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


Related articles

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

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

On this article, I’ll clarify the third consensus algorithm that was proposed a few 12 months after proof-of-stake however, for causes that ought to develop into clear, has by no means really been carried out as a consensus algorithm on a basic function blockchain. No less than, not till now.


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

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


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

To thwart this assault, PoS techniques that should implement sophisticated techniques designed to “slash” block rewards from consumer accounts, which provides to the computational overhead of the community, raises official moral considerations and solely work if the attacker fails to amass 51% of the token provide. Implementing these slashing situations is under no circumstances trivial, which is why so many proof-of-stake tasks like Solana have, by their very own admission, launched with centralized options in place, and why so many different tasks like Ethereum 2.0 (Eth2) are taking so lengthy to implement PoS. The standard resolution is to offer a basis a big sufficient stake in order that it alone has the facility to find out who’s a malicious actor and slash their rewards.

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

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

Holy Grail consensus

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

Iain Stewart proposed proof-of-burn in 2012 — a 12 months after proof-of-stake — as a thought experiment designed to distinction the variations between proof-of-work and proof-of-stake. We imagine that he unwittingly found the “holy grail” of consensus algorithms that bought misplaced within the sands of time due largely to historic accidents. As Iain Stewart noted:

“I assumed it might be fascinating to invent a job that’s completely, nakedly, unambiguously an instance of the distinction between the 2 viewpoints. And sure, there may be one: burning the forex!”

The alternate assault

As the previous core improvement crew behind the Steem blockchain, we have now intimate expertise with alternate assaults. This is the reason mitigating this assault vector was of the utmost significance and impressed blockchain architect Steve Gerbino to discover different consensus algorithms in the hunt for an answer that may nonetheless give us the efficiency and effectivity obligatory for a excessive efficiency world laptop, all whereas mitigating this vital assault vector.

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

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


Iain Stewart proposed proof-of-burn for Bitcoin a 12 months earlier than a basic function blockchain was even conceived of by Vitalik Buterin. Maybe that’s the reason it has taken this lengthy for individuals to comprehend that these two issues work collectively extremely effectively. Common function blockchains place a excessive premium on effectivity whereas permitting for token financial designs with out max provide caps, a requirement for proof-of-burn implementations. A part of the issue may additionally have been that a number of progressive ideas like nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and market makers, and options reminiscent of upgradeable sensible contracts are extraordinarily helpful to the implementation and solely emerged after the proposal.

NFT miners

Holding monitor of which accounts have burned what quantities and after they have been burned is usually a computationally demanding job and this elevated load on the community might be one of many explanation why individuals have averted this implementation.

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

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

Since Koinos is all about accessibility, miner NFTs will probably have a low worth, which is successfully like having the last word GPU and ASIC resistant algorithm potential. However, this begs the query: “What should you choose the improper quantity?” This highlights the significance of modular upgradeability. On Koinos, all enterprise logic is carried out as sensible contract modules that are individually upgradeable with no arduous fork. Because of this if, for instance, the worth of KOIN have been to blow up to the diploma that the mounted price of miners was not sufficiently accessible, governance might merely vote to decrease that price and the quantity could be up to date the second there was a consensus.

Centralization resistance

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

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

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

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

Token economics

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

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

It was my purpose with this collection to offer the reader an insanely deep understanding of the subject of consensus algorithms in a method that was nonetheless accessible and, hopefully, fascinating. We’ve coated the historic arc of the key consensus algorithms and what I feel is the subsequent evolution: proof-of-burn. I hope that you’re now geared up to judge totally different consensus implementations for your self and are available to your personal conclusions about what’s innovating and what’s not.

The views, ideas and opinions expressed listed here are the creator’s alone and don’t essentially mirror or characterize the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Andrew Levine is the CEO of Koinos Group, a crew of business veterans accelerating decentralization by accessible blockchain expertise. Their foundational product is Koinos, a fee-less and infinitely upgradeable blockchain with common language help.