Delegating with fresh purpose

To encourage a sustainable, decentralized and diverse network, we’re introducing a new ada delegation program.

24 November 2020 Tim Harrison 7 mins read

Delegating with fresh purpose

The deployment of Shelley on mainnet in July opened up a new world of staking and delegation for Cardano. Since then, we have seen a groundswell of support from the community, with the creation of 1,200+ stake pools. Many have thrived and taken an early vantage position in the community in terms of visibility or controlled stake – or both. Equally, some pools are yet to make their mark. With a sub-optimal k, the high saturation threshold has made it particularly tough going for pools yet to mint their first block.

This is starting to change. On December 6, we’ll raise the k parameter to 500 – it was set at 150 for the Shelley launch. This will encourage delegators to spread their stake, giving more stake pools the opportunity to make blocks and step into the spotlight. It’s an important move, just one of a number of changes in the evolving ecosystem and staking experience we can expect over the months ahead.

This week, we are also announcing that we’ll change our staking approach. Initially, we set up 20 public pools. This was partly due to our desire to monitor and test the network and technical dynamics of running a range of ‘real’ pools. Also, for operational and security reasons, we elected to stake the company’s own ada holdings across these pools, rather than within private pools.

In late December, we shall be retiring all but one of our (IOG) public pools, and moving the majority of our stake to private pools. We shall keep one pool open. This is both a symbolic and practical move – we want to maintain a public presence as a pool operator as well as benefit from the technical and operational experience involved.

Evolving our approach

IOG is a research and development company driven by a vision and missionary zeal that is arguably unmatched in the crypto space. We are committed to Cardano’s long-term adoption and success. We’re also a commercial entity and as such, we have an obligation to be commercially successful. So as much as we are bound together by our mission and purpose, an equally powerful motivation has to be in sustaining the financial success that will enable us to keep delivering on our objectives.

As the creators of Cardano, we have a wide and deep role to play. Alongside our technological investment, we want to invest in other ways to help nurture the ecosystem.

Our new strategy

As Cardano continues the journey to full decentralization, IOG is evolving its delegation approach. Besides moving our holdings to private pools, we will be taking about 15% of our ada holdings and delegating it to the Cardano community. We shall use this ada to support our long-term vision, support Cardano’s growth and reaffirm the values we espouse, while maintaining the financially responsible position required from us as a commercial organization.

Our delegation strategy will be based on two elements: supporting what we are calling purpose pools, and encouraging network security, technological excellence and decentralized innovation through incubator pools.

Purpose pools

Our primary objective here is to delegate to pools that we feel support our wider purpose and mission of economic inclusion – decentralization of sustainable technology, empowerment through education, and opening up economic identity for all.

These purpose pools might include operations hosted in developing countries, where blockchain can make a massive impact, or operations focused on supporting educational objectives. Purpose pools might also include those run on a charitable or philanthropic basis, pools supporting underserved or minority members of the community, pools committed to the use of sustainable energy, and so on.

These are pools that not only create tangible value today, but also aim to deliver societal impact tomorrow. That’s a bold ambition, but it is what drives us already, so we want to use some of our ada holdings to support ecosystem players who share and live by similar values.

Incubator pools

With incubator pools, we’ll focus on supporting smaller stake pools and their operators to maximize the diversity of our pool ecosystem, notably in terms of ownership, geographic location and decentralized block production. Such pools may or may not have an ambition to grow or deliver additional value beyond their network role, but we want to get them to the stage where they can take it forward themselves.

Of course, some pools may fall into both categories. These categories are not mutually exclusive, and, initially, our criteria will be flexible as we develop the program. We do, however, expect a certain level of performance and potential (along with a healthy dose of ambition) from every pool. We shall look closely at each pool’s track record, while community kudos and influence will be important factors to consider. We also reserve the right to make occasional awards outside these core categories in the early days. This program will be driven by clear objectives, but we are open to adapting the approach at this early stage of the ecosystem’s development.

Applying for delegation

We’ll launch our first ‘call for delegation’ on December 10 (we thought Ada Lovelace’s birthday was a suitable day to start), and we’ll keep applications open until the end of the year. Throughout 2021, we’ll run quarterly cohorts, inviting pools to apply for delegation, within a two-week window every quarter. We’ll also talk more about the program on our monthly update next week (December 3) so be sure to tune in for details.

Here's a summary. For both programs, pool operators will need to fill out a survey covering some details, plus other questions depending on which category a pool falls into. To register for a delegation award during our winter cohort (delegation during Feb-April 2021) operators should submit a form providing background information such as their pool’s location, technology set up, objectives etc.

On the incubation side, each quarter we will be looking to delegate to between 50 and 70 pools.

We shall also select up to 10 purpose pools each quarter for the program. We’ll publish full criteria as part of the registration process on December 10, but in short, we will be looking to support pools with a mission of economic and social inclusion, and geographical diversity. We recognize that pools located in parts of the world that would most benefit from blockchain also have some of the biggest barriers.

Initial three-month delegation

Each pool selected will receive a delegation for an initial three months – pools will be rotated every quarter. IOG will delegate enough ada to ensure that each of these pools produces at least one block every epoch. At k= 500, we anticipate this amount to be between 3 million and 5 million ada per pool. All pools selected will receive an equal delegation amount.

We’ll review all applications in early/mid January, with a view to start delegating by the end of that month. We’ll publish a list of all chosen pools for both programs for full transparency among the community, which may also help people with their own delegation choices. Initial delegation awards will stay in place till the end of March.

It is still early days for Cardano. Together, we’re building a decentralized ecosystem that will prove its value over decades, so it cannot be fairly judged over months. Yet we’re already seeing incredible momentum in a community that is passionate, committed, and skilled. We hope this new strategy will help identify and encourage some of those pools and ‘pioneers’ – a word we may have overused in 2020 but one we feel remains valid – and help accelerate our growth into 2021 and set us up for many successful years ahead.

Smash: introducing a new way of managing stake pool metadata

Our metadata framework supports delegators and the community by bringing verified information to the Cardano network

17 November 2020 Olga Hryniuk 5 mins read

Smash: introducing a new way of managing stake pool metadata

Stake pool operations lie at the heart of Cardano decentralization, enabling servers to reach a consensus agreement across the network. Our groundbreaking Ouroboros proof-of-stake consensus protocol allows pool operators to reach agreement on the validity of transactions and sign a block, which is then immutably recorded on the Cardano blockchain.

On the Shelley path to decentralization, as more stake pools are created, the more the Cardano network grows. Operators form their pools, attract delegation, stake ada, earn rewards and take a small cut to cover their running costs before distributing the rest between the pool participants.

Node decentralization is a key element. However, to keep track of stake pool information and simplify the choice of a pool for delegators, it is crucial to ensure that information about each stake pool is relevant and valid. And, as far as is possible, that the influence of bad actors, such as potential attackers, spoof pools, and trolls, on the system is minimized.

Welcome to Smash

To address these needs, we have developed Smash – the server that supports operators and ada owners by validating information about stake pools and storing it as metadata.

Each stake pool is registered on the blockchain along with the information required to calculate rewards. However, stake pools also include metadata that helps ada owners to make a rational choice when delegating their stake. This metadata includes owner details, pool name, pool ticker, homepage, and a short description, which are not stored on the blockchain, and thus it is important to provide visibility and access to this information.

As well as ensuring that registered stake pools are valid, Smash metadata server helps to avoid duplicated ticker names or trademarks, and ensure that they do not feature content that Cardano users are likely to find offensive. Given that scams, trolls, and abusive behavior are an unfortunate part of life online, we had to find a way of filtering potentially problematic actors out of the playing field.

What is Smash?

Smash is a stake pool metadata aggregation server that was conceived to improve Cardano users’ access to verified stake pool information and make it easier to use the system. A Smash server can aggregate stake pool metadata, fetch it, and store it.

The first generation of Smash has been deployed by IOHK and provides information about delegation in the Daedalus wallet. Previously, this off-chain data was fetched by Daedalus from each stake pool separately, which required a lot of network connections and affected performance. All of this data can now be served from one server, hosted and fetched, initially by our team.

Although the Smash server is currently run by IOHK, it is important to note that the server code is open source and can be deployed by anyone. So we hope that in the future, the Smash approach will be adopted by the community for decentralized metadata. Daedalus will allow users to configure any server of their choice and browse custom stake pool lists – for example, charity pools, bare metal pools, or pools from a certain region for ada holders who would prefer to support stake pool businesses with a particular focus.

How does it work?

Smash is an evolving system. Currently, as its operator, we are responsible for the maintenance and metadata curation on the IOHK Smash server. Badly behaved stake pools can be delisted from display in Daedalus. Factors taken into account for such decisions include illegal or malicious metadata content, impersonation, the use of ticker names that were previously registered on the Incentivized Testnet (when this is not the same stake pool/operator), intellectual property rights violations, or stake pools that are no longer active.

While its most immediate impact can be seen in Daedalus, Smash is a resource to support the community. So if you identify a stake pool ticker that you feel might be causing harm and transgresses the guidelines, we encourage you to review the guidelines we have recently published outlining the reasons for a stake pool delisting and a step-by-step explanation of the delisting process. Get in touch if you believe there is a case to be made for removal.

It is important to ensure that there is a reason for a stake pool to be delisted and that if possible, there is a reasonable level of community consent. Thus, any request should include the rationale and any proof of violations. All requests are reviewed by the Smash operator. It usually takes seven days for a request to be inspected and processed, and we always respond by clarifying the motivation for any decision. Cardano is a decentralized ecosystem and aims not to limit any stake pool operation activity unduly or unfairly. We reserve the right to make the final decision regarding the Smash server we manage, however we aim to provide the community with as much visibility and trust as possible. For more details, please email smash@iohk.io or contact directly @benohanlon in Telegram.

The general perspective on staking in Cardano

Advice for Stakeholders - Delegators and Stake Pool Operators.

13 November 2020 Prof Aggelos Kiayias 13 mins read

The general perspective on staking in Cardano

As a project, decentralization remains arguably our most important and fundamental goal for Cardano. Protocols and parameters provide the foundations for any blockchain. Last week, we outlined some of the planned changes around Cardano parameters and how these will impact the staking ecosystem and thus accelerate our decentralization mission.

Yet the community itself – how it sees itself, how it behaves, and how it sets common standards – is a key factor in the pace of this success. Cardano has been very carefully engineered to provide “by design” all the necessary properties for a blockchain system to operate successfully. However, Cardano is also a social construct, and as such, observance, interpretation, and social norms play a crucial role in shaping its resilience and longevity.

So in anticipation of the k-parameter adjustment on December 6th, I would like to give a broader perspective on staking, highlighting some of the innovative features of the rewards sharing scheme used in Cardano.

Principles & practical intent

As well as outlining some of the key principles, this piece has a clear practical intent; to provide guidance and some recommendations to stakeholders so that they engage meaningfully with the mechanism, and support the project’s longer-term strategic goals through their actions.

Consensus based on a resource that is dispersed somehow across a population of users – as opposed to identity-based participation – has been the hallmark of the blockchain space since the launch of the Bitcoin blockchain. In this domain, proof-of-stake systems are distinguished in the sense that they use a virtual resource, stake, which is recorded in the blockchain itself.

Pooling resources for participation is something that is inevitable; some level of pooling is typically beneficial in the economic sense and hence resource holders will find a way to make it happen. Given this inevitability, the question arises: how does a system prevent a dictatorship or an oligarchy from emerging?

The objectives of the reward sharing scheme

Contrary to other blockchain systems, Cardano uses a reward sharing scheme that (1) facilitates staking with minimum friction as well as (2) it incentivizes pooling resources in a way that system-wide decentralization emerges naturally from the rational engagement of the resource holders.

The mechanism has the following two broad objectives:

  1. Engage all stakeholders - This is important since the more stakeholders are engaged in the system, the more secure the distributed ledger will be. This also means that the system should have no barriers for participation, nor should impose friction by requiring off-chain coordination between stakeholders to engage with the mechanism.
  2. Keep the leverage of individual stakeholders low -. Pooling resources leads to increased leverage for some stakeholders. Pool operators exert an influence in the system proportional to the resources controlled by their pool, not to their own resources. Without pooling, all resource holders have leverage of exactly 1; contrast this e.g., to a pool operator, owning, say 100K ada, who controls a pool of total delegated stake of 200M ada; that operator has leverage of 2,000. The higher the leverage of the system, the worse its security (to see this, consider that with leverage above 50, launching a 51% attack requires a mere 1% of the total resources!).

It should also be stressed that a disproportionately large pool size is not the only reason for increased leverage; stakeholders creating multiple pools, either openly or covertly (what is known as a Sybil attack) can also lead to increased leverage. The lower the leverage of a blockchain system, the higher its degree of decentralization.

Putting this into practice

So how does the reward sharing scheme used in Cardano meet the above objectives? Staking via our scheme facilitates two different paths: pledging and delegating. Pledging applies to stake pool operators; pledged stake is committed to a stake pool and is supposed to stay put for as long as the pool is operating. Think of pledge as a ‘commitment’ to the network – ‘locking up’ a certain amount of stake in order to help safeguard and secure the protocol. Delegating on the other hand, is for those who do not wish to be involved as operators. Instead, they are invited to assess the offerings the stake pool operators provide, and delegate their stake to one or more pools that, in their opinion, best serve their interests and the interest of the community at large. Given that delegation does not require locking up funds, there is no reason to abstain from staking in Cardano; all stakeholders can and are encouraged to engage in staking.

Central to the mechanism’s behavior are two parameters: k and a0. The k-parameter caps the rewards of pools to 1/k of the total available. The a0 parameter creates a benefit for pledging more stake into a single pool; adding X amount of pledge to a pool increases its rewards additively by up to a0*X. This is not to the detriment of other pools; any rewards left unclaimed due to insufficient pledging will be returned to the Cardano’s reserves and allocated in the future.

Beyond deciding on an amount to pledge, creating a stake pool requires that operators declare their profit margin and operational costs. When the pool rewards are allocated at the end of each epoch, the operational costs are withheld first, ensuring that stake pools remain viable. Subsequently, operator profit is calculated, and all pool delegators are rewarded in ada proportional to their stake afterwards.

Paired with the assessment of stake pools performed by the delegates, this mechanism provides the right set of constraints for the system to converge to a configuration of k equal size pools with the maximum amount of pledge possible. The equilibrium point has the property that delegator rewards are equalized (so it doesn’t matter what pool they delegate to!), while stake pool operators are rewarded appropriately for their performance, their cost efficiency, and their general contributions to the ecosystem.

For the above to happen, it is necessary to engage with the mechanism in a meaningful and rational manner. To assist stakeholders in understanding the mechanism, here are some points of advice.

Guidance for delegators

  1. Know your pool(s) - Investigate the pools’ available data and information. What is the operators’ web-presence? What kind of information do they provide about their operation? Are they descriptive about their costs? Are the costs reasonably based on geographic location and other aspects of their operation? Do they update their costs regularly to account for the fluctuation of ada? Do they include the costs for their personal time? Remember that maintaining a high-performance pool requires commitment and effort, so those committed operators deserve compensation.
  1. Think bigger - Consider your choice holistically, not based on just a single dimension. Consider the longer term value your choices bring to the network. Think of your delegation as a ‘vote of confidence’, or a way to show your support to a pool's mission or goals. Opt for professionalism and demonstrated long-term commitment to the system’s goals. Recognize community members who have been helping to lay down the foundations for the ecosystem, either with their community presence or by helping to build things. The long-term wellbeing of the ecosystem is crucially affected by your delegation choice. A more decentralized network is a more resilient and long-lived network.
  2. Be wary of ‘pool splitters’ - Pool operators that run multiple pools with small pledge hurt delegators and smaller operators. They hurt their delegators because they could have provided a higher amount of rewards by concentrating their pledge into a single pool; by not doing that, there are rewards that remain unclaimed. They hurt smaller and new operators, because they are forcing them to remain without delegates and hence making their operation unviable – without delegates a pool may be forced to close. So avoid pool operators that run multiple pools with pledge below saturation level. Note there are legitimate reasons for large stakeholders to accept delegators and run a public pool (e.g., they are delegating some of their stake to other pools to support the community); consult any public statements such operators make about their delegation strategy and their leverage. It is ok to delegate to them, assuming they keep their leverage low and they support the community.
  3. Be wary of highly leveraged operators - Be mindful of the stake pool operators’ leverage (see below for more details on how to calculate leverage). A higher pledge is correlated to less leverage when comparing pools of the same size; a high leverage is indicative of a stake pool operator with very little “skin in the game.” Stake pool operators may prove to have skin in the game in other ways than pledging stake of course; e.g., they can be very professional and contribute to the community in different ways. You should be the judge of this: high leverage in itself is not a reason to avoid delegating to a particular pool, but it is a strong indication that you should proceed with caution and carefully evaluate the people behind the operation.
  4. Shop around - Do take into account the information provided from your wallet software (or from recognized community resources such as adapools or pooltool) in terms of the pool’s ranking and its performance factor. Remember though, while the ranking is important, it should not be the sole factor behind your delegation choice. Think holistically – you may want to consider pools fulfilling a mission you agree with, or trying to add value to the wider community through podcasts or social activity, even if they do not offer the highest possible returns.
  5. Be involved - A pool with no performance data on display may have attractive characteristics; it could be providing better rewards in the best case scenario, but also high risk as a delegation choice since its performance may turn out to be suboptimal. Delegate according to your ‘risk profile’, and the frequency you are willing to re-delegate your stake. Do check the pool’s performance and updates regularly to ensure that your choice and assessment remains the best possible.

Guidance for pool operators

  1. Be transparent - Choose your pool’s operational cost as accurately as possible. Do include the personal effort (priced at a reasonable rate) that you and your partners put into the pool operation! You are a pillar of Cardano and so you have every right to be compensated by the community. Be upfront about your costs and include them in your pool’s website. Educate your prospective delegates about where the pool costs are going. Always remember that it is important to charge for the time you invest in maintaining your pool. In the short term, you may be prepared to invest your time and energy ‘for free’ (or after hosting costs, at an effective loss) but remember that this is not a sustainable model for the network over the medium and longer term.
  2. Don’t split your pool - With the coming changes in k (commencing with the move to k=500 on 6th December), we are already seeing pool operators splitting their pools in order to retain delegators without becoming saturated. Do not engage in pool splitting unless you can saturate a pool completely with your stake. If you are a whale (relative stake > 1/k) you can create multiple pools – but you should keep your leverage as close to 1 as possible or less. Pool splitting that increases your leverage hurts the delegators’ rewards, and more importantly, it hurts the decentralization of the Cardano ecosystem, which is detrimental to everyone. If you run and control multiple pools under different tickers, make a public statement about it. Explain the steps you take to control your leverage. Creating multiple pools while trying to conceal the fact that you control them is akin to a Sybil attack against Cardano. This behavior should be condemned by the community. You can calculate and publicize your leverage using the following formula:

Exchanges are a special kind of whale stakeholder, since they collectively manage other people’s stake. One strategy for an exchange is to avoid leverage altogether and delegate the stake they control to community pools. If an exchange becomes a pool operator, they can maintain their leverage below 1 by using a mixed pledging and delegation strategy.

  1. Set your profit margin wisely - Select the margin to make your pool competitive. Remember that if everyone delegates their stake and is rational, you only have to beat the (k+1)-th pool in the rankings offered by the Daedalus wallet. If your pool offers other advantages that can attract delegation (e.g., you are contributing to a charitable cause you feel others may wish to support), or you have acquired exceptional equipment that promises notable uptime/performance, make sure you promote this widely. When you offer such benefits, you should consider setting a higher profit margin.
  1. Keep your pool data updated - Regularly update the cost and margin to accommodate fluctuations in ada price. Give assurances to your delegators and update them about the stake pool operational details. In case of mishaps and downtimes, be upfront and inform your delegators via your website and/or other communication channels you maintain with them.
  2. Pledge as much as you are able to - Increase the amount of pledge as much as you comfortably can and not more. Beyond using your own stake, you can also partner with other stakeholders to increase the pledge of your pool. A high pledge signals long-term commitment and reduced leverage, and it unlocks additional rewards every epoch as dictated by the a0 term in the rewards sharing scheme calculation. As a result, it does make your pool more desirable to prospective delegators. On the other hand, remember that pledge is not the only factor that makes a pool attractive. Spend time on your web and social media presence and be sure to advertise all the ways that you contribute to the Cardano ecosystem.

If you are a Cardano stakeholder, we hope that you find the above advice informative and helpful in your efforts to engage in staking. As in many other respects, Cardano brings a novel and heavily researched mechanism to its blockchain design. The rewards scheme is mathematically proven to offer an equilibrium that meets the set of objectives set out in the beginning of this document. Ultimately though, the math is not enough; it is only the people that can make it happen.

Cardano’s future is in the hands of the community.

The opinions expressed in the blogpost are for educational purposes only and are not intended to provide any form of financial advice.

Parameters and decentralization: the way ahead

On December 6 we'll be making adjustments to the k-parameter in Cardano. Here’s why

5 November 2020 Tim Harrison 10 mins read

Parameters and decentralization: the way ahead

Shelley continues to evolve and, as it does, IOHK is committed to supporting the healthy development of the Cardano ecosystem. There are many factors at play in this regard: everything from the wallet experience for ada delegators to network tools for stake pool operators; from governance and funding frameworks like Project Catalyst and Voltaire to community-led initiatives. Central to the health of Cardano as a vibrant proof-of-stake network is the manner in which delegators and stake operators are rewarded for running it, and how those rewards are shared to maximize decentralization and secure the network.

The system is still transitioning towards full decentralization and community ownership. Very shortly, the majority of blocks will be minted by community pools as the influence of the genesis nodes supporting the network is gradually reduced. The steady reduction of d (the parameter governing this process) will see it reach zero by the end of March 2021. This will mark the full decentralization of all block production on Cardano.

Some four months on from the deployment of Shelley, it is time to adjust the parameters of the rewards mechanism so that the next phase of the network’s growth is fueled. Since launch, we have been monitoring network behavior, while seeing how the community and ecosystem are developing. We have also been carefully modeling various scenarios based on data as it emerges. We have now finished a full review and have aligned – from a philosophical, scientific, technical and practical perspective – the next steps. Before we make further adjustments to the parameters of the rewards scheme, we wanted to share with the community what we hope to achieve with the underlying mechanism and associated parameter adjustments.

Encouraging sustainability through pool diversity

First and foremost, the rewards-sharing mechanism of Cardano aims to reward people fairly for supporting the platform in a sustainable way, not as a short-term windfall. One of the goals of staking has always been to encourage long-term holders of ada: the people who are committed to the success of the ecosystem.

In the longer term, the system can be successful only if it is widely decentralized. Philosophically, the design of the rewards scheme aims to encourage a wide and diverse set of stake pool operators. This secures the platform against attacks, spreads any available rewards evenly across the community, and makes the system more resilient to change.

Many economic systems have a tendency towards consolidation and a smaller number of strong players. On the other hand, blockchains can only be successful when control is decentralized. The rewards-sharing scheme ensures that smaller and medium pools can contribute meaningfully to the ecosystem without becoming subsumed into larger operators and consortia, as has happened with other blockchain systems, particularly Bitcoin.

One way to discourage a trend towards a few large pools that collectively control the system is to introduce a counter-incentive to a pool's growth. The rewards-sharing scheme we designed is an example of this novel (in the cryptocurrency space) concept. As soon as stake delegation to a single pool increases above a threshold, the rewards automatically diminish, encouraging ada holders delegating to that pool to find a new home to improve their rewards. This mechanism limits the delegation that can be rationally made to any pool and spreads delegated stake more evenly across a larger number of pools.

All about k

The parameter of the rewards scheme that sets this 'soft-cap' on the pool size is called k. The mechanism is designed so that, at equilibrium, assuming rational participants and no external factors, the stakeholders' best response behavior converges to k pools of equal size delivering the same level of rewards per unit of stake to their delegates.

For the deployment of Shelley on mainnet, we started with k=150, which limits pool size to 210 million ada. This was a modest increase from the parameter choice used in the incentivized testnet (ITN), which had a value of k=100. At the time, this was considered to be a relatively conservative choice, made to ensure the ITN environment would smoothly move to the mainnet. The launch of Shelley has seen enormous interest from the community and a large number of pools. Over the past few months, we have observed the way the staking pools are operating, and recognize that k needs to be adjusted upwards.

It is worth noting that the k-parameter is not amenable to small, gradual increases (unlike, for example, the d-parameter, which lends itself to a gradual reduction). Each increase in k requires pools and delegators to take action. For pool operators, this means a careful adjustment of their parameters and in particular their margin; for delegators, it means choosing new pools to delegate their ada to, especially if their current choice becomes oversaturated.

Therefore, the best strategy for an upwards adjustment of k is to move in larger, less frequent increments – and to move it as far and as fast as practical network dynamics and economics will allow. The ‘how much’ and ‘how soon’ has been a topic of intense debate and discussion within the team, made more complex by a number of technical factors. The best solution is one that minimizes disruption for successful pools and their delegators, while maximizing the opportunity for medium and smaller pools to mint blocks and attract more stake. Equally, it is crucial to be always focused on the longer-term strategic goal as a community to broaden decentralization as widely as possible.

Moving to k=500 in December

We are committed to a measured and deliberate set of changes and will be using the data we gather to inform subsequent decisions. Therefore, we plan to implement the k change in a staged manner. First, we shall move to k=500 at epoch 234 (21:44 UTC Sunday, December 6, 2020). The move to k=500 will give small- to medium-sized pools that are struggling an improved opportunity to attract delegation. It will also have the effect of limiting pool size to 64 million ada, which means more than 100 of the largest pools will become saturated.

Ada holders can redelegate at any point between now and the change. If you are currently delegating to one of the largest pools, and wish to continue receiving optimal staking rewards, you may need to move your ada before or during epoch 233, before the new epoch boundary at 21:44 UTC on December 6. We certainly encourage delegators to keep an eye on their favorite pools in the saturation meter in the Daedalus wallet a day or two before December 6. If it shows significantly more than 64 million ada at this point, you should certainly consider redelegating. It is important to note that rewards will still be payable from slightly saturated pools, but these steadily diminish the greater the saturation over 64 million ada in the pool. To be clear, though, no one delegating to an over-saturated pool will lose any of their stake. It is simply that the return on their stake will be reduced if they stay delegated to a saturated pool. We always encourage the community to keep an eye on their delegation choices, and this will be especially important around this time.

Modeling the long-term viability of stake pools, we found that k values of 1,000 were stable in the long term. As a result, our aim is to move to k=1,000 during March 2021. We recognize the importance of economic factors that also strongly influence pool profitability and will continue to consult widely with the community on the plan; the social dynamics of the network should also not be underestimated. A number of opportunities will be presented (including community panels and seminars) for further discussion, while helping the community understand more about the changes and contribute their perspectives.

From a strategic and philosophical perspective, we believe this is the correct approach for Cardano. We wish to encourage decentralization across a large number of stake pools that are independently operated, while recognizing the positive contribution of the pools currently leading in the rankings. We shall also pay heed to the practical dynamics of the evolving ecosystem. By the end of March, d, the decentralization parameter, will also be set to zero, meaning that Cardano block production will be fully decentralized, and responsibility shared across nearly all the pools currently running the network (and hopefully, some new entrants too).

No silver bullet

We believe that changing k to 500 will benefit the ecosystem, despite a period of disruption and change. However, it is not the whole solution. We are continuing to develop our thinking in other areas that will tangibly contribute to Cardano’s decentralization. Hardware wallet delegation support (coming very soon) should help open up ada supply, to the benefit of all. We shall soon add the ability to delegate to several pools from a hardware wallet, which will help Trezor (initially) and subsequently Ledger owners spread their stake across a range of pools. Improvements to stake pool servers will in time allow community members to start curating their own pool lists to help shape and steer delegation choices. We shall also be retiring all but one of our public IOG pools and encouraging delegators to switch their ada to community pools, while developing our own delegation strategy. On the parameter side, we are now finalizing some modeling around pledging by pool operators, another factor that will help shift network dynamics in favor of a broader spread of ada. Expect more news on all these topics soon.

We recognize that in the short term, the move to k=500 will mean significant change for some. If delegators to larger pools do not react, some pools will become oversaturated and rewards will be unclaimed (note that no rewards are lost; everything goes back to the system’s reserves for the community to draw upon in the future). As a result, pool operators will need to adjust their margin and cost in the short term to stay profitable and incentivize delegators to take action. While this will require some effort from the community, it is an essential step for the Cardano ecosystem to maximize its decentralization. As smart contracts and multi-currency support will be coming soon to Cardano, a high level of decentralization will be the jewel of the ecosystem, and a strong competitive advantage over other blockchains.

The increase in k will be a significant step forward in delivering Cardano’s mission. Because this change will bring some disruption, we want to give the community plenty of time to absorb the changes and adjust their strategy. Moreover, we would like to help the community make the right decisions for the long-term sustainability of Cardano. We will be publishing more content over the next few weeks and months to support this approach (including a guide to making good delegation choices) as we continue to improve the experience.

Achieving the highest level of decentralization is the ultimate objective of any blockchain system. Decentralization is the solid foundation over which the Cardano ecosystem will thrive. True decentralization cannot be conjured purely out of mathematical theorems, and the tweaking of parameters and formulas will never be enough by itself – even though with Cardano we have taken huge strides compared to any other blockchain. Nevertheless, in the end, true decentralization will emanate from the collective will and actions of the Cardano community. We will continue in this path together, investigating additional approaches to allow stake pools to build their brand, communicate with their delegators, and highlight their own contributions and mission more directly.

Thanks to Aggelos Kiayias, Colin Edwards, Olga Hryniuk and Francisco Landino for their input to this piece. Thanks also to researchers Aikaterini-Panagiota Stouka and Elias Koutsoupias.

We’ll be posting throughout the next month to support delegators and stake pool operators as we approach the December 6 deadline. Please be sure to follow us on Twitter and subscribe on YouTube for all the latest updates.

IOHK sponsors new Haskell Foundation

Independent, open, non-profit body will support tools, libraries, education, and research

4 November 2020 Moritz Angermann 2 mins read

IOHK sponsors new Haskell Foundation

Simon Peyton Jones has just announced the launch of the Haskell Foundation at the Haskell eXchange virtual conference. The foundation is an independent, open, non-profit organization dedicated to broadening the adoption of the Haskell language, by supporting its ecosystem of tools, libraries, education, and research.

IOHK is one of the first sponsors of the Haskell Foundation because we believe in the power of functional programming, open-source software, and open governance. So, we are delighted to be able to join other key companies in supporting the community through an open and transparent process in which everyone can participate.

IOHK and Haskell

All of IOHK’s core software is open-source, and where possible we do our work via standalone projects that will benefit the community too. We have contributed substantially to compilers like GHC, GHCJS and Asterius; created libraries for eliminating space leaks; and are even building the Plutus smart contract platform on Haskell.

For several years IOHK has been supporting the development of GHC itself and aims to continue doing so. Our engineers have contributed the ghc-bignum library, improved cross-compilation support, worked on support for ARM architectures, provided general code improvements, and fixed a number of bugs. We are keen to help other community efforts, for example by funding the work of others, and by helping to get the recently-merged Windows I/O manager across the finish line.

In addition to its direct technical involvement, IOHK has also invested in expanding the Haskell community, including developing online tutorials, education programmes, and delivering face-to-face training courses in places such as Athens, Barbados, Mongolia and Ethiopia. Through this and other programs, we are fully committed to the Haskell Foundation’s goals of enhancing diversity within the Haskell community.

Looking forward

We are excited to be working with the Haskell Foundation to help move Haskell forward. IOHK has contributed to the Foundation’s technical agenda, and will help directly with technical work. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements!