Last week, we proposed an idea to extend the use of the ITN network for a new purpose – in short, a rapid testing network for Cardano. Charles also made several videos and appeared on the Cardano Effect at the weekend to further outline our thoughts and gather community feedback.
We are blessed with a highly skilled and very vocal community. So we wanted to make sure we heard your views and ensure we landed on a position that everyone could be comfortable with. Thanks for all your feedback. We’ve been listening carefully. So here’s what we are proposing.
On Tuesday, we released a new version of Jormungandr, the node that has been powering the ITN since we launched our first Shelley test network at the end of last year. This latest version (0.9.0) contains what you might call… an ‘Easter egg’ if you like; a special embedded CLI-based voting capability for stake pool operators to access. By adding this capability, we are keeping our options open for some future uses of the ITN, without committing to anything right now. Read on.
WHAT WE’RE PLANNING TO DO
At IOHK, since we first triggered this debate, our position has become clear. We believe that we should try to leverage the success of the ITN a little longer. It has been a remarkable success story and we know most in the community feel the same way. We believe that continuing the ITN as a dedicated network for fast prototyping and testing could be a very valuable addition to Cardano’s future development. So we’d like to continue with this approach this summer, until the Shelley mainnet is fully deployed.
Some of you have expressed your concerns that this would divert resources away from mainnet Shelley, which is de facto our primary objective. It’s a very fair point. However, the Jormungandr team is entirely separate to the team delivering the Shelley rollout. Any continuation can sit happily alongside our mainnet rollout without negatively impacting those timelines.
In fact, longer term, we see quite the opposite. The ITN helped tremendously in the development and benchmarking of the staking mechanisms and the Ouroboros Praos consensus. We believe it would be clearly beneficial for Cardano to continue this exploratory work to shape Goguen, Basho and Voltaire. The Jormungandr team has already started doing some thinking on this. We’d like to use July to put that thinking to work, as an initial experiment.
We’d like to share some of our thinking at the virtual summit in early July. But meanwhile, we don’t want to miss this opportunity. So we need to make some rapid decisions.
We recognise that we need a supermajority of the community of all ADA holders to agree to continue the ITN experiment, in particular to extend the rewards for a month. This is the only fair way to do this. Equally, we don’t want to rush the community into a decision.
So we’re proposing to do this in two stages; first, a technocratic vote focused on stake pool operators to just check who is open to this idea – and to be rewarded for it. Then, before any final decision is made, the whole Cardano /ada holding community will be called upon to vote to determine whether this investment is something they want to do. If people feel the ITN might have future value for Cardano going forward, they can say so and commit to some funding for it, by allowing these additional rewards to be released to the mainnet. If not, then that’s fine too. We’ll switch off our Jormungandr nodes and move on. If the vote is for a ‘No’, then no additional rewards (post June 19th) will be exported to the mainnet.
One vote to create the possibility, a second to decide
First of all, from tomorrow, the 25th June, between epochs 195 (2020-06-25 19:13UTC) and 198 (2020-06-28 19:13:37), we are inviting our existing ITN stake pool operators to vote to confirm that they wish to see the continuation of an incentivized network. Everyone gets to reclaim what they have already earned once we have mainnet Shelley. This is just about a potential extra month. So any new rewards would be payable from epoch 199 (2020-06-29 19:13:37) – the date of the vote results will be known and the reward pots increased by 95M test ADA if the proposal receives a majority of “Yes”.
This first vote is open to anyone with a testnet ada stake on the ITN. While we encourage EVERY stake pool to have their say at this point, ada holders are not required to vote in this first vote. This is purely optional; their say will come later on, in July (more on that in a moment).
For any of this to happen, of course, it is a prerequisite for current ITN stake pools to upgrade to the version 0.9.x of Jormungandr node so that we can form a majority of nodes and we can enable the voting mechanism. We can/will launch the vote plan only if a majority of the nodes are up-to-date. We’re talking to them separately at the moment to ensure we get this message across.
We are currently working on a simple app (work in progress here) that we hope to release through our testnet site before the vote starts. Otherwise, the voting for this will take place via the CLI capability in the latest node release.
No representation without participation
To ensure this vote is properly representative, we are setting a participation threshold of 30% (e.g. two thirds of the active stake of the ITN which corresponds to 45% of the circulating supply) and an acceptance threshold of 50% (of the vote participants’ stake) plus one. The vote itself is something of an experiment, but by setting these parameters we feel makes the vote as ‘fair’ and representative as possible at this stage.
So in order to succeed, this first vote needs 50%+1 of voters (relative to their ITN stake) to say ‘Yes’. Voters who choose to abstain will count for participation, but will not be added to either the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ tally.
If the community votes for ‘Yes’, we will earmark 95M test ADA to the rewards pot. This is an amount equivalent to the monthly total rewards payout on the ITN, which we feel is fair. This amount will be visible on the blockchain and via the explorer backend. However, this ada will not be fully committed; think of it more like a pre-authorization on a credit card. To trigger its payment, e.g. to export those rewards to the mainnet, a second step will be needed.
As noted at the beginning, we want the whole community to have it’s say. These ‘pre-authorized’ rewards will have no redemption value on the mainnet unless approved by the whole community.
So, if this first vote delivers a ‘Yes’ then – and only then – a second stage will kick in. A second, separate validation vote we plan to hold in early July.
The second vote - asking the whole community
In short, we’ll take a snapshot of the mainnet during July. If you are holding ada at the time of this snapshot in Daedalus or Yoroi, you will be granted the right to vote. – Don’t worry, we’ll give you at least two week’s notice prior to this snapshot.
The full details of this second stage will be communicated at a later date. But in short, we’ll provide a simple application interface for you to vote using your verification keys. Expect more in due course. We want to include as many ada holders as possible so we’ll keep you fully informed and make it as simple to vote as possible…
The solution we have outlined above may seem a little complex at first and we haven’t given you much notice. Yep – apologies! We’ll give you more details over the next week or two – for example, Charles will be sharing a new whiteboard video very soon to help explain the process and our current thinking.
However, by moving fast on this, we are keeping our options open to run an extended ITN by allocating potential funds before we fork at the end of July. Importantly, we are not making a unilateral ‘decision’ – because that is not ours to make – but instead consulting with all the key stakeholders on whether they want ada from July’s inflation to be used for this purpose.
If the community does want to support this initiative, they will vote to do so. If the community votes ‘No’, however, that allocated 95M reward pot will not be exported to the mainnet on July 29th. Yes, there is a risk that pool operators will end up running their nodes for another month and get no guaranteed further ada rewards for doing so. However, our sense from the community outreach of the past week is that they are prepared to give this experiment a try! Also, this will have given the community an opportunity to benchmark new experimental features to be discussed at the Virtual Summit.
We at IOHK certainly believe the opportunity is worth it. As much as we believe in formal methods and solid, steady development , we have seen the value that having an agile network like the ITN can bring to the Cardano project.
Ultimately, however, the decision on this lies with the community. It has been the community that has made the ITN so successful. If the community feels an extension might add further value to Cardano, it will vote accordingly. It is only right that the decision on the ITNs future evolution lies with the community that has enabled it today.
To kick the whole process off, we’re asking all ITN stakepools to upgrade to the 0.9.x version of Jormungandr before midnight GMT Thursday June 25th. Voting will then be open over the next three days – between epoch 195 and 198 included. We’ll gather and share the results on Monday. If it is a (remember, still provisional) ‘yes’ to continuing the ITN, the Jormungandr team will get cracking and we’ll give you an update at the Virtual Summit.
This will create the opportunity for this community initiative and you can expect further communication shortly after this. ADA holders should carefully follow our announcements and releases later this week (and the following) in order to vote in time and voice their opinion.