The Ethereum Merge is one of the most anticipated events in crypto history.
The transition, meant to take Ethereum from its current Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism to a Proof-of-Stake model, has been in the works since Ethereum’s inception. However, it took its first step in December 2020, when the Beacon Chain was successfully launched. And now, with the consensus mechanism running unimpeded for a year and a half and over 13 million staked ETH, developers feel confident enough to move to the second step. This requires joining the consensus layer of the Beacon Chain with the execution state of the main Ethereum chain, the process known as “the Merge”.
This new era to the Ethereum protocol brings better security, greater energy efficiency, and sets the stage for future scaling efforts meant to take Ethereum to the moon.
Chorus One has been closely following the development efforts to bring Proof-of-Stake Ethereum to reality. As a trusted staking provider in the ecosystem, we are participating in testing the Merge at this critical point with our Prater/Goerli nodes ready for transition. We are particularly aware of the risks associated with such a significant change of operations in a blockchain that has captured a major part of the economic activity in the crypto ecosystem. For that reason, our goal remains to support decentralised networks to promote the security and availability of our services, and to increase the rewards of our clients under such a standard.
As we think of the future for both our operations in the Ethereum ecosystem and the existential threats that can compromise the integrity and stability of the network, we have devoted a lot of effort into understanding MEV and clarifying our position towards it.
On our path to support a more decentralised, democratic and fair distribution of MEV rewards for our stakers, we would like to announce our support for MEV-Boost.
Although MEV continues to be a controversial and cutting-edge space for research, we believe that this can be an interim solution as we wait for more sophisticated in-protocol upgrades. On a high level, MEV-Boost is an implementation of proposer-builder separation (PBS) built by the Flashbots team for Proof-of-Stake Ethereum. As a free, open-source and neutral software, we believe it embraces the values of the Ethereum community and can be a valuable asset for all validators, big or small.
By participating in the fair extraction of MEV, we believe we are unlocking the real value of the networks we support, as well as increasing the value of staking to promote higher rates of participation, and an increase in the security of the PoS protocol.
As staking providers, running MEV-Boost allows us to maximize the staking rewards of our clients while protecting Ethereum decentralization, with an estimated increase of 60% in the rewards we can share.
Unlike previous Flashbots’ offerings, this software is compatible with all client implementations of the Ethereum protocol, making it a big step towards further client diversity, a topic that has been the subject of research at Chorus One in the past year.
Finally, we are committed to evaluate and continue to monitor different approaches to our MEV implementations, and to the risks of single-relay and single-block producers, working with different teams to find the most balanced system. Fair MEV extraction continues to be something we iterate on going forward.
In the coming days we will be getting ready to test MEV-Boost on our Goerli infrastructure to best prepare in time for the mainnet Merge. We have been working closely with Flashbots and collaborating with other node operators to ensure that the product is ready and tested by the time it goes live.
MEV is an inevitable part of participating, not only on blockchains, but in all ordered economic systems. Our intent is to be responsible participants of Ethereum and beyond, with MEV research spanning Solana and Cosmos, there is more to come. For the time being, follow our node readiness for MEV-Boost here.
Chorus One is one of the largest staking providers globally. We provide node infrastructure and closely work with over 30 Proof-of-Stake networks.
At Chorus One, we pride ourselves in being a full-stack partner to the protocols we choose to operate and support. This goes beyond the highly available infrastructure we provide to secure and maintain networks. It includes assisting in ecosystem-building via our ventures and business development teams, as well as participating in network governance and — most notably — deep research. Since our inception, we have been at the forefront contributing to core topics of interest in Proof-of-Stake such as liquid staking.
In recent months, we have shifted a big part of our research focus onto a complex topic that underpins the core fabric of any crypto protocol: MEV (Maximal Extractable Value). This emerging field deals with the value that can be extracted through reordering transactions in the block production process. (A collection of resources on MEV can be found here).
MEV has become an ubiquitous topic for many ecosystem participants. Primarily being a validator, our position in the network places us at a spot within the MEV supply chain that comes with great power, thus also great responsibility. Generally speaking, our mission is to maximize freedom for crypto users and to contribute to the creation of long-term sustainable, user-owned decentralized network infrastructure. Since MEV is a crucial domain that — if not adequately dealt with — might threaten the mission we are set towards; we recognized that we should leverage our expertise and resources to contribute to the MEV space in a way that ultimately benefits networks and their users.
The goals we want to contribute towards in the MEV space are two-fold. On one hand, we aim to make visible and help minimize extraction of value from users through e.g. front-running, sandwiching, and other exploitative practices. On the other hand, we strive to redistribute revenues from non-exploitative MEV that comes into existence from market inefficiency to our delegators that contribute security to the underlying network.
The rest of this article lays out the core pillars of our approach to MEV providing examples of our existing and planned engagements in the area.
What is MEV and how does it impact networks and their users?
Before deciding how we should engage with MEV, we seek to understand what we are dealing with. We are proponents of the open-source crypto ethos and don’t want to keep the information we are gathering to ourselves, but rather share it with the wider ecosystem. Thus, the first pillar of our MEV policy is Transparency. We are actively researching, building dashboards, and publishing other materials to create a shared understanding and to help lighten up the “dark forest” that is MEV.
Our exemplary work in the MEV Transparency domain: Dune Analytics Ethereum MEV dashboard, MEV Extraction Twitter bot, various MEV-related articles (e.g. our series on MEV on Solana).
How can we help to minimize negative externalities of MEV?
As a result of our research effort, we deeply understand MEV in the context of the ecosystems we are a part of. We recognize that MEV can pose negative externalities to users and ultimately the protocols they are trying to utilize. We are actively engaging to help minimize negative externalities in various ways, depending on how deep our engagement in the respective ecosystem is. This can include creating awareness and participating in the dialogue around MEV, research on related problems, as well as supporting and building solutions seeking to minimize exploitative MEV and to decentralize MEV extraction.
Our work in the Network Sustainability domain: operating and participating in public discourse and communities of block building solutions such as Flashbots, investments in projects seeking to minimize front-running (including e.g. Anoma and Osmosis). We have additional projects in this domain in the pipeline and are looking into operating infrastructure to help decentralize block building and relayer infrastructure.
How can we optimize and distribute MEV rewards to our delegators?
It would be hypocritical to say we are in this for the good of it only. There are clear incentives associated with engaging in MEV. Practically speaking, we are looking to optimize the return we can achieve through MEV and pass it through to our delegators creating a differentiated service while helping to improve network usability, security, and ultimately sustainability via the first two of our MEV pillars (see also Phil Daian’s early post “MEV wat do?” on this topic).
For institutional clients that want to offer staking to their users, we are happy to assist in navigating the space and finding the optimal solutions as part of our white label staking services.
If you are building in the MEV space, are trying to understand how MEV will affect your protocol, or are interested to work with us on research topics, feel free to reach out to us through the appropriate channels: