allows for uncensorable websites. Zilliqa will probably be the only one able to handle all these transactions onchain due to ability to scale and its resulting low fees which is why the UD team launched this on Zilliqa in the first place. Furthermore, Zilliqa also has a strong emphasis on security, compliance, and privacy, which is why they partnered with companies like Elliptic, ChainSecurity (part of PwC Switzerland), and Incognito. Their sister company Aqilliz (Zilliqa spelled backwards) focuses on revolutionizing the digital advertising space and is doing interesting things like using Zilliqa to track outdoor digital ads with companies like Foodpanda.
 
Zilliqa is listed on nearly all major exchanges, having several different fiat-gateways and recently have been added to Binance’s margin trading and futures trading with really good volume. They also have a very impressive team with good credentials and experience. They don't just have “tech people”. They have a mix of tech people, business people, marketeers, scientists, and more. Naturally, it's good to have a mix of people with different skill sets if you work in the crypto space.
 
Marketing & Community
 
Zilliqa has a very strong community. If you just follow their Twitter their engagement is much higher for a coin that has approximately 80k followers. They also have been ‘coin of the day’ by LunarCrush many times. LunarCrush tracks real-time cryptocurrency value and social data. According to their data, it seems Zilliqa has a more fundamental and deeper understanding of marketing and community engagement than almost all other coins. While almost all coins have been a bit frozen in the last months, Zilliqa seems to be on its own bull run. It was somewhere in the 100s a few months ago and is currently ranked #46 on CoinGecko. Their official Telegram also has over 20k people and is very active, and their community channel which is over 7k now is more active and larger than many other official channels. Their local communities also seem to be growing.
 
Moreover, their community started ‘Zillacracy’ together with the Zilliqa core team ( see www.zillacracy.com ). It’s a community-run initiative where people from all over the world are now helping with marketing and development on Zilliqa. Since its launch in February 2020 they have been doing a lot and will also run their own non-custodial seed node for staking. This seed node will also allow them to start generating revenue for them to become a self sustaining entity that could potentially scale up to become a decentralized company working in parallel with the Zilliqa core team. Comparing it to all the other smart contract platforms (e.g. Cardano, EOS, Tezos etc.) they don't seem to have started a similar initiative (correct me if I’m wrong though). This suggests in my opinion that these other smart contract platforms do not fully understand how to utilize the ‘power of the community’. This is something you cannot ‘buy with money’ and gives many projects in the space a disadvantage.
 
Zilliqa also released two social products called SocialPay and Zeeves. SocialPay allows users to earn ZILs while tweeting with a specific hashtag. They have recently used it in partnership with the Singapore Red Cross for a marketing campaign after their initial pilot program. It seems like a very valuable social product with a good use case. I can see a lot of traditional companies entering the space through this product, which they seem to suggest will happen. Tokenizing hashtags with smart contracts to get network effect is a very smart and innovative idea.
 
Regarding Zeeves, this is a tipping bot for Telegram. They already have 1000s of signups and they plan to keep upgrading it for more and more people to use it (e.g. they recently have added a quiz features). They also use it during AMAs to reward people in real-time. It’s a very smart approach to grow their communities and get familiar with ZIL. I can see this becoming very big on Telegram. This tool suggests, again, that the Zilliqa team has a deeper understanding of what the crypto space and community needs and is good at finding the right innovative tools to grow and scale.
 
To be honest, I haven’t covered everything (i’m also reaching the character limited haha). So many updates happening lately that it's hard to keep up, such as the International Monetary Fund mentioning Zilliqa in their report, custodial and non-custodial Staking, Binance Margin, Futures, Widget, entering the Indian market, and more. The Head of Marketing Colin Miles has also released this as an overview of what is coming next. And last but not least, Vitalik Buterin has been mentioning Zilliqa lately acknowledging Zilliqa and mentioning that both projects have a lot of room to grow. There is much more info of course and a good part of it has been served to you on a silver platter. I invite you to continue researching by yourself :-) And if you have any comments or questions please post here!
submitted by haveyouheardaboutit to CryptoCurrency [link] [comments]

Review and Prospect of Crypto Economy-Development and Evolution of Consensus Mechanism (2)

Review and Prospect of Crypto Economy-Development and Evolution of Consensus Mechanism (2)

https://preview.redd.it/a51zsja94db51.png?width=567&format=png&auto=webp&s=99e8080c9e9b1fb5e11cbd70f915f9cb37188f81
Foreword
The consensus mechanism is one of the important elements of the blockchain and the core rule of the normal operation of the distributed ledger. It is mainly used to solve the trust problem between people and determine who is responsible for generating new blocks and maintaining the effective unification of the system in the blockchain system. Thus, it has become an everlasting research hot topic in blockchain.
This article starts with the concept and role of the consensus mechanism. First, it enables the reader to have a preliminary understanding of the consensus mechanism as a whole; then starting with the two armies and the Byzantine general problem, the evolution of the consensus mechanism is introduced in the order of the time when the consensus mechanism is proposed; Then, it briefly introduces the current mainstream consensus mechanism from three aspects of concept, working principle and representative project, and compares the advantages and disadvantages of the mainstream consensus mechanism; finally, it gives suggestions on how to choose a consensus mechanism for blockchain projects and pointed out the possibility of the future development of the consensus mechanism.
Contents
First, concept and function of the consensus mechanism
1.1 Concept: The core rules for the normal operation of distributed ledgers
1.2 Role: Solve the trust problem and decide the generation and maintenance of new blocks
1.2.1 Used to solve the trust problem between people
1.2.2 Used to decide who is responsible for generating new blocks and maintaining effective unity in the blockchain system
1.3 Mainstream model of consensus algorithm
Second, the origin of the consensus mechanism
2.1 The two armies and the Byzantine generals
2.1.1 The two armies problem
2.1.2 The Byzantine generals problem
2.2 Development history of consensus mechanism
2.2.1 Classification of consensus mechanism
2.2.2 Development frontier of consensus mechanism
Third, Common Consensus System
Fourth, Selection of consensus mechanism and summary of current situation
4.1 How to choose a consensus mechanism that suits you
4.1.1 Determine whether the final result is important
4.1.2 Determine how fast the application process needs to be
4.1.2 Determining the degree to which the application requires for decentralization
4.1.3 Determine whether the system can be terminated
4.1.4 Select a suitable consensus algorithm after weighing the advantages and disadvantages
4.2 Future development of consensus mechanism
Last lecture review: Chapter 1 Concept and Function of Consensus Mechanism plus Chapter 2 Origin of Consensus Mechanism
Chapter 3 Common Consensus Mechanisms (Part 1)
Figure 6 Summary of relatively mainstream consensus mechanisms
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https://preview.redd.it/9r7q3xra4db51.png?width=567&format=png&auto=webp&s=bae5554a596feaac948fae22dffafee98c4318a7
Source: Hasib Anwar, "Consensus Algorithms: The Root Of The Blockchain Technology"
The picture above shows 14 relatively mainstream consensus mechanisms summarized by a geek Hasib Anwar, including PoW (Proof of Work), PoS (Proof of Stake), DPoS (Delegated Proof of Stake), LPoS (Lease Proof of Stake), PoET ( Proof of Elapsed Time), PBFT (Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance), SBFT (Simple Byzantine Fault Tolerance), DBFT (Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance), DAG (Directed Acyclic Graph), Proof-of-Activity (Proof of Activity), Proof-of- Importance (Proof of Importance), Proof-of-Capacity (Proof of Capacity), Proof-of-Burn ( Proof of Burn), Proof-of-Weight (Proof of Weight).
Next, we will mainly introduce and analyze the top ten consensus mechanisms of the current blockchain.
》POW
-Concept:
Work proof mechanism. That is, the proof of work means that it takes a certain amount of computer time to confirm the work.
-Principle:
Figure 7 PoW work proof principle
📷
https://preview.redd.it/xupacdfc4db51.png?width=554&format=png&auto=webp&s=3b6994641f5890804d93dfed9ecfd29308c8e0cc
The PoW represented by Bitcoin uses the SHA-256 algorithm function, which is a 256-bit hash algorithm in the password hash function family:
Proof of work output = SHA256 (SHA256 (block header));
if (output of proof of work if (output of proof of work >= target value), change the random number, recursive i logic, continue to compare with the target value.
New difficulty value = old difficulty value* (time spent by last 2016 blocks /20160 minutes)
Target value = maximum target value / difficulty value
The maximum target value is a fixed number. If the last 2016 blocks took less than 20160 minutes, then this coefficient will be small, and the target value will be adjusted bigger, if not, the target value will be adjusted smaller. Bitcoin mining difficulty and block generation speed will be inversely proportional to the appropriate adjustment of block generation speed.
-Representative applications: BTC, etc.
》POS
-Concept:
Proof of stake. That is, a mechanism for reaching consensus based on the holding currency. The longer the currency is held, the greater the probability of getting a reward.
-Principle:
PoS implementation algorithm formula: hash(block_header) = Coin age calculation formula: coinage = number of coins * remaining usage time of coins
Among them, coinage means coin age, which means that the older the coin age, the easier it is to get answers. The calculation of the coin age is obtained by multiplying the coins owned by the miner by the remaining usage time of each coin, which also means that the more coins you have, the easier it is to get answers. In this way, pos solves the problem of wasting resources in pow, and miners cannot own 51% coins from the entire network, so it also solves the problem of 51% attacks.
-Representative applications: ETH, etc.
》DPoS
-Concept:
Delegated proof of stake. That is, currency holding investors select super nodes by voting to operate the entire network , similar to the people's congress system.
-Principle:
The DPOS algorithm is divided into two parts. Elect a group of block producers and schedule production.
Election: Only permanent nodes with the right to be elected can be elected, and ultimately only the top N witnesses can be elected. These N individuals must obtain more than 50% of the votes to be successfully elected. In addition, this list will be re-elected at regular intervals.
Scheduled production: Under normal circumstances, block producers take turns to generate a block every 3 seconds. Assuming that no producer misses his order, then the chain they produce is bound to be the longest chain. When a witness produces a block, a block needs to be generated every 2s. If the specified time is exceeded, the current witness will lose the right to produce and the right will be transferred to the next witness. Then the witness is not only unpaid, but also may lose his identity.
-Representative applications: EOS, etc.
》DPoW
-Concept:
Delayed proof of work. A new-generation consensus mechanism based on PoB and DPoS. Miners use their own computing power, through the hash algorithm, and finally prove their work, get the corresponding wood, wood is not tradable. After the wood has accumulated to a certain amount, you can go to the burning site to burn the wood. This can achieve a balance between computing power and mining rights.
-Principle:
In the DPoW-based blockchain, miners are no longer rewarded tokens, but "wood" that can be burned, burning wood. Miners use their own computing power, through the hash algorithm, and finally prove their work, get the corresponding wood, wood is not tradable. After the wood has accumulated to a certain amount, you can go to the burning site to burn the wood. Through a set of algorithms, people who burn more wood or BP or a group of BP can obtain the right to generate blocks in the next event segment, and get rewards (tokens) after successful block generation. Since more than one person may burn wood in a time period, the probability of producing blocks in the next time period is determined by the amount of wood burned by oneself. The more it is burned, the higher the probability of obtaining block rights in the next period.
Two node types: notary node and normal node.
The 64 notary nodes are elected by the stakeholders of the dPoW blockchain, and the notarized confirmed blocks can be added from the dPoW blockchain to the attached PoW blockchain. Once a block is added, the hash value of the block will be added to the Bitcoin transaction signed by 33 notary nodes, and a hash will be created to the dPow block record of the Bitcoin blockchain. This record has been notarized by most notary nodes in the network. In order to avoid wars on mining between notary nodes, and thereby reduce the efficiency of the network, Komodo designed a mining method that uses a polling mechanism. This method has two operating modes. In the "No Notary" (No Notary) mode, all network nodes can participate in mining, which is similar to the traditional PoW consensus mechanism. In the "Notaries Active" mode, network notaries use a significantly reduced network difficulty rate to mine. In the "Notary Public Activation" mode, each notary public is allowed to mine a block with its current difficulty, while other notary public nodes must use 10 times the difficulty of mining, and all normal nodes use 100 times the difficulty of the notary public node.
Figure 8 DPoW operation process without a notary node
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https://preview.redd.it/3yuzpemd4db51.png?width=500&format=png&auto=webp&s=f3bc2a1c97b13cb861414d3eb23a312b42ea6547
-Representative applications: CelesOS, Komodo, etc.
CelesOS Research Institute丨DPoW consensus mechanism-combustible mining and voting
》PBFT
-Concept:
Practical Byzantine fault tolerance algorithm. That is, the complexity of the algorithm is reduced from exponential to polynomial level, making the Byzantine fault-tolerant algorithm feasible in practical system applications.
-Principle:
Figure 9 PBFT algorithm principle
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https://preview.redd.it/8as7rgre4db51.png?width=567&format=png&auto=webp&s=372be730af428f991375146efedd5315926af1ca
First, the client sends a request to the master node to call the service operation, and then the master node broadcasts other copies of the request. All copies execute the request and send the result back to the client. The client needs to wait for f+1 different replica nodes to return the same result as the final result of the entire operation.
Two qualifications: 1. All nodes must be deterministic. That is to say, the results of the operation must be the same under the same conditions and parameters. 2. All nodes must start from the same status. Under these two limited qualifications, even if there are failed replica nodes, the PBFT algorithm agrees on the total order of execution of all non-failed replica nodes, thereby ensuring security.
-Representative applications: Tendermint Consensus, etc.
Next Lecture: Chapter 3 Common Consensus Mechanisms (Part 2) + Chapter 4 Consensus Mechanism Selection and Status Summary
CelesOS
As the first DPOW financial blockchain operating system, CelesOS adopts consensus mechanism 3.0 to break through the "impossible triangle", which can provide high TPS while also allowing for decentralization. Committed to creating a financial blockchain operating system that embraces supervision, providing services for financial institutions and the development of applications on the supervision chain, and formulating a role and consensus ecological supervision layer agreement for supervision.
The CelesOS team is dedicated to building a bridge between blockchain and regulatory agencies/financial industry. We believe that only blockchain technology that cooperates with regulators will have a real future. We believe in and contribute to achieving this goal.

📷Website
https://www.celesos.com/
📷 Telegram
https://t.me/celeschain
📷 Twitter
https://twitter.com/CelesChain
📷 Reddit
https://www.reddit.com/useCelesOS
📷 Medium
https://medium.com/@celesos
📷 Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/CelesOS1
📷 Youtube
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1Xsd8wU957D-R8RQVZPfGA
submitted by CelesOS to u/CelesOS [link] [comments]

How do I Buy Bitcoin & Crypto? - Pros & Cons of 5 Exchanges

Are you looking to start investing in cryptocurrency and wondering the best place to buy it? Or if you are in the US, are you wondering which crypto exchanges are legal for you to use? Below is a list of 5 cryptocurrency exchanges that, as of this post, are all legal for US citizens. I have also included a quick break down on the pros and cons of each exchange. This is not a complete list of every exchange available to US citizens as there are others, but these are my own personal top 5 based on characteristics such as ease of use, security, fees, liquidity and selection of available coins to trade. If you are not located in the US there is a good chance most of these exchanges are available to you as well, you will just need to check with the exchange and look up your own country's policies regarding the purchase of cryptocurrencies.
As you go through the list please keep in mind, while I do have them ranked 1 through 5, there is not a lot separating them and each of these exchanges offer something a little unique from the others. Everyone's investment goals and preferences are going to be a little different so my #5 exchange here could be your #1 based on your criteria. It is also pretty likely that if you end up wanting to invest in 5 or more coins at some point, no one exchange is going to have all of them available so you will likely need to open multiple accounts anyways. Okay, on to the list.

1) Binance US
Binance US is an offshoot of one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges out there, Binance.com. They created Binance US in response to US citizens being banned from using their main exchange back in 2019. These two exchanges function much the same with the biggest difference being that Binance US has a slightly smaller pool of cryptos listed on their exchange, which currently is a little over 30 coins. Other than that, all of the great features of Binance.com that have helped it become one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world, apply to Binance US as well.
PROS
- Low Fees: Start at 0.10% spot trading fee and goes down from there depending on your trading frequency. You can also save an additional 25% off your trading fees by holding their native token BNB.
- High Trading Volume: Allows you to get in and out of your positions more easily.
- Coin Selection: Currently as of this writing there are over 30 different coins available to be traded.
- Reliability / Reputation: As one of the larger players in the crypto space, Binance is able to offer a bit of security as they are able to throw a lot of money at any potential problems with things like hackers. Binance US puts away a set portion of their earnings every month in a fund that acts as insurance against any funds that may be lost due to hackers. Back in 2019 they had an incident where 40 million dollars of crypto was stolen by hackers and they reimbursed every penny to their customers.
CONS
- Interface: Trading can be a little confusing for those not used to trading cryptocurrencies. While it is not too difficult to learn, a couple of the upcoming exchanges on my list are a little more user friendly for those who are new to the space.
All things considered, right now if I was getting started with Crypto trading in the US, Binance US would be the first account that I created. If you would like to open an account you can use the link below. If you are located outside of the United States I would suggest opening an account on the the original Binance.com exchange as they currently have a wider selection of cryptos to pick from. Below is a link for their sign up as well if you are interested.
Binance US Sign Up
Binance Sign Up (Non-US Citizens)

2) Crypto.com
Crypto.com is on a mission to be the leader in cryptocurrency adoption to the masses and is trying to bridge the gap between the worlds of blockchain and traditional finance. Along with trading cryptocurrencies they have programs on their app like Earn, Invest, Pay & Credit which you would find with more traditional finance companies. For instance, through their Earn program there are many coins you can earn interest on by locking them up for a set time period. Depending on the coin, how many MCO (Crypto.com native coin) you have staked and how long you keep your tokens locked up for, you can earn anywhere from 2% to 18% interest which a lot better than any bank is going to do for you these days.
One of the best features of Crypto.com, in my opinion, are their great eye-catching, metal crypto MCO reward credit cards. These cards pay you cashback, in the form of their MCO token, for all of your day to day purchases anywhere that VISA is accepted. Depending on which level of card you get, these credit cards reward 1% to 5% cashback on all spending along with other great benefits like free ATM & international withdrawals, 100% cashback on Spotify & Netflix subscriptions and airport lounge access. In order to get your hands on one of these cards you will need to open a Crypto.com account if you don’t already have one. There is good news if you don’t already have one, as new sign ups can get $50 worth of MCO tokens free by using the link and promo code I have posted below. Please note that the $50 of MCO tokens will remain locked until you deposit & stake at least 50 MCO tokens toward the sign up of the particular card you are interested in. If you want to know a little more about these cards you can check out method #3 in my earlier post 5 Easy Legitimate Ways to Earn Free Crypto where I go into a bit more detail on them. However, for the purpose of this post, let's get to some pros and cons of their exchange platform.
PROS
- Low Fees: Start at 0.20% and go lower from there depending on your trading volume.
- Coin Selection: Currently as of this writing there are 53 different coins available to be traded.
- Interface: Easy to use app that is very user friendly.- Customer Service: One of the best customer service programs in the industry if you need any help.
CONS
- App Only: No desktop version, all functions on the exchange must be done via their app.
- History: Founded in 2016 so they are still relatively new to the industry.
Crypto.com is a great option if you are looking to trade cryptocurrencies and also want to take advantage of things like their cash back VISA cards and Earn program that pay you great interest rates as you hold your coins. Below is a link you can use to sign up for a new account. If you are also interested in getting one of their MCO Visa cards, use the link below along with the promo code to get $50 of their MCO token free.
Crypto.com Sign Up
PROMO CODE: gapena3dq4

3) Coinbase Headquartered in San Francisco, Coinbase is the largest US-based crypto exchange with about 20 million current users. Like Crypto.com, they are trying to bring cryptocurrency trading to the masses through an easy to use interface and education. One way they try to educate their users is through their Coinbase Earn program where they offer free crypto for watching short educational videos teaching you about the various coins they offer on their exchange. I will not go into the details of that program here, but if you are interested in checking it out I go into a bit more detail on it in my post 5 Easy Legitimate Ways to Earn Free Crypto. Now on to some of the pros and cons.
PROS
- High Trading Volume: Allows you to get in and out of your positions easily.
- Interface: Easy to use desktop interface and trading mechanisms for those new to crypto trading.
- Insurance: Coinbase carries an insurance policy that covers 2% of all assets on the exchange and they keep the other 98% in cold storage.
CONS
- Fees: While their fee structure is not horrible, it is a bit higher than Crypto.com and Binance US. Crypto to crypto trading fees are at 0.50% / bank purchases at 1.49% / credit & debit card purchases at 3.99%.
- Coin Selection: Currently they only have about 20 coins to choose from, however they are looking to add a bunch more soon.
Coinbase is a solid choice for anyone looking to get started in crypto trading. If you would like to open an account you can use the link below which will get you $10 of free Bitcoin as a sign up bonus. Please note that to get the free $10 you must buy or sell $100 worth of crypto within 180 days of signing up.
Coinbase Sign Up

4) Robinhood
Robinhood is the pioneer of no fee trading for securities which is the main benefit of this exchange. It also is, to my knowledge, one of the few exchanges that allow you to trade both traditional stocks and cryptocurrencies. Technically their stock and crypto exchanges are separate entities, however you can seamlessly trade them both from the same account on their app. This is great for those who would like to get started trading in both crypto and traditional stocks but don't want to open multiple accounts. Or for those who might want to trade back and forth between stocks and crypto but don't want to have to transfer money between accounts to do so. Now to explore some other features of the Robinhood exchange let's get into the pros and cons.

PROS
- Fees: None (FREE!)
- Flexibility: Can trade multiple asset classes (Stocks, Crypto, ETFs, Options)
- Interface: Easy to use app that is very user friendly. Desktop version available as well.

CONS
- Coin Selection: Currently only offer 7 coins that can be traded (BTC, BCH, BSV, DOGE, ETH, ETC, LTC)
- Coin Mobility: Your coins must remain on the Robinhood exchange. You cannot transfer your coins to another exchange or withdraw them to put in your own digital wallets.
With their user friendly interface and no fees, Robinhood is very appealing for those just getting into crypto trading. If you are just looking to buy some of the higher cap coins like Bitcoin and Etherium, this exchange can be a good fit for you. However if you know there are some projects you would like to invest in that are not listed above, you may want to choose some of the other exchanges on this list, or both. If you are unsure at this point if you want to invest beyond coins like Bitcoin and Etherium in the future, it doesn't hurt to start here, get your feet wet and open another account down the road if you have other projects you get interested in. If you would like to open an account you can use the link below to get one free stock with sign up! This free stock will be valued somewhere between $2.50 and $200.
Robinhood Sign Up

5) Kraken
Kraken exchange is based out of the United States and was founded back in 2011. While there is no specific trait that blows away the competition with this exchange, it does most everything pretty well. Like most crypto exchanges at this point, your funds on there are not FDIC insured, however Kraken does keep a separate fund that serves as an insurance policy and is currently over 100 million dollars. They also show great transparency and compliance with programs like their Proof of Reserves which offers proof that they hold all of the funds that they say they do. Here is quick break down of their pros and cons.

PROS
- Low Fees: Range from 0.10% to 0.26% depending on your trading frequency.
- High Security: One of the best reputations in the industry for security.
- Coin Selection: Good but not great. Currently they have about 20 coins available for trading.

CONS
- Interface: Making trades can be a little confusing for beginners who are not familiar with their format. However with a couple quick tutorials most of you should be able to get familiar with it pretty quickly.
To open an account and begin trading with Kraken use the link below.
Kraken Sign Up

Interested in some ways you can passively earn free crypto?

Below is a link to a previous post that shares my best ways to earn free crypto in 2020 with the least amount of effort.
5 Easy Legitimate Ways to Earn Free Crypto
submitted by CaliBum16 to Crypto_General [link] [comments]

Why i’m bullish on Zilliqa (long read)

Hey all, I've been researching coins since 2017 and have gone through 100s of them in the last 3 years. I got introduced to blockchain via Bitcoin of course, analysed Ethereum thereafter and from that moment I have a keen interest in smart contact platforms. I’m passionate about Ethereum but I find Zilliqa to have a better risk reward ratio. Especially because Zilliqa has found an elegant balance between being secure, decentralised and scalable in my opinion.
 
Below I post my analysis why from all the coins I went through I’m most bullish on Zilliqa (yes I went through Tezos, EOS, NEO, VeChain, Harmony, Algorand, Cardano etc.). Note that this is not investment advice and although it's a thorough analysis there is obviously some bias involved. Looking forward to what you all think!
 
Fun fact: the name Zilliqa is a play on ‘silica’ silicon dioxide which means “Silicon for the high-throughput consensus computer.”
 
This post is divided into (i) Technology, (ii) Business & Partnerships, and (iii) Marketing & Community. I’ve tried to make the technology part readable for a broad audience. If you’ve ever tried understanding the inner workings of Bitcoin and Ethereum you should be able to grasp most parts. Otherwise just skim through and once you are zoning out head to the next part.
 
Technology and some more:
 
Introduction The technology is one of the main reasons why I’m so bullish on Zilliqa. First thing you see on their website is: “Zilliqa is a high-performance, high-security blockchain platform for enterprises and next-generation applications.” These are some bold statements.
 
Before we deep dive into the technology let’s take a step back in time first as they have quite the history. The initial research paper from which Zilliqa originated dates back to August 2016: Elastico: A Secure Sharding Protocol For Open Blockchains where Loi Luu (Kyber Network) is one of the co-authors. Other ideas that led to the development of what Zilliqa has become today are: Bitcoin-NG, collective signing CoSi, ByzCoin and Omniledger.
 
The technical white paper was made public in August 2017 and since then they have achieved everything stated in the white paper and also created their own open source intermediate level smart contract language called Scilla (functional programming language similar to OCaml) too.
 
Mainnet is live since end of January 2019 with daily transaction rate growing continuously. About a week ago mainnet reached 5 million transactions, 500.000+ addresses in total along with 2400 nodes keeping the network decentralised and secure. Circulating supply is nearing 11 billion and currently only mining rewards are left. Maximum supply is 21 billion with annual inflation being 7.13% currently and will only decrease with time.
 
Zilliqa realised early on that the usage of public cryptocurrencies and smart contracts were increasing but decentralised, secure and scalable alternatives were lacking in the crypto space. They proposed to apply sharding onto a public smart contract blockchain where the transaction rate increases almost linear with the increase in amount of nodes. More nodes = higher transaction throughput and increased decentralisation. Sharding comes in many forms and Zilliqa uses network-, transaction- and computational sharding. Network sharding opens up the possibility of using transaction- and computational sharding on top. Zilliqa does not use state sharding for now. We’ll come back to this later.
 
Before we continue disecting how Zilliqa achieves such from a technological standpoint it’s good to keep in mind that a blockchain being decentralised and secure and scalable is still one of the main hurdles in allowing widespread usage of decentralised networks. In my opinion this needs to be solved first before blockchains can get to the point where they can create and add large scale value. So I invite you to read the next section to grasp the underlying fundamentals. Because after all these premises need to be true otherwise there isn’t a fundamental case to be bullish on Zilliqa, right?
 
Down the rabbit hole
 
How have they achieved this? Let’s define the basics first: key players on Zilliqa are the users and the miners. A user is anybody who uses the blockchain to transfer funds or run smart contracts. Miners are the (shard) nodes in the network who run the consensus protocol and get rewarded for their service in Zillings (ZIL). The mining network is divided into several smaller networks called shards, which is also referred to as ‘network sharding’. Miners subsequently are randomly assigned to a shard by another set of miners called DS (Directory Service) nodes. The regular shards process transactions and the outputs of these shards are eventually combined by the DS shard as they reach consensus on the final state. More on how these DS shards reach consensus (via pBFT) will be explained later on.
 
The Zilliqa network produces two types of blocks: DS blocks and Tx blocks. One DS Block consists of 100 Tx Blocks. And as previously mentioned there are two types of nodes concerned with reaching consensus: shard nodes and DS nodes. Becoming a shard node or DS node is being defined by the result of a PoW cycle (Ethash) at the beginning of the DS Block. All candidate mining nodes compete with each other and run the PoW (Proof-of-Work) cycle for 60 seconds and the submissions achieving the highest difficulty will be allowed on the network. And to put it in perspective: the average difficulty for one DS node is ~ 2 Th/s equaling 2.000.000 Mh/s or 55 thousand+ GeForce GTX 1070 / 8 GB GPUs at 35.4 Mh/s. Each DS Block 10 new DS nodes are allowed. And a shard node needs to provide around 8.53 GH/s currently (around 240 GTX 1070s). Dual mining ETH/ETC and ZIL is possible and can be done via mining software such as Phoenix and Claymore. There are pools and if you have large amounts of hashing power (Ethash) available you could mine solo.
 
The PoW cycle of 60 seconds is a peak performance and acts as an entry ticket to the network. The entry ticket is called a sybil resistance mechanism and makes it incredibly hard for adversaries to spawn lots of identities and manipulate the network with these identities. And after every 100 Tx Blocks which corresponds to roughly 1,5 hour this PoW process repeats. In between these 1,5 hour no PoW needs to be done meaning Zilliqa’s energy consumption to keep the network secure is low. For more detailed information on how mining works click here.
Okay, hats off to you. You have made it this far. Before we go any deeper down the rabbit hole we first must understand why Zilliqa goes through all of the above technicalities and understand a bit more what a blockchain on a more fundamental level is. Because the core of Zilliqa’s consensus protocol relies on the usage of pBFT (practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance) we need to know more about state machines and their function. Navigate to Viewblock, a Zilliqa block explorer, and just come back to this article. We will use this site to navigate through a few concepts.
 
We have established that Zilliqa is a public and distributed blockchain. Meaning that everyone with an internet connection can send ZILs, trigger smart contracts etc. and there is no central authority who fully controls the network. Zilliqa and other public and distributed blockchains (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) can also be defined as state machines.
 
Taking the liberty of paraphrasing examples and definitions given by Samuel Brooks’ medium article, he describes the definition of a blockchain (like Zilliqa) as:
“A peer-to-peer, append-only datastore that uses consensus to synchronise cryptographically-secure data”.
 
Next he states that: >“blockchains are fundamentally systems for managing valid state transitions”.* For some more context, I recommend reading the whole medium article to get a better grasp of the definitions and understanding of state machines. Nevertheless, let’s try to simplify and compile it into a single paragraph. Take traffic lights as an example: all its states (red, amber and green) are predefined, all possible outcomes are known and it doesn’t matter if you encounter the traffic light today or tomorrow. It will still behave the same. Managing the states of a traffic light can be done by triggering a sensor on the road or pushing a button resulting in one traffic lights’ state going from green to red (via amber) and another light from red to green.
 
With public blockchains like Zilliqa this isn’t so straightforward and simple. It started with block #1 almost 1,5 years ago and every 45 seconds or so a new block linked to the previous block is being added. Resulting in a chain of blocks with transactions in it that everyone can verify from block #1 to the current #647.000+ block. The state is ever changing and the states it can find itself in are infinite. And while the traffic light might work together in tandem with various other traffic lights, it’s rather insignificant comparing it to a public blockchain. Because Zilliqa consists of 2400 nodes who need to work together to achieve consensus on what the latest valid state is while some of these nodes may have latency or broadcast issues, drop offline or are deliberately trying to attack the network etc.
 
Now go back to the Viewblock page take a look at the amount of transaction, addresses, block and DS height and then hit refresh. Obviously as expected you see new incremented values on one or all parameters. And how did the Zilliqa blockchain manage to transition from a previous valid state to the latest valid state? By using pBFT to reach consensus on the latest valid state.
 
After having obtained the entry ticket, miners execute pBFT to reach consensus on the ever changing state of the blockchain. pBFT requires a series of network communication between nodes, and as such there is no GPU involved (but CPU). Resulting in the total energy consumed to keep the blockchain secure, decentralised and scalable being low.
 
pBFT stands for practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance and is an optimisation on the Byzantine Fault Tolerant algorithm. To quote Blockonomi: “In the context of distributed systems, Byzantine Fault Tolerance is the ability of a distributed computer network to function as desired and correctly reach a sufficient consensus despite malicious components (nodes) of the system failing or propagating incorrect information to other peers.” Zilliqa is such a distributed computer network and depends on the honesty of the nodes (shard and DS) to reach consensus and to continuously update the state with the latest block. If pBFT is a new term for you I can highly recommend the Blockonomi article.
 
The idea of pBFT was introduced in 1999 - one of the authors even won a Turing award for it - and it is well researched and applied in various blockchains and distributed systems nowadays. If you want more advanced information than the Blockonomi link provides click here. And if you’re in between Blockonomi and University of Singapore read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 2 dating from October 2017.
Quoting from the Zilliqa tech whitepaper: “pBFT relies upon a correct leader (which is randomly selected) to begin each phase and proceed when the sufficient majority exists. In case the leader is byzantine it can stall the entire consensus protocol. To address this challenge, pBFT offers a view change protocol to replace the byzantine leader with another one.”
 
pBFT can tolerate ⅓ of the nodes being dishonest (offline counts as Byzantine = dishonest) and the consensus protocol will function without stalling or hiccups. Once there are more than ⅓ of dishonest nodes but no more than ⅔ the network will be stalled and a view change will be triggered to elect a new DS leader. Only when more than ⅔ of the nodes are dishonest (>66%) double spend attacks become possible.
 
If the network stalls no transactions can be processed and one has to wait until a new honest leader has been elected. When the mainnet was just launched and in its early phases, view changes happened regularly. As of today the last stalling of the network - and view change being triggered - was at the end of October 2019.
 
Another benefit of using pBFT for consensus besides low energy is the immediate finality it provides. Once your transaction is included in a block and the block is added to the chain it’s done. Lastly, take a look at this article where three types of finality are being defined: probabilistic, absolute and economic finality. Zilliqa falls under the absolute finality (just like Tendermint for example). Although lengthy already we skipped through some of the inner workings from Zilliqa’s consensus: read the Zilliqa Design Story Part 3 and you will be close to having a complete picture on it. Enough about PoW, sybil resistance mechanism, pBFT etc. Another thing we haven’t looked at yet is the amount of decentralisation.
 
Decentralisation
 
Currently there are four shards, each one of them consisting of 600 nodes. 1 shard with 600 so called DS nodes (Directory Service - they need to achieve a higher difficulty than shard nodes) and 1800 shard nodes of which 250 are shard guards (centralised nodes controlled by the team). The amount of shard guards has been steadily declining from 1200 in January 2019 to 250 as of May 2020. On the Viewblock statistics you can see that many of the nodes are being located in the US but those are only the (CPU parts of the) shard nodes who perform pBFT. There is no data from where the PoW sources are coming. And when the Zilliqa blockchain starts reaching their transaction capacity limit, a network upgrade needs to be executed to lift the current cap of maximum 2400 nodes to allow more nodes and formation of more shards which will allow to network to keep on scaling according to demand.
Besides shard nodes there are also seed nodes. The main role of seed nodes is to serve as direct access points (for end users and clients) to the core Zilliqa network that validates transactions. Seed nodes consolidate transaction requests and forward these to the lookup nodes (another type of nodes) for distribution to the shards in the network. Seed nodes also maintain the entire transaction history and the global state of the blockchain which is needed to provide services such as block explorers. Seed nodes in the Zilliqa network are comparable to Infura on Ethereum.
 
The seed nodes were first only operated by Zilliqa themselves, exchanges and Viewblock. Operators of seed nodes like exchanges had no incentive to open them for the greater public.They were centralised at first. Decentralisation at the seed nodes level has been steadily rolled out since March 2020 ( Zilliqa Improvement Proposal 3 ). Currently the amount of seed nodes is being increased, they are public facing and at the same time PoS is applied to incentivize seed node operators and make it possible for ZIL holders to stake and earn passive yields. Important distinction: seed nodes are not inv