AVA: Perfect Blockchain Toolkit?

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What the heck is the AVA platform? Is it another blockchain that supports smart contracts and promises huge TPS? Is it another promising solution with Sharding architecture?

In recent years we have heard hundreds of such loud pops. At first, they seemed extremely exciting. It seemed like blockchain platform was finally being built to solve The Scalability Trilemma.

However, as the years go by, the promises hasn't come true. This fact makes us very skeptical about the new projects and we are tired of looking into them.

But this is the time when its still worth paying attention to a new project named AVA platform (AVA). One of the main reasons — it does not use the well-known Classical and Nakamoto consensus protocols, but a new Avalanche consensus protocol from the Snow protocol family introduced just a few years ago.

But first things first!

What exactly is AVA platform, what is it for and what are its benefits?

As written in the AVA platform whitepaper AVA is a high-performance, scalable, customizable, and secure blockchain platform and it targets three broad use cases:

  • Building application-specific blockchains, spanning private and public deployments
  • Building and launching highly scalable and decentralized applications (Dapps)
  • Building arbitrarily complex digital assets with custom rules, covenants, and riders (smart assets)

AVA has its native token $AVA which provides the core infrastructure for enabling the security of the system ($AVA choose PoS to the core Sybil control mechanism) while simultaneously providing the universal unit of exchange (i.e. interoperation) between any assets deployed on AVA.

Let’s continue with a brief introduction to the consensus protocols which are the foundation of every blockchain.

The core element of any blockchain is the consensus protocol, which allows a group of nodes to come to an agreement. Until recently we were familiar with two types of consensus protocols — Classical consensus protocols that rely on all-to-all communication and Nakamoto consensus which relies on the longest-chain-rule.

For example, the classical consensus is used in the EOS blockchain with a constant number (21) of known validators and it is also planned to be used by Facebook’s Libra, while Bitcoin and Ethereum are the most known blockchains implementing the Nakamoto consensus which are permissionless networks where anyone can join and start validating blocks.

However, in 2018 an anonymous group, Team Rocket, released a document entitled “Snowflake to Avalanche: A Novel Metastable Consensus Protocol Family for Cryptocurrencies”, which offered a whole new family of Snow consensus protocol from which the Avalanche protocol is used to reach consensus on the AVA.

The operating principle of the Snow protocols is very simple and can be illustrated by the following example:

Let’s imagine that in a large society with thousands of members it is up to them to decide which day to hold a community meeting — Monday or Friday. Some of them prefer Monday, others prefer Friday. Let's use the Snow protocol algorithm to decide which day to hold the meeting.

Each member surveys a small randomly selected group of members and adopts a majority view. In this way, several rounds are performed and after a certain number of iterations, all members of the community will probably come to a single decision. This approach is lightweight as it does not require to store previous history of member's interactions.

In such situation it would not be possible to apply the Classical consensus, as it requires each participant to communicate with everyone who must be previously known and trusted. In our example, the number of members is too large. In addition, Classical consensus is not appropriate in situations where new, unknown members join the community in a trustless way.

In turn, the Nakamoto consensus allows members to enter or exit the network in a permissionless manner. However, it does require the longest chain rule which requires more resources (each community member’s notebook writes down all of the community’s decisions), and its speed can be considered decent only if the slogan “the slower the better” is applicable.

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As we can see, the basic principle behind the Snow protocols is extremely simple, yet at the same time very effective and thanks to this new consensus protocol AVA has outstanding features.

AVA is:

Scalable — AVA is able to support a global network of potentially hundreds of millions of nodes that operate seamlessly;

Secure — AVA provides security even when more than 51% of the nodes are Byzantine.

Decentralized — AVA implements leaderless Avalanche consensus protocol and it by design excludes any possibility of centralized control of any kind.

Governable and Democratic — AVA enables anyone to connect to its network and participate invalidation. Any $AVA token holder can have a vote in selecting key financial parameters and in choosing how the system evolves.

Network architecture

AVA is designed under the same architectural model as the internet which consists of numerous subnetworks. Unlike most blockchains whose architecture is monolithic, AVA is designed to be extensible, modular, and composable. The subnet architecture, therefore, allows anyone to deploy their own blockchain (subnetwork) that fits their custom requirements. Thus we can call AVA a Platform of platforms.

For example, an AVA user can choose to:

  • launch a completely new subnet, or just use an existing one,
  • build its own virtual machine or select from existing virtual machines in the plugin store (e.g. EVM, WASM, BTC Script, etc.)
  • Select a set of validators (by defining them yourself), or make it open membership
  • Select additional functionality e.g. Smart contracts.

The current phase of development

AVA platform is running in testnet mode, and in order to show its effectiveness, AVA developers have created an Ethereum mainnet fork on the AVA platform and named it Athereum. This is 100% Ethereum only instead of the longest chain proof-of-work, Athereum uses a staking-based linear chain version of the Avalanche consensus protocol. As result Athereum shows sub-second block finality, Throughput as high as EVM allows, all favorite tools like Metmask, MEW, Remix, etc. work out of the box, thousands to millions of validators are possible and so on!

On March 11th, 2020, AVA made an announcement that the first official public code release, Borealis, opens the source code to the wider AVA community of developers and AVA launches the Developer Accelerator Program which compensates contributors to the platform with the possibility to earn up to $50k for reporting bugs.

AVA mainnet is coming in the nearest months.

People behind AVA:

AVA platform is developed by company AVA Labs Inc., founded by Cornell professor Emin Gün Sirer, Kevin Sekniqi — researcher and cryptography expert (PhD, Computer Science, Cornell) and Maofan Ted Yin — researcher and cryptography expert (PhD, Computer Science, Cornell).

AVA Labs is funded by well known reputable investors Andreessen Horowitz, Metastable Capital, Abstract Ventures, Initialized Capital, Polychain Capital, and former Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan.

Closing words

I look at AVA as an innovative and flexible blockchain platform that is rather on a different level from the competition with existing blockchains. Its founders say that they are committed to the project only when they get confidence it would solve the shortcomings of the current blockchains. As I read the AVA whitepaper, I am convinced that it could work!

Useful links:

AVA Labs webpage — https://www.avalabs.org/

Consensus whitepaper — https://arxiv.org/abs/1906.08936

AVA platform whitepaper — https://assets.website-files.com/5d80307810123f5ffbb34d6e/5e5e84813a300b751c38b2ad_ava-platform.pdf

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