The great thing about open source software is that it allows developers to combine parts from multiple projects to make something new and unique. In this case, the team at AVA Labs, a company closely affiliated with Cornell University, has created Athereum - a version of Ethereum EVM with AVA Labs's consensus algorithm called Avalanche.
- Ticker: ATH (to be confirmed)
- Consensus: Avalanche
- Block time: sub-second
Athereum is described by their team as a so-called spoon of Ethereum - a type of blockchain fork that is not designed to replace the original Ethereum, but was created for a mysterious other reason. In this case the reason most likely is demonstrating just how powerful AVA Labs's technology is.
What does this mean in practice? Athereum will run EVM, it supports all the dapp tools and programming languages, such as Solidity, Remix, Metamask, Saturn Wallet and our upcoming dapp dev kit. It also doesn't start from scratch, all your ETH balances will be imported into Athereum at launch date. However, unlike Ethereum that is secured by Proof of Work, Athereum is secured by much faster Avalanche consensus.
What is Avalanche Consensus?
The official scientific description of the protocol is packed full of buzzwords.
This paper introduces a family of leaderless Byzantine fault tolerance protocols, built around a metastable mechanism via network subsampling. These protocols provide a strong probabilistic safety guarantee in the presence of Byzantine adversaries while their concurrent and leaderless nature enables them to achieve high throughput and scalability.
In practice, the idea behind Avalanche is very simple (and we love simple, simple is good!)
Technically speaking, what we will be discussing here is something the team calls Snowflake. Avalanche is thus a family of snowflakes with economic incentives.
Instead of performing Proof of Work on transactions, the node in Avalanche relies on other nodes' opinion about a particular transaction as it first sees it. Is this transaction valid or not? The node then forms an opinion about this transaction based on a majority vote of random connected peers. The node repeats this process several times, asking a different group of nodes every time. The team demonstrates that this process eventually converts to all nodes forming an equal opinion about every transaction, thus keeping consensus.
It is also worth mentioning that while AVA Labs are working on their own blockchain, with ticker AVA, they were also actively engaged with the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) community not too long ago. Bitcoin Cash wants to enable users to use 0-Conf payments, and the team suggested that BCH can use Avalanche pre-consensus to confirm 0-Conf transactions, and then rely on Proof of Work to freeze that transaction in the immutable blockchain under the weight of all that block Proof of Work. This would allow BCH to combine the strength of two consensus algorithms letting the users choose their security level based on merchant honesty and transaction amount.
What does that mean? For example:
- For small size transactions, e.g. buying a coffee, rely on Avalanche 0-conf, safe under 51% honest nodes (by stake or coin age) assumption.
- For large transactions, e.g. buying a house, rely on PoW block with 100 confirmations, safe under 51% honest hashrate assumption.
These plans have not been implemented yet although they surely sound quite interesting. On paper it sounds like Athereum can give a lot of ETH scaling solutions, such as Loom Network and POA Network, a run for their money when it comes to operating a performant smart contract blockchain.
Looking for more projects to keep your eyes on? We have put together a whole series of articles focusing on providing overviews for EVM blockchains. All chains that may one day dominate the smart contract industry such as ETH, ETC, TRON, ADA, TOMO, RSK and many more!
Future is bright!