Can build a better blockchain by paying people to burn one down?
Beniamin Mincu, Transylvanian chief executive and founder of the Elrond Network, is in the midst of a 15-day campaign to do just that. Nearly two years after first revealing his “secure proof-of-stake” sharding protocol in a technical white paper, Mincu and Elrond’s now 24-person developer team will offer up to $60,000 to node-runners who can successfully wreak havoc upon their code.
Mincu’s goal with the so-called “Battle of the Nodes: Unchained” campaign is, of course, to have white hats expose every bug, attack vector, vulnerability and critical breakpoint on Elrond before unsanctioned hackers do so themselves. This testnet trial-by-fire will prove if the network is ready for mainnet launch, he said.
“When we have 15 days without interruption of the network despite this kind of attacks and stress testing, at that point we know Elrond is finally prepared and good – robust enough to go live,” Mincu told CoinDesk.
Elrond’s 15-day clock resets when the “interrupters” manage to take the network down. Nobody has yet: Elrond’s protocol has foiled three attacks so far. Underminers have nevertheless uncovered plenty of lower-level bugs worth fixing, and that’s enough to keep nodes in contention for a slice of the $60,000 plunder, paid out in the ERD token.
“We’re on a daily basis discovering some things that we can improve from the validators,” said Mincu. “We usually do one or two releases per day,” patching the bugs, clarity issues and other pain points that the battle’s 1,700 node participants dredge up.
But the effort is not just about the money and the bugs, Mincu said – it’s also a competition for mainnet validator slots. Some 34% of Elrond’s initial 1,500 nodes (500 for each sharding pool and an additional 500 for the metachain) will go in part to “trusted” parties who helped the hunt for flaws.
It also gives Elrond a chance to flex its network specs. By Tuesday, the blockchain – which has a “divide and conquer” consensus mechanism that randomly assigns validator work to members of the two sharding groups – was posting a peak transactions-per-second (TPS) rate of 712. Mincu claimed Elrond can handle 10,000 TPS at full tilt.
The 1,700 nodes far outstrips Mincu’s original projection of 700-800 participants when he announced the bug bounty battle with hardly a week’s notice. All those eager blockchain breakers are potential developers who can contribute to the project over time, Mincu said.
The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.