Significant progress is being made with hardfork 20, including some additional changes which will make the Steem blockchain even better. There is no official release date yet, but a release candidate is expected to be ready by the end of the year.
Improving Curation Incentives
Changes to 30-minute Curation Window
As of now, Steem account holders (including bot accounts) are disincentivized by the Steem blockchain from voting on a post within the first 30 minutes. The earlier a vote is made within the initial 30-minute window, the less curation rewards the voting account receives. This was originally introduced to even the playing field between human curators and bots. This was successful but with the rise of more short-form content on the platform (content that can be read or viewed in less than 30 minutes), the community and the witnesses have come to a consensus that the 30-minute rule is taking curation rewards away from human voters who are actively consuming content and voting on material they like. For this reason, HF20 will reduce this window from 30 to 15 minutes.
Eliminating self-voting rewards through curation
While the change to 15 minutes will even the playing field against bots, it doesn’t address the advantage self-voting gives to accounts with respect to curation rewards. If authors vote for themselves right away, they get their author rewards, 100% of the curation rewards from their vote, plus a portion of the curation rewards coming from everyone who votes for the post after them. Any other curator voting at the same time as the author would get 0% of the curation rewards. This gives the author an unfair advantage over other curators because the author can earn additional curation rewards through self-voting.
In order to eliminate this unfair advantage, the unused portion of the curation rewards will be returned to the rewards pool instead of being awarded to the author, thereby increasing the overall percentage of rewards that will be paid to curators. This will better serve the original mission of the curation rewards budget: to ensure that the Steem blockchain distributes rewards to the most valuable content.
“Dust” vote changes
Removal of vote dust threshold
The "vote dust threshold" is a rule that prevents the occurrence of extremely weak votes. Currently, accounts must possess about 1 SP in order for a 100% Voting Power vote to be successfully posted to the blockchain. If a vote is placed that is below the required threshold, it will be rejected by the blockchain. This can create a bad user experience for new users, as their votes can fail for seemingly no reason.
In hardfork 20, this “vote dust threshold” will be removed. After this change users with any amount of SP will be able to cast votes so long as they have sufficient bandwidth. Votes that are below the threshold will be posted to the blockchain but will have no impact on rewards. This will allow users to have a better user experience on all Steem-based applications by enabling them to vote whenever they want to (as long as they don’t exceed their generous bandwidth allocation), without adding to the computational load on the blockchain by requiring that it calculate the impact of effectively powerless votes on the rewards pool. This also mitigates an attack vector by ensuring that if a malicious actor wanted to overburden the Steem blockchain, making countless small votes would not be an effective strategy.
Application of shift to all votes
The switch to linear rewards in hardfork 19 has had a very positive effect on user experience. HF19 ensured that the impact of each user’s vote on the rewards pool is directly proportional to their Steem Power (i.e. their stake in the platform). Users now feel more empowered, and they can see the direct correlation between the amount of Steem Power they have and the strength of their vote.
However, the switch to a linear rewards curve meant that there was less of a disincentive for casting lots of inconsequential votes (“vote spamming”). While it is important for users to be able to earn rewards whenever stakeholders (even small ones) find value in their content, it is also important to disincentivize rewarding content with respect to which no other stakeholders see value.
After discussion with the witnesses, it was decided to apply the “vote dust” shift to all votes equally. Each vote that is cast will be shifted down by about 1.219 SP. This effectively establishes a “baseline” voting strength that applies to everyone, while still maintaining a linear rewards curve for votes above the baseline. This way even large Steem Power holders won’t be able to profit from casting countless inconsequential votes.
Proof-of-Work account mining via softfork
The changes required to add support for PoW mining for discounted accounts will be included in hardfork 20, but the actual PoW mining will be added later as a softfork on top of HF20.
Removal of Power Down Restriction
To prevent faucet abuse, accounts could not previously power down unless they had 10 times the account creation fee in Steem Power. Because account creation fees will now be burned with HF20, there will be less of a financial incentive to abuse faucets. After HF20, Steem account holders will have the freedom to power down their SP regardless of their account balance.
Update to witness price feed format
This change only affects the witnesses. A small change will be made to require the base to be SBD and the quote to be STEEM. Currently, both orders are allowed and can lead to undefined behavior in the price feed. Most witnesses are already supplying their price feeds in this format.
The full list of changes, as well as additional details not listed here, can be found in the GitHub Steem 0.20.0 project. More details can also be found in the original @steemitblog proposal: Proposing Hardfork 0.20.0 “Velocity”.
The changes that are coming in the Velocity hardfork are very exciting because they are establishing the foundation that will enable Steemit.com and apps built on top of Steem to onboard millions of new users while remaining economically scalable. With these changes and the additional improvements described above, the Steem platform will be better than ever!