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Meet Snowglobe: An Avalanche-Based Pre-Consensus Protocol for BCH

news.bitcoin.com 22 December 2019 10:00, UTC
Reading time: ~3 m

Meet Snowglobe: An Avalanche-Based Pre-Consensus Protocol for BCH

On December 20, BCHD and Openbazaar developer Tyler Smith published first draft specifications for a protocol he calls “Snowglobe.” Smith’s Github repository says that Snowglobe is a propagation protocol for nodes using Nakamoto Consensus and it uses an Avalanche-based consensus algorithm for the process.

Specifications for a Pre-Consensus Protocol Called Snowglobe Published

Software developer Tyler Smith recently published specifications to a new concept he has created called Snowglobe. Smith is well known for his contribution to the Bitcoin Cash full node BCHD codebase and he also develops with the Openbazaar team. After publishing the Snowglobe documentation, Smith asked programmers to feel free to give him constructive feedback or reach out to him via the Avalanche or BCHD Slack channels.

First draft of the Snowglobe spec is available for review: https://t.co/NUmBLGEaxk. Feel free to give constructive feedback via the issues on that repo, in the Avalanche Telegram channel, or in #avalanche in the bchd Slack.

— Tyler Smith (@tcrypt25519) December 20, 2019

“This document specifies a propagation protocol for nodes of a Nakamoto Consensus network in which participants actively work to reconcile their local states against each other,” the Snowglobe specs state. “It enables nodes to sample each others’ state in order to determine which item in a conflict set is currently chosen by the most nodes, and to work toward a super majority of nodes choosing the same set of items.” Snowglobe’s documentation adds:

An Avalanche-based consensus algorithm is used for this process affording the protocol asynchrony, metastability, and quiescent finality.

Snowglobe specs hosted on Github.

Avalanche Consensus Could Bolster Zero-Confirmation Transactions

The original Avalanche consensus algorithm white paper was written by a pseudonymous team of programmers dubbed ‘Team Rocket’ and the paper was published in May 2018. The unknown developers described four different protocols called Slush, Snowflake, Snowball, and Avalanche. The protocol Avalanche has been discussed throughout the BCH development community as a way to fortify pre-consensus. The pre-consensus protocol would run parallel with the original proof-of-work consensus mechanism and it has a variety of different benefits. In December 2018, Openbazaar and BCHD developer Chris Pacia explained how zero-confirmation transactions could be bolstered by Avalanche.

“Using Avalanche in Bitcoin Cash for miner coordination provides a very elegant, decentralized coordination mechanism that can potentially prevent miners from accepting double spend bribes and when combined with double spend notifications, make [zero-confirmation] transactions very secure,” Pacia said at the time. In February 2019, Pacia and fellow BCHD developers revealed that an “Avalanche proof of concept is officially running on mainnet.”

Snowglobe Specs Invoke Pre-Consensus Discussions

After Smith published the specs for Snowglobe, the BCH community who frequent the Reddit forum r/btc, seemed to like the concept. “Thank you for working on this, [it’s] one of the most exciting developments in crypto,” one person wrote. “Thanks, I agree,” Smith responded. “I think pre-consensus is one of the requirements we’ll face trying to scale to global cash,” he added. Smith also remarked that this was his first attempt at documenting the protocol and stressed that he’s been working on it for months. “There’s WIP code available as well but documentation on running a node and joining the testnet is still in progress,” Smith noted. “I’m also working on a paper that does an analysis of the system including performance data from the testnet running over the past couple of months.”

A couple of people asked Smith about possible attack vectors in regard to Snowglobe’s pre-consensus mechanisms and a few individuals debated Sybil attacks and Sybil-resistance theories. Smith also wrote that during the process he generated stake messages with the Electron Cash wallet “in a way that could be done offline.” “Great work Tyler,” Electron Cash developer Jonald Fyookball commented during the Snowglobe discussion.

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