Fundamental to different blockchain projects is the manner in which transactions are verified, or more technically speaking, how a “consensus” is achieved to ensure blockchain integrity.
Different consensus algorithms have evolved – and are still evolving – to support efficient blockchain scaling.
To better understand Delegated Proof of Stake, it’s best to grasp what it is intending to improve.
PROOF OF WORK
Proof of Work has been a fundamental consensus solution, which relies upon a network of “miners” to solve a cryptographic puzzle to form network consensus and by that receive compensation for their efforts. However, this method is energy inefficient, restricted in its potential scalability and is vulnerable to undue influence by limited entities, which is antithetical to the decentralized intention of blockchain.
PROOF OF STAKE
Proof of Stake evolved to solve the shortcomings inherent with Proof of Work. It is faster, more scaleable and consumes far less energy. It also doesn’t require special hardware, which further contributes to the intention for a democratization and decentralization of blockhain.
Instead of using miners, Proof of Stake reaches consensus by way of “validators” who stake a certain amount of their earnings to support the system in exchange for rewards. In this case, validators seek to be rewarded for their efforts as in Proof of Work, but the opportunity to achieve that compensation is more decentralized by virtue of the system randomly selecting validators for their support. However, validators can gain greater influence by way of wealth.
Hence, Proof of Stake has evolved to various flavors, and a common variant is called Delegated Proof-of-Stake.
DELEGATED PROOF OF STAKE
Delegated Proof-of-Stake builds upon the original Proof of Stake consensus mechanism and further increases speed and scalability.
Delegated proof of stake uses real-time voting combined with a social system of reputation to achieve consensus. It can be seen as the least centralized consensus protocol compared.
Daniel Larimer invented Delegated Proof of Stake to establish a consensus system that was much faster, used little energy and was more secure via greater decentralization. In this system, community participants (owners of the pertinent cryptocurrency) vote for Witnesses and Delegates to secure and validate their blockchain network.
Witnesses are those who actually do the work of validating the network and reaching consensus and the top witnesses are paid the most.
Due to the remuneration opportunity, there are many who desire to be Witnesses, as well as backup witnesses. Voting is a continuous process and each witness in the top tier is always at risk of being replaced by a user who gets more votes and is therefore considered more trusted.
Users in Delegated Proof of Stake systems also vote for a group of Delegates who oversee the governance and performance of the entire blockchain protocol, but do not play a role in transaction validation and block production.
A drawback of Delegated Proof of Stake is the potential for voter apathy, which, like a political system, could then evolve power into a more centralized system.