Proof of stake is starting to hit critical mass. The Cosmos mainnet launch seems to have opened to door for a flood of staking networks to come online in 2019. It's also at risk from the outset.
Proof of Stake is Already at Risk
Stake on these networks is concentrating within a small group of large validators. Often funds who've invested in pre-sales of the networks operate these large validators.
These larger validators squeeze out the smaller independent operators. As a result, stake and the associated voting power gets concentrated among a small group of operators. This concentration increases risk and decreases network security.
These validators, either alone or with minimal coordination, then have control over the network.
I've seen this first hand as an active Livepeer transcoder and Cosmos Validator. It's happening in other networks too, like Tezos.
I'm not operating validators to rebuild the oligarchy that exists in the legacy financial system. I'm doing this to build a new system, with new values and rules.
Hopefully this new system is more equitable, fair and accessible than what we have today. My sense is many in crypto community are participating for similar reasons.
These staking networks underpin this new system. Yet if the current trend continues, a new oligopoly will rise. It's already started to.
While the names at the top may be different, the end result will be the same. In one extreme example, the names at the top may even be the same, for example if the largest banks buy the largest validators 😬
The good news is we're early in staking's evolution. Early indicators are no guarantee of future performance, as the legacy financial industry likes to remind us 😊
We need a new dialogue with associated action to prevent rebuilding what already exists. Without it, there's nothing to prevent momentum continuing to build in the current direction.
Before we know it, it may be too late.
Announcing the Decentralized Staking Defenders
Today I'm feeling excited to announce the Decentralized Staking Defenders. It's an idea that's been manifesting in my consciousness for a while.
The Defenders will start this new dialogue and empower its participants to engage in meaningful action. The intention is to counter staking's trend toward centralization.
Anyone with an interest in keeping stake decentralized is welcome and encouraged to join the Defenders. My sense is that, at least initially, the Defenders will attract a set of smaller, dedicated and capable independent validators.
The idea is that by pooling resources, we can better compete with the larger, heavily funded staking operators/companies. Hopefully a few them who support the vision will contribute too.
My initial suggestion is for the Defenders to focus on these key areas -
1 - Education
We'll work to educate the staking community in areas like -
- The risks inherent to centralization
- How to best choose validators to delegate to
- Bigger doesn't mean better
2 - Visibility
We'll combine resources to make ourselves more visible to the staking network communities. For example, we can promote the Defenders as a set of capable validators, rather than trying to promote ourselves on an individual basis.
We can collaborate on outreach, to counter the trend of a small set of large validators dominating the conversation. We can make sure smaller validators have a voice in online media, at conferences and on panel discussions.
3 - Partnerships
We'll coordinate partnerships with larger validators, grant programs and other partners. We'll be in a stronger position to negotiate together, rather than alone.
4 - Resources and Tools
We'll pool resources and develop open source tools to make running our systems more efficient, secure and reliable. For example, I'm working on alerting and monitoring tools that I plan to open source when they're ready. We'll do this ourselves and apply for grants on behalf of the Defenders to do this.
Join the Cause
Join the cause by visiting forum.stakingdefense.org. It's a discussion forum, built on the open source Discourse platform. Sign-up, introduce yourself and add a discussion topic or two.
I've chosen this forum format as our starting place. Soon I'll be sharing a project management tool to track our activities. The goal is to make this an active, thoughtful and action-oriented group.
With this intention in mind, I haven't started a real-time chat, e.g. Telegram or Riot, group. Hopefully this approach helps us achieve real results and prevents the Defenders from becoming "just another chat group".
That said, my hope is I'm only planting a seed here and that others get involved, so this becomes our group, not mine. The only way we'll succeed is together.
Please join us!