Cardano Shelley status update — January 2019

The march of time is relentless, and as we’ve just entered 2019, now is a good time for us, the Cardano community, to discuss and prepare for the upcoming release of Shelley, which is about moving from a federated and centralized network to a fully decentralized one.

It is important to note that there are some threshold conditions that have to be met in order for Shelley to be successful. It’s not enough to have all the academic papers/code written, all the protocols fully developed and tested, it is also a social component. So we, as a community, need to be prepared for this release and understand all the implications of running a stake pool or delegating our stake.

At Andromeda Pool, we feel we have a good grasp of what’s to come, and we would love to help the community better understand the ins and outs of Shelley and how our beloved protocol will evolve in the coming months.

What is so exciting about Shelley?

  • Cardano will be 50 to 100 times more decentralized than competitors like BTC, ETH or EOS.
  • Cardano will have the best code quality of any cryptocurrency ever made, which can be proven. Great property testing, great end to end test coverage, extremely well-documented code, minimal technical debt.
  • Ouroboros Genesis — one of our crown jewels, a huge success in Canada at CCS conf — is the first provably secure PoS blockchain protocol with rigorous security guarantees.
  • After the v1.5 release, when the wallet backend will be completely decoupled, it will be a lot easier to start augmenting and taking the wallet layer to the next level. So features like multi-signature transactions, a built-in terminal for Daedalus, human-friendly addresses will be a lot easier to roll out.
  • The opportunity to participate in the network consensus, by delegating your stake or running a stake pool.

There are 3 dimensions to the Shelley release

1. Development and testing dimension

IOHK has designed and created prototypes of a new family of protocols (Ouroboros BFT & Genesis) and schemes (delegation and incentives). Basically, because we have all these new protocols, they need to be fully implemented and tested, in order to verify that they are correct, hence the first half of Q1 is all about getting to a point where we can have a testnet to verify that the ideas and papers match reality.

The good news is that the code quality has been greatly improved throughout 2018 and the engineers are really good. One thing IOHK has accomplished last year was creating a lingua franca between business people, engineers and scientists, so now they have great confidence that everybody is on the same page about what needs to be done.

The other good news is that right now we have 2 different teams working on the same things for this release, using different tools, techniques and processes and they are in a sudden death race of whichever one finishes first.

One is following a more pragmatic, Silicon Valley style, where they move very quickly (the Rust team ), and the other one is following a more disciplined, specification driven development (the Haskell team). Once one of the teams finishes the implementation of the required features, they will release a testnet.

2. Social dimension

Another large component of Shelley is the social aspect because once we will have a testnet up and running, we will need a large population of stake pools.

Last year, out of curiosity, IOHK opened a registration form for people interested in running a stake pool, and they received over 4000 candidates. Therefore, in January, they will reopen the registration process in collaboration with the newly invigorated Cardano Foundation, and they will try to get as close to the 1000 target as possible.

IOHK will soon start rolling out content about how the Delegation/Offline Center is going to look like (staking from hot/hardware/paper wallets), and also the in-wallet presentation of things like stake pools.

This is slightly a more controversial topic because as in the case of search engines, what’s on the first page usually wins out, and if you are on subsequent pages you have a significantly lower chance of getting eyeballs.

Therefore, it is important for us as a community to have a discussion about the optimal way of displaying the stake pools in order to converge to a good and fair design. In January, when the GUI design is ready, expect IOHK/Emurgo to do a presentation on this topic — as you can see we are transitioning from hardcore mathematics and protocol design into community opinion and what we think is equitable.

GUI Prototype of the Delegation Center

3. Deployment dimension

Lastly, there is the actual rollover from what we have today — Byron system to Shelley — which means IOHK will have to issue a series of updates.

The current implementation of Ouroboros — Classic — is based on the ideas the researchers had in 2017, from which the design of the protocol has evolved quite a bit.

There is a big difference from what Ouroboros Genesis looks like and the currently running version. What the team decided to do is to implement Ouroboros BFT first, bring that in at the base level, and then have a migration path from BFT to Genesis.

The implementation of BFT is done, and IOHK has begun broad-scale testing and once the QA process is finished, it will be released in the v1.5, which will have a graceful update path (compared to v1.4 which required changing the data layer).

After that, we will have a fully decoupled wallet backend, Icarus style addresses, and then the very next thing to do is start a series of upgrades to the ledger rules, network stack, and API. When those are done and Shelley is released, we will have a gradual transition from the federated control to the decentralized control, where epoch by epoch, more and more slots are handled by stake pools and less and less are created by Ouroboros BFT, until eventually, we get to the point where 100% of the slots are created by stake pools.

Wrapping up

Our progress towards Shelley is of course only part of the story. Many other interesting events will be happening this year related to Cardano.

At Andromeda Pool, we look forward to keeping you updated and we would like to thank everyone for the interest in our stake pool as we continue to strive towards our shared goals. As Charles said, our best days are ahead of us.

Onwards and upwards, Cardano community! 2019 is going to be our year.