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Q Blockchain

Athos Hard Fork

The Athos hard fork is the first hard fork on the Q Blockchain. The proposal for the Athos upgrade is now live and all Q token holders can vote on it. This post provides an overview of Athos: What’s in it, how you can vote on it, the time line and — lastly — where the name is coming from.

Athos hard fork overview

Athos is the first proposal that — if accepted — will result in a hard fork of the Q blockchain. It contains the important mechanism of account aliases which improves the operational security for validators and root nodes. Closely related is the possibility of dedicated withdrawal addresses in the respective staking contracts. Furthermore, some minor but still consensus-relevant changes have been added for robustness and future-proofness.

The Athos proposal contains a set of five separate Q Improvement Proposals (QIPs), each of which contains a specific set of upgrades. Those are:

  • QIP-00002: Activation of the Berlin hard fork — this is a “housekeeping” item, mirroring the Berlin upgrade of the Ethereum network on the Q network. The goal is to ensure continued EVM-compatibility and port over best practices from Ethereum to the Q protocol.
  • QIP-00003: Account aliases — this is to provide the possibility for validators and root nodes to have additional addresses per node, allowing them to split the functionality of holding and transferring funds (main account) and participating in consensus (alias account).
  • QIP-00004: Withdraw addresses — this enables validators and root nodes to specify withdraw addresses and have those withdraw addresses approved by a dedicated trusted entity.
  • QIP-00005: Unban validators — this is to extend the validator exclusion list to allow to “unban” validators that have previously been put on the exclusion list.
  • QIP-00006: Increase Bytecode limit — this is to increase the byte code limit for contract deployment from 24KB to 48KB.

You can check out the details of the proposed changes — including the rationale, specification and of course the code — in the respective QIPs.

Account aliases

The proposed upgrade feature which stands out is QIP-00003, the introduction of account aliases. This is for two reasons:

Firstly, while the other proposed changes have more of a housekeeping character, account aliases are a truly new feature that will improve the operational security of node operators on Q. Account aliases enable validator nodes and root nodes to use separate private keys for participating in validation or other consensus-relevant actions and custody of funds. This means that if private keys that are operationally used for signing blocks are compromised, the funds associated with the node are not automatically at risk as well. This is particularly important for professional node operators where private keys used for consensus participation may need to be shared with a number of people, but those people should not automatically have access to the funds of the node operator.

Secondly, the introduction of the account alias feature requires an update of the Q constitution. To recap: Unlike in many other Layer 1 blockchains where protocol upgrades — specifically hard forks — are decided by “rough social consensus”, the Q protocol is governed by the Q constitution. Since the code follows the constitution, code upgrades may require a change of the constitution. This is the case in the introduction of account aliases, since the definitions of some key terms such as validator node and root node need to be adapted in the Q constitution. While I do not expect the proposed change itself to be controversial, any change that touches key terms of the constitution has nevertheless to be properly voted upon. The purpose of this very strict procedure is to protect the Q protocol against attacks where changes are “sneaked into” the protocol. This benefits the Q stakeholders: All changes are not only fully transparent, but also human-readable via the Q constitution.

Voting on the Athos proposal

Every Q token holder can vote on the Athos proposal. To do so, just go to hq.q.org, login with your account and navigate to the “Q Proposals” section under the heading “Governance”:

Here you can find the link to the proposal itself and can vote with “yes” or “no” — depending on whether or not you support the proposal. Under “External Reference” you find the link to the revision proof proposal description, in this case the Athos specification.

A time line of events:

  • Voting is open until 23 December 2023;
  • If the proposal is accepted, the root nodes can submit a veto until 6 January 2024;
  • If the successful proposal is not vetoed by the root nodes, the hard fork will be activated at block height 5075000 — expected for 11 January 2023.

Please note that node operators should upgrade their clients well ahead of the activation date. More communication on recommended upgrade procedures will follow in due time.

In the meantime, if you have any questions related to the Athos hard fork, the Q Discord is a good place to engage with developers and Q community members, get answers to your questions or just provide feedback.

Hard fork naming

Naming is always fun and challenges us devs in a way that is very different to the problems we face in our daily work. For the naming of Q proposals, after long discussions we have settled on the “mountains of the world” theme. Over time, we hope to cover many interesting mountains around the globe. If you are searching for a metaphorical meaning: Scaling mountains is challenging but rewarding and no two are the same — just as a good proposal to upgrade the Q protocol should be.

We hope that the “mountains” theme will be continued by other contributors to the Q protocol.

As for the first one: Mount Athos is a mountain on the Greek peninsula of Chalkidiki. While its height of 2033 meters is not spectacular by global standards, it is nevertheless visually impressive since it rises directly out of the sea. It is located in an area that is rich in history and mythological meaning and certainly has no shortage of stories attached to it. Lastly, Mount Athos is in today’s Greece — a corner of the world from which many innovations in governance originated a few thousand years ago. Some of the principles applied in the Q protocol’s governance framework today can be traced back to these very early days of governance innovation. But I guess that is the topic for a separate essay.

Mount Athos, Greece



Q combines the benefits of a public, open and decentralized ledger with the transparency of enforceable private contracts. Whether you want to interact with other businesses, build decentralized applications or simply send and receive tokens: Q is for you.

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