This is Agora: An Overview

Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing a series of articles that dive deep into the heart of Agora’s mission and the solutions we provide in bringing voting systems into the digital age. In doing so, we hope that the Agora community will better understand our vision for the future.

So, without further ado, let’s jump in.

What exactly is Agora?

First and foremost, Agora is a Swiss protocol company. We spent three years building our own custom blockchain that runs on a token-free consensus mechanism, on which nodes can provide consensus without any financial incentive. Agora primarily focuses on voting, having developed several Dapps to ensure security, end-to-end verifiability and support for new devices.

By creating an immutable and publicly viewable digital record of elections, Agora’s technology allows both private and public organizations to eradicate fraud and corruption, reduce cost and engage voters in a modern, convenient and accessible way.

From apps that encrypt, shuffle, and decrypt ballots to election supply chain tracking, Agora is building an entire ecosystem for voting. Thanks to our expertise and close collaboration over many years with Swiss governments and companies, Agora is able to create a wide range of government and enterprise blockchain solutions.

What is at the core of our mission?

To answer this question, let’s take a closer look at the breakdown of the pillars that allow secure and transparent elections to take place on our blockchain technology:

The Consensus Mechanism

When providing consensus in voting, leveraging incentivised mining or holding more tokens to pull more weight on the network is not the right approach. Sure, financially-incentivised consensus nodes are a great way to attract new users and adopters to the industry; however, when it comes voting, providing consensus can be tricky to navigate. At Agora, we’ve built our own chain from scratch — not a fork of any existing chain — and designed a fair, token-free consensus mechanism for elections. The nodes are invite-only, reputable, not-for-profits that provide consensus without any upfront tokens. All nodes are equal to each other during the process, without interference from Agora.

Permission versus Permissionless Infrastructures

One feature of our custom blockchain enables anyone to download a logarithmic part of the blocks to provide consensus directly from their smart devices. While most blockchains are too heavy to run on a phone or tablet, this is not the case with Agora’s infrastructure. In order for an individual to audit an election, one needs to have the whole history of the blocks. During the research and development of our infrastructure, we considered whether it would be possible to create a lightweight version of our blockchain for smart devices so that individuals could actively add blocks to the chain with ease.

At Agora, we believe that voting is a crowd-participatory event and that people should not be excluded from their elections. We also understand the importance of protecting the ecosystem — our network — from any malicious actors who attempt to break in and interfere with election results. So, how do we ensure that both governments and voters are satisfied with the way their election runs? By utilizing a three layered architecture, wherein our consensus nodes can be stressed by auditors around the world.

A visualisation of Agora’s three layered architecture

Permission Nodes with Auditors

Auditors are able to use the feature described above to watch the consensus mechanism of elections, rather than provide consensus directly. In other words, the public has access to an in-depth view of the protocols and can see how the nodes are behaving directly from their smart devices. The ability to verify these consensus nodes is the ultimate role of Agora token holders, through the use of Agora VOTE tokens. Any token holder worldwide is incentivised to audit the consensus mechanism — after being verified — by getting paid to provide objective feedback on the quality of the consensus and the behaviour of nodes during elections.

Permissionless Nodes

Permissionless nodes provide consensus by following the same token-free consensus mechanism that runs our permission infrastructure. These nodes are an important part of promoting fair and transparent elections, as well as more organic communication between voters and elected officials. This feature is here to help voting become more of a conversation between decision-makers and their citizens, rather than a single event to elect future governance.

TL;DR

Agora is a global community of node operators maintaining a verifiable blockchain network, which ensures a tamper-proof, transparent election process.

This network consists of two types of node operators:

1. Consensus Nodes. Selected politically-neutral, third-party organisations process transactions (votes) and provide consensus on Agora’s blockchain.

2. Citizen Auditor Nodes. Individuals, who choose to enter a dedicated contract with Agora, can verify the election process by auditing the consensus mechanism directly from their smart phone or tablet.


Thanks for reading and for being a part of Agora’s community. We like having you onboard!

If you like what you see, give us some claps to let us know! Claps are akin to likes on Facebook or on Twitter: they tell us what’s working well and what isn’t. And your feedback is invaluable, so don’t be shy.

Interested in reading more about us? Check out Agora in the News by visiting https://www.agora.vote/press