What is a Block Producer and Why You Should Care
The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
We’re looking to kick off an on-going series of posts, “What Should You Vote For?” that will highlight what we believe all current and potential EOS community members should understand: what is a Block Producer (BP) and why you should care. In a nutshell, each BP is a group of individuals who will work to facilitate the EOS network and its continuing growth. Once the network is live, EOS token holders will be able to cast their votes for BPs. Each selected BP is only guaranteed a spot in the next round of blocks being created, so they will need to constantly vie for your votes. This post will serve as an overview, and as we get more focused in further posts, we’ll give new examples of how these things will affect both you, and the community at large.
The Who - The Block Producers of EOS
The top 121 candidates will be ranked by the number of votes they receive, and split into two distinct groupings. The top 21 will actually create new blocks (the Block Producers), and the next 100 will be known as the Standby Producers (SP). While they wait to receive enough votes to make it into the top 21, they will be propping up the community through their status as a full node, making the network more secure and decentralized. But to be able to become a BP, they will need to have the computing and throughput capacity to jump in at a moment’s notice.
The What - Understanding Different Consensus Methods
Let’s first take a look at the different ways that some of the other blockchains create new blocks. From there, we can begin to understand what will differentiate EOS from other platforms.
In Bitcoin, there is Proof of Work (PoW). The simple explanation is that a computer competes to be the first one to solve a mathematical problem. Once solved, that computer publishes the answer and everyone can quickly see that this problem was correctly solved, and they all begin on the next problem.
Ethereum is trying to move towards Proof of Stake (PoS), which will allow token holders to stake their Ether for a chance to become the next block miner. The selected miner will be chosen randomly, in proportion of their amount staked to the total amount staked by the community. The idea of staking is backed up by a disincentive — if they were to act maliciously, they would then lose their stake.
In EOS however, we have a Delegated Proof of Stake (dPoS), added to asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance (aBFT). This means that we will be running on the PoS model that Ethereum is working towards, but instead of allowing anyone to be selected at random, the community will vote on who is able to be part of this list of Block Producers. A slight difference to note is that in EOS, a BP doesn’t stake EOS tokens, but is rather staking their investment in infrastructure and team members, their reputation, as well as their future block reward earnings. aBFT in simple terms, is an algorithm wherein the BPs can all sign each block being created. Once 15 of the 21 BPs have signed, and none of their signatures include a previously used timestamp or block height, that block would be deemed irreversible. Through this method, a BP would be creating evidence of their error or maliciousness, making it easy to detect a rogue BP. Irreversible consensus could be reached merely 1 second after a block is created. This would also help to mitigate the amount of transactions that would need to be rebroadcast should a longest-chain dispute arise.
Something to keep in mind is that the use of mining pools has moved the decentralized nature of earlier blockchains towards centralization. As more of the hashing power becomes controlled by a few pools, it starts to open up new and unwanted attack vectors. So while we all think of Bitcoin and Ethereum as decentralized chains, this concentration of hashing power is having the opposite effect.
The Why - The Incentive
By no means is the reward of EOS tokens the only incentive, but it’s the most quantifiable and apparent. That said, we can’t overlook the fact that most of the BPs, and the community members, want to see a new ecosystem that can change the world for the better. To build off of block.one’s mission statement, the users of this ecosystem are trying to find free market solutions for securing life, liberty, property, and justice for all.
BPs will be rewarded through an inflationary system. As new blocks are created, new EOS tokens will be minted and distributed. The amount of inflation allocated towards BPs is unknown, as it will constantly update as the list of the top 21 BPs changes. Each BP will set their bid for inflation, and at each round of voting, the median bid will be calculated. The result of that will determine the rate of inflation that goes towards BPs. There are also proposals from block.one to implement both a floor and ceiling amount so that we can ensure that the 121st on the list receives enough funds to operate. This inflation will allow the BPs to fund their operation, invest in expansion as the network grows, as well as provide services and tools for the community to utilize. That should, in turn, encourage the community to keep voting for them. This inflation will be spread out between 121 BPs, with a skew towards the top 21, who will receive the bulk of the payout.
We created a tool for use by the community to help users understand the financial model of being an EOS Block Producer. We are aware that there are currently changes being made to this structure, but wanted to provide a link for your use of what the most currently available information has been. It can be found here.
The When - Moving from Pre-Genesis to Post-Genesis
On June 1, 2018, the distribution of EOS tokens will be closed. The EOS mainnet will then be launched through a group of 22 randomly selected BPs who have thrown their candidacy into the proverbial hat, with a single one being randomly selected as the Boot Node. For the first few rounds of block creation, there will be no reward. During this time, EOS tokens will be distributed, and the constitution that will govern the network will be ratified. Once the BIOS boot sequence is finalized by the Root BP, the other 21 BPs will confirm their work — the network will then officially open and will be able to shout out its own Hello World.
Since those 22 BPs were randomly appointed rather than voted in, the first rounds of voting will now have to take place to elect the 121 BPs and SPs. From there, the work of keeping the network running and secure begins, and we hope to see some incredible advancements in the following days and weeks.
Here’s a clip of our lead developer, Alexandre Bourget, giving a walkthrough of this process.
The Where - A Home in Every Corner of the Globe
In EOS, new blocks will be created every 500 milliseconds. We will need to strive to make sure that latency does not become a limiting factor in the propagation of blocks throughout the network. The geographical distribution of the network will be something that needs to be understood to help maintain the speed and efficiency of the network. Global diversity will also help to mitigate any political risks (such as the impact of war or political regulation), and to ensure secure internet connection availability. As a community, we have to strive for 100% uptime of the network.
The How - Block Producer Candidacy Proposal
Voting will be the deciding factor to assess who the BPs will be, so a proper democracy is the goal. Right now, the team over at EOS Go is running a central repository for those who have publicly declared their candidacy proposal. They’ve also created a checkmark system to confirm what each candidate has put forward in terms of information. They are not a clearing house that verifies and audits the information, but rather are acting as an impartial independent body. They are providing all community members with a single source of aggregated information that will help us decide which applicants to vote for.
It’s also worth noting that we don’t expect that every token member who wants to participate in the voting process will have the skills, resources, time, or drive to figure out which of the BPs meets their personal criteria. So there will also be a proxy system put in place, which will allow you to delegate your votes to one person or group who would then cast your votes on your behalf.
While this may seem like a lot of information to wade through, rest assured that community members will step up to help us all make informed decisions and ensure a fair and efficient network.
Full Disclosure: The driving force behind this article is for our team at EOS Canada to provide value to the community as we continue to ramp up our operations and vie for your votes as a Block Producer. We are looking to provide content and code, receive feedback, and make sure that we are aligned with the community. We hope to help by leading through technology, to give EOS token holders the tools and resources that they need. We are striving to become the Block Producer that you, as a community, want to see.
Our contributions to the EOS community can be found at https://github.com/eoscanada. Come chat with us on telegram at https://t.me/eoscanada, watch our videos on YouTube and be sure to follow our Twitter account for updates @EOS_Canada