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Avalanche

Last Updated: October 10, 2023

Avalanche is an open-source platform for launching decentralized finance applications and enterprise blockchain deployments in one interoperable, scalable ecosystem. Developers who build on Avalanche can create applications and custom blockchain networks with complex rulesets or build on existing private or public subnets.

Background

Avalanche was first conceptualized and shared on InterPlanetary File System (aka IPFS) in May 2018 by a pseudonymous group of enthusiasts named “Team Rocket.” Later it was developed by a dedicated team of researchers from Cornell University. The research was led by Emin Gün Sirer, a professor of computer science and software engineer, assisted by doctoral students Maofan “Ted” Yin and Kevin Sekniqi. Following the research stage, Ava Labs was founded to develop the network primarily to meet complex financial industry requirements. In March 2020, the AVA codebase for the Avalanche consensus protocol became open-source and available to the public.
In addition to meeting complex financial industry requirements, Avalanche targets three broad use cases:

  • Building application-specific blockchains, spanning permissioned (private) and permissionless (public) deployments.
  • Building and launching highly scalable and decentralized applications (Dapps).
  • Building arbitrarily complex digital assets with custom rules, covenants, and riders (smart assets).

Avalanche’s Initial Coin Offering ended on July 15, 2020, followed by the launch of mainnet in September of the same year. In September 2020, the protocol also issued the native token AVAX (an acronym for “Avalanche”). Ultimately, Avalanche is designed to be a high-performing, scalable, customizable, and secure blockchain platform

Consensus

Avalanche utilizes a DAG-optimized novel family of Proof-of-Stake consensus protocols collectively called Snow. The family consists of three components – Slush, Snowflake, and Snowball. Snowflake and Snowball are leaderless Byzantine fault tolerance (BFT) protocols built around Slush, a non-BFT metastable mechanism. Inspired by gossip algorithms, consensus gains its properties through the metastable mechanism whereby the system operates by repeatedly sampling the network at random and steering correct nodes towards a common outcome.

The metastable mechanism aims to quickly move a large network to an irreversible state, where the irreversibility implies that a sufficiently large portion of the network has accepted a proposal, and a conflicting proposal will not be accepted with any higher than negligible probability.

In simple terms, Avalanche’s consensus is leaderless by design. Transactions are verified by having nodes communicate with each other at random until a sufficiently large portion of them reach an agreement. A validator’s chance of being sampled is proportional to their AVAX stake. A validator will receive a staking reward if they are online and respond for more than 80% of their validation period, as measured by a majority of validators. The minimum amount that a validator must stake is 2,000 AVAX. Avalanche’s leaderless design allows it to waive slashing penalties, which can otherwise act as a deterrent to prospective stakers. Ultimately, this approach is aimed at maximizing its total validator set.

Technology

Avalanche is an open-source platform for launching decentralized finance applications and enterprise blockchain deployments in one interoperable, scalable ecosystem. Avalanche uses Proof-of-Stake, allowing validators to have a first-hand say in the system while consuming minimal energy. Avalanche is not a single chain network. It features multiple chains, with some performing core functions while others are more application-specific. All non-core Avalanche chains (called subnets) must rely on validators that stake AVAX on one of Avalanche’s central platforms. Validators must be a member of the Primary Network; all other subnets are optional. The Primary Network contains three blockchains:

  • Platform Chain (P-Chain)
  • Contract Chain (C-Chain)
  • Exchange Chain (X-Chain)

All three combine to provide the same capabilities of a single network. The X-Chain handles the creation of new digital assets and the exchange of tokens between the core blockchains and their various subnets. The C-Chain is an instance of Ethereum’s EVM, which allows for the creation and execution of Solidity-based applications. The last chain, known as the P-Chain, is the base staking platform that manages network validators and enables developers to create new subnets. Every validator must stake on the P-Chain and participate in securing Avalanche’s Primary Network.

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