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Ecosystem Review: NEAR
We examine NEAR's technical framework, cross-chain composability, significant on-chain activity spurred by the recently launched KaiKai shopping app, and the transition towards a Blockchain Operating System (BOS) that seeks to transform Web3 accessibility.
November 7, 2023
5 min read
  • This is an excerpt from the Quarterly Insights Q3 2023 report. Find the full report, here.

This edition of the Ecosystem Review covers NEAR, which in technical terms, is a layer one, sharded, proof-of-stake blockchain, and in practical terms, targets to become the operating system (“OS”) for an open web.

Each transaction in the NEAR blockchain costs less then $0.01 and blocks are finalized in only 2 seconds, placing the protocol in the group of fast and cheap blockchains. The decision to dive deeper into Near this quarter is based on the attention it’s getting from the announcement of Blockchain Operating System and other apparently successful initiatives for expansion of the ecosystem, which have been reflecting in increased on-chain activity (Fig 1), despite the current market scenario.

Before revealing the main actor behind the spike in network activity, this article will review the protocol’s technical architecture, the staking and economics parameters and other relevant aspects, like cross-chain composability.

For the new and old fans of NEAR, the community is meeting up in person in the upcoming NEARCON, a 4-day event to take place in Lisbon in November.

Fig 1: Ecosystems Comparison - Number of Daily Transactions. Source:

The NEAR protocol is a proof-of-stake network which means that Sybil resistance is done by staking the native token, also called NEAR or Ⓝ. The time is measured in epochs. An epoch is made of 43,200 blocks. Ideally an epoch lasts about 12 hours, but in practice it lasts longer than that, since average block time is currently around 1.11 seconds according to - the official block explorer.

NEAR is a layer one blockchain. Because of its sharded architecture, a block in NEAR includes one chunk for each shard, and the chunks respectively  include the transactions executed for its associated shard. In terms of network participants, the block producer is a heavy duty, since it requires participants to store the full ledger (aka full node) for all chunks. In order to scale and decentralize the set of operators, the protocol is designed to allow a lighter type of node in addition to the block proposer, called chunk-only producer, who creates blocks for single chunks.

NEAR features a runtime layer to execute code, and supports the deployment of applications, a.k.a smart contracts. Smart contracts are written in either JavaScript or Rust, and the NEAR SDK compiles the contracts into WebAssembly (WASM). The NEAR runtime uses the concept of Gas to unify the cost of execution and bandwidth. Each WASM instruction or pre-compiled function gets assigned a gas fee  based on measurements on a common-denominator computer. Same goes for weighting the used bandwidth based on general unified costs.

Gas is priced dynamically for each block, and adjusted based on the consumption of the limit in the previous block. When a smart contract wants to store some data, storage cost is computed, and the appropriate amount of NEAR tokens is “locked” on the account. When data is removed, tokens are unlocked. Unlike gas, these tokens are locked in the smart contract’s account, so the user doesn’t directly pay for it. 30% of gas fees users spend on a particular application will go to the contract’s account, generating revenue for the deployer via usage.An interesting aspect of the NEAR protocol lies in the accounts system: it natively supports account abstraction, which means that instead of identifying users by their public/private key pairs, it defines accounts as first-class entities. The implications in usability, are:

  • users can use readable account names, ex: `chorusone.near`
  • multiple key pairs with different permissions can be associated to a single account
  • hierarchical accounts structure used to manage multiple smart contracts under one parent account - since each account holds only one smart contract
  • accounts/public keys are created using transactions, they are stored and can be found querying the ledger.

A complete overview of the technicalities of the Protocol can be found in

Cross-chain Composability

As stated previously, NEAR has its own runtime, which is not compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine. However, using a Layer-2 like approach developers can deploy Ethereum-compatible applications to NEAR, and leverage its lower cost and higher throughput platform. It is the case of the Aurora project, an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) built on top of the NEAR Protocol. The most popular tools built for EVM development are also available to be used on Aurora.Also adding to interoperability, the Rainbow Bridge plays an important role as it allows transferring assets between the Ethereum Blockchain and NEAR. The Rainbow Bridge protocol is a trustless, permissionless protocol for connecting blockchains, developed in-house, by the NEAR team.

The core idea behind it is to implement an Ethereum light client in Rust as a NEAR contract, and a NEAR light client in Solidity as an Ethereum contract. Trust assumptions are minimized using this protocol, as anyone can deploy your own instance as a smart contract. This can facilitate simple (e.g. a canonical token migration) and complex interactions between NEAR and ETH, for example, allowing ETH holders holding a given token to vote in your DAO on NEAR.


In contrast to other ecosystems, the NEAR blockchain was able to keep up a relatively high level of daily transactions over the past year, despite the dramatic slow down the whole crypto space has seen. Activity metrics have spiked at a daily 1M transactions in August 2023, leaving behind previous heights of approximately 500k daily transactions (Fig 2).

Fig 2: Number of daily transactions executed by the NEAR Blockchain. Source:

Leveraging NEAR account system, and Flipside Crypto to plot the top accounts by number of transactions shown in Fig 3, the main driver of the increased activity can be spotted: the accounts and tokens related to Kai-Ching, or $KAIC, the token of KaiKai, a Singapore-based shopping app:

Fig 3: Top accounts by number of transactions per month since January ‘23. Source:

KaiKai is an application built by Cosmose, a nine-year-old company targeting the use of artificial intelligence to improve off-line shopping with ultra precise recommendations and advertising. Cosmose was featured in the list of the 100 world’s most promising private AI companies in 2022. With a team distributed across Warsaw, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Paris, the company recently raised an undisclosed amount at a $500 million valuation, up from $100 million when it closed its $15 million Series A financing in 2020. The Near Foundation has made a strategic investment in Cosmose, announced in April '23, according to

Fig 4 illustrates the relevance of KAIKAI-related transactions in the ecosystem, in contrast with overall transaction volume.

Fig 4: KAIKAI related transactions in contrast to other transactions. Source:

KAIKAI uses AI to curate and personalize vendors’ offers and partnerships. In contrast with the conventional e-commerce, users shop online through the app but pick it up in person. With every purchase, users are rewarded with the $KAIC as cashback that never expires. The token is also used in the app to facilitate refunds, but at this point, it can not be traded anywhere, nor exchanged for Fiat.

This year, the Foundation also launched Near Horizon, a social platform to connect everyone involved in the ecosystem: builders, contributors and backers can create a profile to share and discuss ideas, hire members to the team, apply for funding etc. This came shortly after NEAR announced its transition to a Blockchain Operating System (BOS), an initiative to establish NEAR as the entry point into the decentralized internet - the Web3. BOS is designed to effortlessly create and distribute decentralized apps on any blockchain, not only on NEAR. BOS is focused on accessibility.

You can use javascript, the most popular programming language (according to to create, fork and reuse components already published by other users; connect with a NEAR account to retrieve owned components; and deploy and host naturally open source apps on-chain. Not only adding value to the ecosystem, BOS seems like a good progress to the onboarding of developers to Web3.

Staking and Economics

At the time of writing, the project was valued at more than $1 Billion (source: ) and the NEAR token was traded at $1.04, not far from its launch price in October 2020 - see Fig 5. The Proof of Stake network is run by 213 nodes and secured by 604.9M of staked NEAR, equivalent to $630M, or 60% of the total token supply. Judging by the list of nodes, most of them are managed by professional infrastructure providers, and are distributed globally. The largest validator concentrates 7.8% of voting power and the super minority is formed by only the top 8 validators.

Fig 5: $NEAR token price history since launch. Source:

The annual inflation rate is 5% and the staking APR is 7% according to Staking Rewards. The inflation is distributed to stakers every epoch in the form of block rewards. The protocol supports staking delegation, which means that token holders can natively and securely stake their tokens with node operators they trust. During each epoch, validators’ voting power in the network remains constant. Changes to stake amounts are processed at the beginning of the next epochs, e.g. it takes a maximum of 12 hours to start participating in rewards after delegating NEAR. The unbonding period is also comparatively short: upon unstaking, users receive their tokens after 3 full epochs (36-48 hours). Follow the full staking guide in this link to learn how to create and fund a NEAR account, stake your tokens and withdraw rewards.

About Chorus One

Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 45+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures.

Why is data availability important, and how is Celestia addressing this?
We explore how Celestia - the first modular blockchain network - addresses and optimizes the data availability issue.
November 6, 2023
5 min read

Celestia is the first modular blockchain network that is optimized for ordering transaction data and making it available. It solves the scalability problem of a blockchain without sacrificing decentralization and accomplishes this by separating execution from consensus and addressing data availability challenges through a technology called data availability sampling. In this article, we explore why data availability is crucial, and how Celestia addresses this. (If you're new to Celestia, we've got you covered with a quick rundown of the network in a previous article.)

Before diving into the importance of data availability, it might be helpful to have a little refresher on the basics of how most blockchains work.

Blockchains offer a range of fundamental functions that make them versatile for various applications. These functions are:

Execution: Handling transaction execution and state updates.

Consensus: Establishing agreement on transactions and their order.

Settlement: Resolving disputes and facilitating cross-chain connections.

Data Availability: Proving the publication of  transactions on the network.

Monolithic blockchains, like Ethereum or Solana, which encompass all these functions in the same chain have been the dominant model in the blockchain space. However, the widespread adoption of these systems have raised concerns about the lack of specialization and high gas fees during peak usage, as seen with Ethereum,  impacting both current and potential users. This issue underscores the need for more scalable, specialized and efficient solutions.

This is where Modular blockchains like Celestia enter.

Unlike other monolithic blockchains, Celestia decouples the data availability layer from the execution layer and focuses only on ordering transactions and their data availability,  i.e, they solely work on proving that transactions are published on the network and are available for everyone to see. The execution and settlement of transactions are left to the respective rollup. (As a permissionless network, Celestia uses Proof-of-Stake to secure its own consensus. Like any other Cosmos network, users can help secure the network by delegating their TIA to a validator like Chorus One.)

But why is data availability important?

When you make a transaction, it needs to be confirmed and added to the blockchain for everyone to see. Once the transaction is confirmed, it's put into a "mempool" where it waits for its turn to be added to the blockchain. The full nodes then download this new block, execute/compute every transaction included within this block (including yours), and make sure they are all valid. They check things like whether you have the money you're trying to send and that you're not doing anything sneaky. Full nodes therefore perform the important task of enforcing the blockchain’s rules on validators. This is where things get tricky.

Since full nodes check every transaction to verify they follow the rules of the blockchain, blockchains cannot process more transactions per second without increasing the hardware requirements of running a full node (better hardware = more powerful full nodes = full nodes can check more transactions = bigger blocks containing more transactions are allowed). But if the hardware requirements of running full nodes increased, there would be fewer full nodes and decentralization would suffer because not many people can afford to run them, and that's bad for the blockchain's security. See, the more full nodes we have, the safer the blockchain is because it would make the network more decentralized if the voting powers were well distributed. If there are only a few, we'd have to trust them a lot more, and that's risky because it's more centralized.

Now, here's where ‘data availability’ comes in. It's like making sure the information in the transactions is available for everyone to check. If the people adding new blocks to the blockchain don't share this info in the first place, it's a problem. Full nodes can't do their job of checking things, and we'd have to trust the block creators more. So, data availability is all about keeping things open and transparent to maintain trust and security in the blockchain. It's a key part of how blockchains work and stay safe.

Circling back - How does Celestia address data availability?

Celestia's primary focus on data availability (DA) enables any rollup to utilize it to solve the data availability issue, while still maintaining its independent execution environment. Due to its modular nature, any language or virtual machine can be used to build on top of Celestia.

Celestia solves the issue by using a technology called ‘data availability sampling’ - a mechanism that allows light nodes to verify data without needing to download the entire block data. Essentially, light nodes perform multiple rounds of random sampling on small portions of block data. As they conduct more rounds of sampling, their confidence in the data's availability progressively grows until it meets a specified threshold. Once this threshold is reached, the block data is considered available and valid.

The key advantage is that as more light nodes participate in this sampling process, the network's capacity to handle data increases. This, in turn, permits the scaling of block sizes without a corresponding increase in the cost of verifying the blockchain. In essence, it's akin to having a larger number of independent verifiers cross-checking the blockchain's integrity,which makes the whole system better and faster.

Staking TIA with Chorus One

As a permissionless network, Celestia uses Proof-of-Stake to secure its own consensus. Like any other Cosmos network, users can help secure the network by delegating their TIA to a validator like Chorus One. Check out our guide to stake your TIA with Chorus One using the Keplr wallet.

Key information

Wrapping Up

Celestia is a modular network that makes it easy for builders to launch their own blockchain by focusing solely on data availability. It allows developers to easily deploy blockchains on top of Celestia, as easy as deploying smart contracts. This accessibility empowers individuals to create their own unique rollups and blockchains, serving a multitude of purposes and ensuring scalability for a broader audience. Celestia keeps decentralization top of mind with their architecture, design choices and innovations. In addition, it significantly reduces the cost for builders to deploy their own blockchain while accelerating execution layer research and creativity. We’re excited to watch their ecosystem launch and grow in 2023 and beyond!


Understand everything you need to know about Celestia in 10 questions

Stake TIA with Chorus One

Check out their ecosystem

Check out Celestia’s docs to start building on Celestia

About Chorus One

Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 45+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures.

Understanding Celestia in 10 questions
We explore Celestia - the first modular network and the essential aspects of its design - in 10 questions!
October 31, 2023
5 min read

Celestia is the first modular blockchain network that is optimized for ordering transaction data and making it available. It solves the scalability problem of a blockchain without sacrificing decentralization, and accomplishes this by separating execution from consensus and addressing data availability challenges through a technology called data availability sampling.

To simplify Celestia's purpose and the essential aspects of its modular design, our Research Expert, Kam Benbrik, delves into the topic by answering ten crucial questions. Dive in below!

  1. What exactly is the core concept of a modular blockchain, and how does it differ from traditional monolithic blockchains?

In a monolithic blockchain, tasks are concentrated within a single stack, where nodes handle four core functions, including consensus, data availability, settlement and execution.

On the other hand, modular blockchains specialize by delegating tasks to separate layers, forming part of a broader "modular stack" for customized objectives. This modular approach enhances scalability and offers developers more control and  sovereignty to tailor their execution environments to their project's needs.

  1. How does Celestia address the data availability issue within the blockchain space?

Celestia's data availability layer introduces innovative features like data availability sampling (DAS) and Namespaced Merkle trees (NMTs). DAS allows light nodes to verify data without downloading entire blocks, reducing costs compared to monolithic chains, while NMTs enable execution and settlement layers on Celestia to download transactions that are only relevant to them. Celestia offers its data availability layer to other chains for publishing data by paying for blobspace. Backed by Tendermint Consensus and a sovereign validator set, Celestia ensures further scalability and decentralization of the network.

  1. Can you provide specific examples of challenges that monolithic blockchains face regarding data availability and how Celestia overcomes these challenges?

A significant challenge that monolithic blockchains, like Ethereum, face in terms of data availability is the high cost of publishing data. For instance, Arbitrum One pays approximately $112,000 per day to Ethereum for its data availability requirements, translating to an average cost of $0.15 per transaction. In contrast, Celestia offers a cost-effective solution for publishing data. It provides an alternative security model and economic advantage by allowing costs to scale with the number of nodes, avoiding the capacity limitations of Ethereum. This makes Celestia an appealing option for both data availability and serving as a foundational layer within an ecosystem.

  1. What role does data availability sampling (DAS) play in Celestia's technology, and how does it benefit users and validators?

Data availability sampling  allows light nodes to confirm data availability without the need to download an entire block, resulting in efficient and cost-effective verification of large blocks. It works by randomly selecting portions of a block for users to download and check, ensuring that data is available with a high level of confidence. This approach not only reduces the resource requirements. However, The number of light nodes needed also depends on the block size, larger blocks require more light nodes. One important assumption is that light nodes should be connected to at least one honest full node for DAS to work effectively

  1. How does Celestia ensure decentralization?

Celestia ensures decentralization through its permissionless Proof-of-Stake structure using the Cosmos SDK and Tendermint consensus.. Much like other networks within the Cosmos ecosystem, Celestia allows users to actively participate in securing the network by delegating their tokens (TIA) to validators, such as Chorus One. This PoS mechanism empowers users to play a crucial role in the network's security, governance decisions and decentralization, making it a collaborative and community-driven ecosystem.

  1. In what ways does Celestia leverage its modular structure to enhance scalability compared to monolithic blockchains?

Celestia's modular design makes it easier for users to confirm that all the data in a block is available without downloading the entire block. Instead, it uses a technique called data availability sampling, where light nodes only check small, random parts of the block. This way, it's much more efficient than traditional monolithic blockchains where everyone has to download the entire block. The more nodes do this sampling, the better the network can handle data, leading to faster and more secure data verification. This approach improves scalability compared to monolithic blockchains.

  1. What are some practical applications or use cases where Celestia's approach to data availability stands out?

Two standout applications that utilize Celestia's data availability layer include:

  1. Eclipse: Eclipse Mainnet, a speedy Ethereum Layer 2 solution, uses Celestia as its data availability layer. It combines Ethereum for settlement, the Solana Virtual Machine (SVM) for execution, and Celestia for scalable data availability. This ensures fast and efficient transaction processing, making Eclipse an attractive choice for users looking for high-performance Layer 2 solutions.
  1. Astria: Astria replaces centralized sequencers with a decentralized network, allowing multiple rollups to share a single network of sequencers. This shared network ensures censorship resistance, fast block confirmations, and cross-rollup composability. By incorporating Celestia for data availability, the Astria EVM overcomes scalability and decentralization limitations, providing a robust solution for various applications.

8. What are the complexities of modular blockchains like Celestia, and what developments or improvements can we anticipate in the near future?

Modular blockchains like Celestia come with added complexity due to the need for advanced mechanisms such as data availability sampling and fraud proofs to ensure the security of the network. These complexities are essential for maintaining the flexibility and scalability that modular blockchains offer. Additionally, the success of Celestia and similar projects depends on attracting projects and rollups to build on top of them.

9. What is the role of $TIA, Celestia’s native token?

The native token of Celestia, known as TIA, plays a multifaceted role within the ecosystem.

Staking: Firstly, TIA is used for staking, allowing users to actively participate in securing the network through delegation to validators like Chorus One. This proof-of-stake (PoS) mechanism enhances network security and decentralization, fostering a collaborative and community-driven environment.

Governance: Secondly, TIA is utilized for governance purposes, enabling users to create, engage in, and vote on proposals that shape network design and functionality.

Paying for blobspace:  Lastly, Layer 1 and Layer 2 networks can use TIA to pay for Celestia blockspace, facilitating the publication of their data on Celestia's data availability layer. This comprehensive utility makes TIA a vital component of the Celestia ecosystem. (For detailed information, refer to

10. What is the difference between sovereign roll ups and smart contract roll ups?

Sovereign rollups, such as those on Celestia, differ from smart contract rollups like Ethereum in how they handle settlement and their relationship with the underlying blockchain. Smart contract rollups post their blocks to Ethereum through an enshrined smart contract, effectively creating a bridge between the rollup and Ethereum. Ethereum acts as a 'baby chain' for the rollup, and the bridge contract interprets and processes the rollup's data. In contrast, sovereign rollups, like those on Celestia, directly submit their blocks as raw data to the chain without relying on smart contracts. The Celestia consensus and data availability layer don't interpret rollup data, and the rollup's blocks are independently managed by its nodes. This approach provides autonomy to rollup chains, and they determine their canonical chain without a bridge to the settlement layer, allowing for greater flexibility and independence.

Wrapping Up

Celestia is a modular network that makes it easy for builders to launch their own blockchain by focusing solely on data availability and allows developers to easily deploy blockchains on top of Celestia, as easily as deploying smart contracts.

Users can get involved with TIA by securing the network through delegation to validators like Chorus One and enhancing the collaborative and community-driven environment of the network. Check out our comprehensive guide on how you can stake your TIA with Chorus One!

About Chorus One

Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 45+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures.

Network 101: A comprehensive guide to dYdX v4
dYdX v4 has arrived - Here's Your Complete Guide to the Chain
October 25, 2023
5 min read

After rigorous testing and numerous iterations, dYdX is soon making its transformational shift to the Cosmos ecosystem, unveiling its fourth and latest version as a standalone blockchain known as dYdX Chain, built using the Cosmos SDK. We’re proud to be joining the network as a genesis validator, enabling staking for dYdX's token, DYDX.

Since its inception, dYdX has been instrumental in facilitating over $1 billion in daily trading volume, achieving a remarkable milestone by surpassing $1 trillion in total trading volume through smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. Looking ahead, the exchange will implement a unique off-chain, in-memory order book trading system that will be overseen by a network of validators.

This article delves deeper into what this entails for stakers and offers insights into the workings of dYdX v4.

Part 1: The dYdX Chain
The evolution of dYdX

dYdX stands out as the leading decentralized exchange (DEX), specializing in the trading of derivative products known as "perpetuals." Perpetuals allow users to take leveraged long or short positions on crypto assets. In contrast to Uniswap and other DEXs, dYdX distinguishes itself by not relying on an automated market maker (AMM) to facilitate trading. Instead, it employs a traditional orderbook and matching model to cater to the needs and expectations of sophisticated traders and institutions. We've explored the key distinctions between AMMs and order book trading here.

In its initial launch in 2017, dYdX was introduced as an Ethereum Layer 1 application. However, the chain's limited scalability became evident, with users facing exorbitant gas fees for even simple trades.

To enhance scalability, dYdX transitioned to an Ethereum-based Layer 2 solution employing StarkX/StarkNet technology. This shift significantly reduced gas fees, vastly improving the user experience. Yet, it led to a higher degree of centralization within dYdX.

To address this centralization concern and advance decentralization, dYdX made the strategic choice to transition to its blockchain, built using the Cosmos SDK. This imminent transition, on the verge of completion and soon to go live, represents the DEX’s fourth and latest version, known as the dYdX Chain and will feature a decentralized, off-chain order book capable of seamlessly scaling with the platform’s growth.

As part of the Cosmos ecosystem, dYdX stands to gain the full advantage of decentralization, along with an array of unique features such as extensive customizability and scalability. We’ve delved into the specific reasons behind dYdX’s choice of Cosmos in the following section.

Why did dYdX choose Cosmos?

dYdX's decision to migrate from Ethereum to Cosmos stems from a strategic choice to utilize the unique capabilities of Cosmos technology, which offers a distinct advantage in building new layer-1 blockchains. Cosmos' Tendermint proof-of-stake consensus engine provides the foundation to develop a standalone, application specific blockchain with cross-chain capabilities, and makes it possible to fully customize how the chain functions.

Unlike Ethereum, where network congestion can be a concern, Cosmos’ app-specific chains function independently, and each Cosmos chain operates with its network of validators and token. This move permits blockchains to have faster transaction processing while maintaining decentralization, thus positioning Cosmos as the ideal choice for dYdX’s requirements, which demand high throughput - roughly, 10 operations per second and 1,000 orders/cancellations per second. Currently, Cosmos can process up to 10,000 transactions per second, or TPS, compared to Ethereum's 15-25 TPS.

A recent twitter thread by dYdX succinctly described the key separators between Layer 2s/Roll ups and standalone app-chains, and reiterated their decision to choose the latter. Read it here.

How will dYdX work on Cosmos?

While on-chain orderbook DEXs offers a high level of transparency and decentralization, it comes at the cost of potentially higher transaction fees and slower transaction speeds. With each transaction requiring on-chain validation, the underlying network’s throughput can become a bottleneck, thus affecting the overall network efficiency.

In contrast, on dYdX v4, each validator will maintain an off-chain in-memory order book. When a new order is placed, it is initially routed to a validator that is randomly chosen. Subsequently, this validator disseminates the transaction to other validators to ensure the order book remains up to date. This alleviates the pressure on the network, allowing the chain to achieve significantly higher throughput for the order book while retaining decentralization.

The transaction flow roughly looks this -

Source: dYdX
Key Features of dYdX v4:
  1. Off-Chain, Decentralized Order Book Trading: As mentioned previously, dYdX v4 introduces an off-chain in-memory order book, mitigating potential throughput bottlenecks common in on-chain order book DEXs. This design significantly enhances order book throughput while preserving decentralization.
  2. Unparalleled Transaction Speed: dYdX v4 leverages Cosmos’ 10,000 TPS capacity to process a significantly larger volume of transactions.
  3. No Gas Fees: The chain's customizability means traders will no longer incur gas fees for trading; instead, they will pay fees based on executed trades, similar to dYdX v3 or other centralized exchanges. These fees are accrued to validators and their stakers.
  4. The Token DYDX: dYdX v4 will be powered by its token, DYDX. This token serves multiple purposes, including staking and governance of the chain.
  5. Open-Source: All dYdX v4 code is open source, running on permissionless networks, and no services will be operated by dYdX Trading Inc., which empowers the dYdX community to maintain a vertically integrated approach, with protocol token holders exercising full control over the system.
  6. Highly Secure: In order to ensure the highest level of security for the dYdX Chain, it has undergone extensive testing and code auditing by Informal Systems to guarantee that user funds always remain safe.

dYdX Tokenomics
Source: dYdX

Total supply: 1,000,000,000 DYDX tokens

50% of tokens go to the dYdX community which will comprise liquidity providers, traders, stakeholders, and users who complete trading milestones. A portion of this share goes to the community treasury.

27.73% of the tokens go to investors.

15.27% of tokens are allocated to the official team members of dYdX including founders, advisors, employees, and others.

7% of the tokens are reserved for consultants and employees who will join the platform in the future.

Chorus One’s extensive involvement with dYdX

We’ve had extensive involvement with dydX v4 since inception as well as the Cosmos ecosystem in general. We received a grant from dYdX to write an in-depth research report (available here) that examines the implications of Maximum Extractable Value (MEV) within the context of dYdX v4 from a validator's perspective. Additionally, we were on all three testnets and actively contributed through debugging and sharing validator best practices.

dYdX occupies a unique position as a decentralized solution that directly competes with centralized exchanges in terms of its order book model, trading volume, and user experience aligns with our vision for the future of decentralized finance. Furthermore, we share dYdX's philosophy of prioritizing the creation of the best possible product, making our support for their forward-looking vision a natural choice.

Part 2: Why should you stake DYDX with Chorus One

  1. No one understands the Cosmos ecosystem like we do

Chorus One has been more than just a player in the Cosmos space. With our $30M venture arm, Chorus Ventures, we have actively invested in promising projects such as Celestia, Osmosis, Agoric and more, which keeps us well-connected to the ecosystem. We're also deeply engaged with the community, publish research reports, and extensively cover Cosmos in our blog.

  1. No one understands MEV like we do

Chorus One is the only node operator with a dedicated in-house quant team focussing on MEV. MEV refers to the maximum value that can be extracted from block production in excess of the standard block reward and gas fees by including, excluding, and changing the order of transactions in a block.

Because of our MEV expertise, we were provided a grant by dYdX to work on a research paper that goes into the territories of cross-chain arbitrage and also explores the subject of negating MEV externalities in a fully decentralized, validator-driven order book.

The report entails comprehensive insights on MEV’s impact on the new chain and trading, cross-chain MEV opportunities, user welfare, and centralization risks, ultimately providing practical solutions for mitigating validator-driven MEV risks. Read the report here.

  1. The most active Node Operator when it comes to Governance

Chorus One is the most active node operator on Cosmos where on-chain governance is enabled.

We have published a detailed research report last year on Cosmos’ governance, which elaborates on Cosmos’ validator participation, voting trends, controversial proposals, and why Chorus One is one of the most active node operators in the Cosmos ecosystem.

In the report, we conducted a governance performance comparison against the top 5 validators by stake on 13 chains from April 2022 to November 2022, which includes Akash, Axelar, Cosmos Hub, Evmos, injective, Juno, Kava, Osmosis, Persistence, Regen, Secret, Sommelier, Stargaze.

As illustrated in the chart below, our voting activity exceeded that of the average top 5 validators by 30%. However, it's crucial to note that the top 5 validators can vary significantly on each chain.

Out of the 13 networks studied, we achieved a 100% voting record in two networks, and in one network, Kava, we surpassed the average by approximately 90%, as demonstrated in the graph below.  We consistently exceeded the average participation rates of the Top 5 validators on 11 out of 13 networks

Staking DYDX with Chorus One: Key Information

*Since DYDX inflation goes to traders, dYdX stakers, in contrast, will receive 100% of the trading fees that are paid out in USDC.

To learn more about staking DYDX with Chorus One, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at For any support queries, visit here.

About Chorus One
Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 45+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures.

Chorus One Achieves ISO 27001:2022 Certification, Setting a Major Security Milestone
Chorus One has achieved the ISO 27001:2022 certification - a world-class standard dedicated to safeguarding vital information assets, including employee and customer data.
October 23, 2023
5 min read

Ensuring the security of our customers' assets and information has always been our foremost priority at Chorus One. Today, we are excited to announce a significant milestone in our ongoing commitment to establishing world-class security measures for our customers: the attainment of the ISO 27001:2022 certification.

Understanding ISO 27001 and Its Significance for Sophisticated Investors

The ISO 27001 certification is a globally recognized standard designed to safeguard critical information assets, including employee and customer data. More precisely, ISO 27001 outlines specific requirements for the creation, maintenance, and continual improvement of an Information Security Management System (ISMS).

As a customer, when you entrust a third party like Chorus One with your data, it's imperative that they are not only certified but also compliant with the ISO 27001 standard. This certification ensures that the provider's processes and data controls undergo regular and independent audits, providing you with the highest level of assurance that your information will remain safeguarded.

Given the escalating prevalence of cybercrime and the constant emergence of new threats in the industry, managing cyber-risks can appear daunting. By prioritizing information security and business continuity, we aim to offer our users the peace of mind that their investments are secure, even in the face of adversity. With this certification, we're better prepared than ever to offer our customers the safest way to earn returns on digital assets through simplified staking.

The Benefits of Choosing an ISO 27001 Certified Staking Provider
  • Quality Assurance: ISO 27001 certification assures customers of high-quality security measures.
  • Prevents Downtime: Ensures that our operations run smoothly without disruption.
  • Reduces Security Vulnerabilities: Diminishes potential weaknesses and security loopholes.
  • Minimizes Human Errors: Reducing the likelihood of human-related mistakes.
  • Avoidance and Mitigation of Damages: Rapid response and recovery in case of security breaches.
  • Lower Risk of Cyber Attacks: Enhanced protection against online threats.
"Attaining the ISO 27001 Certification represents a significant milestone in Chorus One's commitment to building trust with our partners. It offers the highest assurance that our staking infrastructure, operations, and systems adhere to world-class security standards. While not a mandatory requirement, we have chosen to obtain this certification as a testament to how seriously we take the security of our customers." - Brian Fabian Crain, CEO, Chorus One

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of Chorus One's security framework and practices, visit our dedicated security page.

If you'd like to learn more about how we provide the safest and easiest means to maximize yields on your assets, don't hesitate to reach out to us at

About Chorus One

Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 45+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures.

Core Research
A Deep-Dive into Saga
We take an in-depth look at Saga, a protocol that lets you create your own dedicated blockspace in minutes
September 5, 2023
5 min read

Web3 founders face a crucial decision when deciding to launch their product. If they want to avoid the layer 2 option due to concerns surrounding centralized sequencers and multisig bridges, they must choose between two main paths: developing their product as a smart contract and deploying it on an existing Layer 1 blockchain, or taking the ambitious route of creating their own blockchain from scratch. The former option comes with different advantages, notably removing the complexities of infrastructure management, ensuring a decentralized foundation, and leveraging the network effect inherent in the underlying blockchain.

Yet, opting for a smart contract deployment is not without tradeoffs. It leads to a competition for block space, resulting in a worse user experience characterized by inflated gas costs and transaction fees, coupled with an impact on transaction executions. The immutability of smart contracts can also be restrictive, offering little flexibility for the protocol in the case of critical bugs or hacks. The smart contract approach also lacks sovereignty, as the protocol will be subject to the rules of the hosting blockchain.

One solution that has gained popularity in the last two years to address the challenges of the smart contract approach is the appchain thesis, which was pioneered by Cosmos and followed by Polkadot. The idea behind this model is to build a dedicated blockchain for one application. Compared to the smart-contract solution, this model offers sovereignty and full customizability from the blockchain to the application. It also enhances performance and scalability since the application has its own blockspace. This leads to increased opportunities for the token to capture value, such as MEV, as Osmosis does, in addition to capturing other network fees.

Certainly, this solution involves several important factors to consider. It requires the management of the chain's infrastructure, ensuring its own security, attracting validators, and designing a tokenomics model that aligns the interests of validators, stakers, and app users.

What if we could easily launch an application, similar to deploying a smart contract, and gain the benefits of an appchain, all without any initial investment or extensive effort? This is exactly what Saga's value proposition is about.

Saga’s value proposition and architecture

The Saga protocol functions like application-specific blockchains as a service. In other words, Saga is a blockchain used to easily launch other blockchains, called “Chainlets” in the Saga ecosystem. Chainlets are secured by the Saga blockchain and its validators through a mechanism called Interchain Security, a well-known shared-security system in Cosmos.

Interchain security means that one blockchain, in this case Saga, acts as a provider of security for other blockchains, in this case the Chainlets. As a result, the Chainlets inherit the benefits of running a Cosmos SDK appchain but outsource their block validation and validator set to Saga.

Therefore, a Chainlet is a sovereign blockchain that has the same level of security and decentralization as Saga.

Saga introduces an easy, decentralized, and secure approach to deploying application-specific blockchains. This solution also grants developers the autonomy to choose their preferred Virtual Machine (VM), with initial support for the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

In the long run, Chainlets aims to be VM agnostic, which means that developers would have the flexibility to choose from a variety of virtual machines, including the EVM, CosmWasm, or the Javascript VM for example.

Different examples of Chainlets

How to launch its own Chainlet?

The way Chainlets are created differs slightly from what we can observe on the Cosmos Hub when launching consumer chains with Replicated Security. In contrast to the Cosmos Hub, the launch of a Chainlet with Saga is entirely permissionless.

Developers only need to have SAGA tokens to pay for setting up and maintaining their Chainlet. This is similar to services offered by Amazon Web Services and other SaaS platforms, except that here the subscription fee is paid in SAGA tokens to create and maintain a Chainlet.

This means that once the fee is paid, the role of Saga validators is to set up and run the infrastructure for a Chainlet, similar to how Cosmos Hub validators also operate the infrastructure of the consumer chains.

To launch a Chainlet, a developer is required to allocate funds to an escrow account using SAGA tokens. This escrow account can be pre-funded to any desired amount and works like a prepaid service to cover the costs associated with the Chainlet. If the deposited fee is depleted, the Chainlet goes offline until the developer deposits more SAGA in the account. The fee is determined per epoch, where one epoch lasts approximately one day.

Diverse methods could be used for funding the escrow account with SAGA tokens:

  1. Directly fund the account with SAGA tokens
  2. Stake SAGA with the escrow account to cover the fee through staking rewards
  3. Allow sponsors, communities and DAOs to pay the fee
  4. Implement an IBC mechanism to seamlessly convert any crypto into SAGA and pay for the fee

This subscription fee is determined by the Saga validator set. Before the start of a new epoch, each Saga validator submits the fee they would like to receive for running a Chainlet. These bids are then locked before the start of the next epoch, and a Musical Chair Auction begins.

The Musical Chair Auction is a process that aims to establish a universal price for running a Chainlet. In this context, each validator presents their bid, and only the w validators with the lowest prices are included in the 'Winning Set'. The remaining validators with higher bids constitute the 'Losing Set'.

The final cost of running a Chainlet is determined by the highest bid within the Winning Set. This implies that the validator with the highest bid in the Winning Set gets its desired price, while other validators within the Winning Set not only secure their desired price but also receive an additional margin on their bid.

The price that developers will have to pay for Saga validators to run a Chainlet is:

Pricerun chainlet = max(BidWinning Set )Number ValidatorsSaga  

To prevent collusion or Sybil attacks related to the Winning and Losing Set, the count of validators within this set must be large enough to make controlling the Winning Set challenging. According to the Saga team, this number should range between 75% and 85% of the participants in the Musical Chair Auction.

However, the Musical Chair Auction is not riskless for a validator. In fact, the mechanism is designed to incentivize validators to submit bids as low as possible, rewarding validators within the Winning Set, while penalizing those in the Losing Set.

A possible way for the team to handle punishment is to treat it like validator downtime: validators who are down for a certain period get a minor slash and are jailed (removed from the active set). Validators who lose the auction too often in a given period could also be minorly slashed and jailed.

Hence, the SAGA token has multiple use cases: it is used as a subscription fee to keep the Chainlet alive and to reward the validators for running the infrastructure. In this case, there is a 1:1 relationship between costs and revenues with the auction system. We can also think about having pools of validators that share the cost, with validators only running some Chainlets and not others, to improve scalability.

Saga and its Chainlets introduce an interesting token structure, as gas fees are not explicitly collected from end users. Within a Chainlet, gas fees can be paid using Saga, the developer’s own Chainlet token, no tokens at all (gasless transactions), or even other tokens such as ETH or USDC.

It's worth noting that gas fees generated within a specific Chainlet are directed to a wallet managed by the developer. This confers a high degree of flexibility to the Chainlet and its team in determining their preferred monetization approach.

Consequently, with Chainlets, developers benefit from predictable and low costs, an easy process for deploying their blockchains, and the capacity to horizontally scale applications. While Chainlets inherit security from Saga, there exists a method for a Chainlet to also leverage and inherit Ethereum's security using the Saga stack. Let’s delve into this aspect in the following section.

Zoom on a specific type of Chainlets: Ethlets

Saga Ethlet is a new Ethereum scaling solution that combines the best attributes from appchains, rollups, and validiums into a single product. Launching an Ethlet will be as easy as launching a Chainlet: with one click, an Ethlet can be created and inherit Ethereum's security.

How does this mechanism work? Ethlets work with three essential components: Data Availability, State Hash Commitment, and Fraud Proof.

At the end of each epoch (~ 1 day), blocks produced during that time frame are batched, forming the 'batched epoch'. A new epoch referred to as the 'challenge period' then begins. During this challenge period, Saga’s validators can use a fraud-proof mechanism (optimistic ZK or interactive) that enables the identification of any fraudulent transactions or state transitions that might occur within the blocks from the batched epoch. If, by the end of the challenge period, no fraud-proof has been presented, the state hash of the previous batched epoch is committed to Ethereum, and therefore, this committed state inherits the security of Ethereum.

This implies that there is a one-epoch delay for a state hash to be committed to Ethereum and inherit its security. However, it's important to note that blocks inherit Saga’s security even before being committed to Ethereum.

Finally, Saga will be used as a Data Availability layer, similar to a validium, to avoid the high Data Availability costs of Ethereum. An Ethlet thus achieves fast finality through Tendermint, facilitates rapid bridging, and leverages the advantages of IBC. This approach ensures cost-effectiveness while also inheriting Ethereum's security.


Saga offers any developer the ability to easily launch their application as a Chainlet and inherit Saga’s mainnet level of security and decentralization from the start. By choosing this option, the application will benefit from its dedicated blockspace, and the team will gain more control over the blockchain and the application layers compared to launching as a smart contract. If the developer choses, they can upgrade a Chainlet into an Ethlet and gain the benefits of Ethereum Security.

Saga is initially focused on gaming and entertainment chains, as we can notice from their partnerships. Gaming applications are one of the fastest-growing sectors in web3, and a gaming project, such as a video game, needs its own dedicated scalable blockchain capable of supporting high transaction volumes – exactly what Saga is offering and what Chainlets based on the Cosmos SDK can provide. As web3 gaming and entertainment continue to grow and the demand for scalable architecture for users increases, Saga presents itself as the solution to provide the necessary architecture and is confident in onboarding the next 1000 chains in the Multiverse.

About Chorus One

Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 40+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures.

Exploring MEV implications and Cross-Domain Dynamics on dYdX v4
An overview of Chorus One's pioneering research on MEV implications within dYdX v4
August 14, 2023
5 min read

Chorus One is proud to introduce our new research effort, fueled by a grant from dYdX, that examines the implications of Maximum Extractable Value (MEV) within the context of dYdX v4 from a validator's perspective. This comprehensive analysis presents the first-ever exploration of mitigating negative MEV externalities in a fully decentralized, validator-driven order book. Additionally, it delves into the uncharted territory of cross-domain arbitrage involving a fully decentralized in-validator order book and other venues.

This paper, marking a significant milestone in exploring MEV dynamics, identifies factors that influence undesirable MEV extraction, and proposes concrete strategies to level the playing field in derivative trading by counteracting such behavior.

Introduction to dYdX v4

dYdX v4 signifies a transformative phase in the evolution of the dYdX protocol. It embraces a fully decentralized derivatives exchange built on a central limit order book (CLOB). Unlike previous iterations, which combined smart contracts with centralized services, v4 employs a decentralized off-chain order book and a high-performance matching engine. This architecture, powered by the CometBFT consensus and Cosmos SDK, strives to achieve scalability alongside decentralization while allowing community-driven protocol development.

This transition signifies a substantial shift, as v4 introduces the industry's first truly decentralized perpetual futures exchange. Validators will manage the order books, with meticulous steps taken to ensure fair and trustless trading through effective negative MEV mitigation.

Research Background

Set against the backdrop of this pivotal upgrade, our paper serves a crucial purpose by shedding light on the complexities of mitigating bad MEV on dYdX v4, thus equipping the community with the resources needed to navigate the upcoming transition. By providing comprehensive insights, our analysis aids in anticipating the impact of MEV on the new chain and trading experience, as well as the wider Cosmos ecosystem, ultimately fostering informed decision-making.

Key Insights

Our analysis uncovers pivotal insights that reverberate across the ecosystem:

  1. Objective MEV Measurement: We emphasize the critical importance of objectively quantifying MEV on dYdX v4 for effective mitigation. We analyze the difficulties in defining an estimator that captures order book divergences from the validator's standpoint. Despite potential limitations, we propose a statistics-driven approach to address inaccuracies.
  1. Cross-Chain MEV Potential: Exploring the realm of cross-chain MEV within the Cosmos ecosystem, we highlight that current opportunities for cross-chain value extraction lack the compelling incentive required to drive validators towards optimizing for MEV extraction. We identify a highly optimistic scenario that hinges on substantial trade volume as a potential motivation.
  1. Cross-Venue MEV Opportunities: Our study underscores the allure of cross-venue MEV opportunities on dYdX v4. We argue in favor of Central Limit Order Book (CLOB) platforms like dYdX, which offer superior liquidity utilization compared to Automated Market Makers (AMMs). This dynamic incentivizes market makers to collaborate with validators, potentially leading to order book manipulation and centralization risks. Furthermore, this scenario highlights the advantageous position of actors already possessing competitive advantages on other CLOB platforms, enabling them to effectively harness MEV opportunities on dYdX v4.
  1. User Welfare and Centralization Risks: Our analysis delves into the potential impact of cross-venue MEV on user welfare. We explore how structural aspects of CLOBs could consolidate market makers and incentivize partnerships with large firms. This dynamic could result in centralization of validator sets, posing a risk of chain failure and additional costs for users. However, we define the condition for a scenario where ethical actions result in optimal outcomes for users, the blockchain, validators, and market makers.
Practical Outlook

Finally, our research extends beyond insights to practical solutions for mitigating validator-driven MEV risks. We propose that such MEV might manifest through partnerships between trading firms and market makers, favoring those with established advantages. We underscore the risks associated with harmful MEV, including asymmetric risk for delegators. Even in optimistic scenarios, potential revenue from partnerships may not fully offset these risks. To address this, we suggest a combination of measures including potential penalties and flexible unbonding periods for re-delegation to ethical actors, aiming to effectively manage validator-driven MEV risks.

Chorus One's MEV Strategies

At Chorus One, we leverage a sophisticated and ethical set of MEV strategies to optimize our validators' performance and continuously monitor progress. Backed by in-house experts and extensive research, we deploy various infrastructural solutions such as relay optimization, latency games, and investing in robust machines to improve our MEV performance. Learn more about Chorus One's winning MEV strategies by reading our recent blog.

For a comprehensive exploration of our research on MEV implications within dYdX v4, we invite you to read the full research paper here.

About Chorus One

Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 40+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures.

Security and Key Management Practices at Chorus One
We explore Chorus One’s security and key management measures to mitigate staking risks in our products.
August 7, 2023
5 min read

Recent upgrades to Ethereum, such as The Merge and Shapella, were as transformative to the underlying technical algorithms of Ethereum, as they were for the underpinning economy. Previously, hardware enthusiasts and enterprises worked to provide security for the network and were generously rewarded in the process, while today the main driving force that makes Ethereum work securely is their validator community. While there are some similarities between miners and validators -- they both secure the chain via some technological process -- there are many striking differences between the two, particularly in the technology involved.

This article will focus on the technical aspects of being part of a validator community, risks associated with this role, and Chorus One’s measures to mitigate staking risks in our products.

Cryptography keys used in Ethereum Proof-of-Stake network

Before 2022, Ethereum's main network used a Proof-of-Work (PoW) system called ETHash to create new blocks and handle transactions. Miners using this system had to solve complex puzzles using powerful computers to create blocks of transactions. These blocks were verified with a code unique to the miner, commonly referred to as a (ECDSA) cryptographic key. The EVM then transferred the transaction fees and additional inflation rewards into an account identified by a public key of that miner key pair. This cryptographic key pair that the miner received was known as a coinbase address, and was configured directly in software the miner used.

Now, things are different. Ethereum no longer requires complex puzzle to create blocks anymore. Instead of miners, a specific type of software called Validator Client creates new blocks. Running validators involves locking some funds on-chain, and then producing blocks when that validator is chosen as the next block producer by the randomness of the consensus algorithm. Since there is no hardware-intensive puzzle solving involved, and the randomness consensus algorithm is very lightweight and has allowed the network to reduce the hardware involved and energy spent within Ethereum blockchain. On the economic side, however, this also had profound changes.

First, they changed how rewards are distributed. Instead of the reward going to one address, it is now split into two parts: consensus and execution, which can be specified in separate accounts/addresses. It is split in this manner:

Execution rewards: fees collected for transactions in a block. These are sent to a special address set in the Ethereum software as the "fee recipient address."

Consensus Rewards: These are based on inflation and given to validators who make blocks and also to those who vote on blocks made by other validators. This consensus reward goes to an address set when a new validator is added. It can't be changed later and is called the "withdrawal address."

Second, the very algorithm used to sign the blocks was changed to involve a BLS algorithm instead of the previous ECDSA (however, the individual transaction signatures still utilize ECDSA for convenience and compatibility reasons). Next we will explain why this matters.

More differences between withdrawal and validator addresses

Now, there are two addresses involved in the reward process instead of just one cryptographic key pair. This means each validator has two key pairs. One of these key pairs is called BLS, and it's always used by the Ethereum client software to sign block information. This helps verify the address where fees should go, which is included in the block's data.

The block production process itself does not require the holder to also keep the ECDSA keys to the fee recipient address, so potentially every Ethereum address can be specified in the Validator Client to receive execution rewards. The withdrawal (ECDSA) key pair, however, is never loaded into a client, and is immutably bound to every Ethereum validator during the validator creating process.

For validators, this means that there exists a non-custodial process which allows them to lock their Ethereum coins in the blockchain while still having control over those funds and any future consensus rewards, while the actual Validator Clients can be run by a separate entity. Such an entity would only hold validator BLS signing keys and not the withdrawal ECDSA keys.

Let’s focus on validator keys

The Validator BLS key pair, which is important for confirming and creating new blocks, is traditionally generated from random information using a secure method that keeps the private keys unpredictable. Chorus One has its own in-house tool that makes generating keys fast and secure, which you can read more about here.

After creating the keys, the on-chain verification and loading of the deposit transaction data both kick off in parallel, in a process known as ‘Voting period’, and usually takes around 16 hours. During this time, Ethereum nodes from across the globe will read the deposit transaction log, and vote on whether the signature included in the transaction is correct. When enough votes for correctness are collected, the voting period elapses. However, the validator does not immediately start to fulfill its duty of securing the chain, but due to a limitation in the amount of validators that can become active per block, some additional time is spent in an activation queue. More information on this process can be found here.

Once the activation queue period has passed, the validator clients where the keys have been loaded will start fulfilling Ethereum blockchain duties. Only after this point is that specific duties can be assigned and the keys will start being used to produce signatures and blocks.

This process is visualized on the following image:

Risks involved for the validator key holders and operators

The biggest danger for validator key holders is if those keys are stolen, because attacker in possession of the victim validator keys can produce messages infringing to security of a blockchain, which will lead to slashing the validator that incurs a large penalty (more than 1Eth per validator).Currently, it is not possible for a perpetrator in this scenario to profit from such operation, however the possibility to vandalize the ledger still exists and is the most significant risk when operating the validator keys. Thus, participation in staking usually involves consistent and well-thought security practices that prevent unauthorized access to the validator key seed. It is also important to understand that a single seed can be used to generate multiple validators; the more validators were created from a single seed, the bigger the potential impact from leaking the keys.

Besides this, other risks arise from the operation of running validators.

Client software risks

The Ethereum community often discusses the risks associated with client software diversity, which refers to having different types of software implementations. Ethereum offers various open-source validator options, and users can even create their own software. However, most users prefer established open-source options. Validator software is complex and can have bugs that lead to penalties. To minimize risk, stakers should use different validator software types to avoid simultaneous problems that could result in increased penalties for everyone, known as an "inactivity leak."

It's better for stakers to run multiple types of validators to reduce risk. Currently, Ethereum has good diversity at the consensus layer, but there's an issue with one software type dominating the execution layer. Bugs often appear in specific software versions, but Ethereum runs multiple versions simultaneously to reduce risks. Those using a service to stake Ethereum should make sure the service uses diverse software types for both main agreement and action parts of Ethereum.

Withdrawal risks

Withdrawal risks arise from possible issues with the withdrawal keys, like if they are accidentally revealed or if access to the wallet's private key (ECDSA) is lost. As of now, Ethereum lacks mechanisms to regain access to validator withdrawal once the wallet is lost. This underscores the significance of using a trustworthy wallet, maintaining backups, or relying on a reputable custody provider to safeguard the withdrawal seed. It's essential to ensure the correct wallet public key is used when setting up the validator.

Chorus One operations and practices

At Chorus One, we operate over 8000 validators on the Ethereum Mainnet for various customers, drawing from years of experience without encountering any slashable offense. In the following sections, we'll delve into the techniques we've developed to oversee validator operations, along with the software and infrastructure controls we've implemented. These measures are aimed at minimizing risks for our customers.

  1. Validator key security

Validator key security is at heart of our operation. We ensure that validator keys are never stored on disk without encryption. We utilize cloud-based Vault software, implementing zero-trust access controls, to securely store and provide validator keys to validator clients throughout their lifecycle and operation.

  1. Vault access control

We employ Vault access control policies to ensure that only software clients have access to validator key content. We also segment access for different processes, ensuring that each validator client process can access only a specific set of keys. These keys are guaranteed to be unique across all processes. While generating each validator's private BLS key, we use a strong source of randomness to minimize the possibility of collisions. Furthermore, an SQL database with a unique constraint on the validator's public key field is used to ensure that generated validator keys are never reused for new validators, even if a validator is exited later.

To maintain transparency, we maintain an append-only log of all operations on the Vault storage, and we routinely review it for any anomalies. When it comes to data transfers involving validator keys, they exclusively occur through TLS encrypted channels. Additionally, backups of validator key storage are encrypted with multiple keys, requiring the authorization of multiple individuals to restore from the backup. Each mnemonic used for a validator's BLS private key is unique and exclusively assigned to that specific validator. This approach further minimizes the risk of key leakage.

  1. Slashing Protection Database

For each validator client, we maintain a local slashing protection database. Additionally, we utilize the Web3Signer signing service, which employs a centralized slashing protection database. This dual-layer approach offers enhanced security. In the event of potential glitches or bugs in our cloud platform that might result in two instances of the same process running with the same local slashing protection database, the centralized Web3Signer database acts as a safeguard against double signing by our validators.

The Web3Signer centralized database is replicated across multiple data centers, ensuring redundancy and availability. An automated fail-over mechanism is also in place to address any downtime in a data center. The protective measures employed by Web3Signer to prevent double signing are depicted in the illustration below.

  1. Geographically distributed data-centers

At the core of our infrastructure lies a network of public Ethereum nodes that actively engage in the Ethereum consensus and execution process. These nodes establish dependable infrastructure pathways that support the seamless functioning of the Ethereum network. These public nodes are strategically positioned across various geographical data centers, ensuring redundancy and reliability.

Within our validator clients, we've implemented load-balancing mechanisms. This ensures that if one of the data centers experiences an outage, our validator clients seamlessly transition to utilizing Ethereum nodes from other operational data centers.

  1. Node Monitoring

Alongside the usual health checks for Ethereum APIs, our load-balancing strategy incorporates personalized health assessments for Ethereum nodes. For instance, if an Ethereum node's connected peers experience a sudden drop, our load balancer redirects validator traffic away from that node. This action prevents any potential issues with attestation or block propagation.

At Chorus One, we adopt a safeguard by running various implementations for both the consensus and execution layers in parallel. This approach ensures that any bugs in a single client implementation won't impact all of our nodes. The visual depiction of the infrastructure alignment between public nodes and validators is illustrated in the diagram below.

Our validator client software connects to the public Ethereum nodes, which are hosted on lightweight cloud appliances situated in proximity to the public node hosts. We maintain distinct validator client processes for different customers, ensuring that validators from separate customers don't share the same process memory.

We employ cloud automation software to facilitate automated upgrades for the client process. This includes an instant rollback feature triggered by automated health checks if any misconfiguration is detected that could potentially result in penalties.

  1. Infrastructure Resilience

Our infrastructure platform, Kubernetes, operates on top of public cloud providers, ensuring that only a single instance of each validator client process is active at any given time. This is achieved through the utilization of StatefulSet resources, which terminate old processes before launching new ones during restarts.

Our automated validator client updates undergo thorough testing before implementation. Updates are applied exclusively to Ethereum mainnet validators that have been rigorously evaluated and proven effective in privatenet and public testnet environments prior to deployment. The process of automated upgrades and rollbacks is visually depicted in the diagram below.

The controls and mechanisms mentioned above are sophisticated and prioritize security and safety over maintaining uptime. For instance, our validator client software integrates slashing protection to prevent signing attestation in scenarios where true double signing could occur, or if there's an issue with the centralized slashing protection database service.

Another example pertains to the potential downtime of the Vault service, which could lead to validator clients being unable to load signing keys and thus unable to sign on time. To address this, we implement continuous monitoring for all validators and the underlying infrastructure, generating automated alerts if any issues arise. To ensure comprehensive oversight, even in cases where our internal monitoring might falter, we employ a separate process of on-chain monitoring. This process involves scraping Ethereum blockchain APIs from an isolated set of public Ethereum nodes. It raises alerts if any penalties are detected with Ethereum validators.

Our team of rotating on-call engineers is available round the clock to respond to these alerts promptly and troubleshoot any potential problems with validator clients.

About Chorus One

Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 40+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures.

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