...by Daniel Szego
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Types of blockchain governance

One of the critical part of every blockchain solution is governance. It is especially valid for blockchain platforms, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, but it is actually the same for blockchain applications that are realized on the top of a platform. Governance means carrying out changes or further development of the application. There are several models that has different advantages and disadvantages in the practice:

- Off-chain governance means that the governance model is totally independent from the blockchain itself. Changes of the platform is proposed by a community or trusted people and both the implementation and the implementation is carried out by these people as well. Such a model has the advantage that it is technologically less challenging, however it might cause a split in the community resulting a split or hard-fork in the platform itself as well. Such models are realized by Bitcoin and Ethereum where improvements are presented by improvement proposals, like Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP), or Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP). The model caused several hard-forks in the above mentioned platforms, resulting for example Bitcoin Cash, or Ethereum Classic. 

- On-chain governance means that several elements of the platform is able to change by a community decision, and both the decision mechanism and the change implementation is supported by the platform itself. Such an example is the difficulty increase or decrease mechanism of the Bitcoin network which is hard-coded in the consensus mechanism and is practically relized by the voting of the miners or the voting of the stakeholders. Other platforms like Monero have much further developed on-chain consensus mechanism, as an example part of the transaction fee is collected into an online wallet as an improvement budget, which can be used for further development or even marketing projects based on the voting of the community. 

From another perspective blockchain governance can be categorized on the fact, who makes the decision. From this point of view there might be the following models: 

- Centralized governance: systems like Ethereum has a pretty centralized governance. From a practical point of view almost all of the changes are governed eventually by Buterin. It has certainly, the advantage of being able to adapt fast, however not necessarily truly open as participation. 

- Open governance: Systems like Bitcoin has a real open governance model. Practically everybody can initiate new changes in the system and the implementation of these changes require a pretty open consensus as well. Practically the core developers, the miners, the exchanges and the shops should all agree in order that a change is implemented successfully. As it is almost a pretty open democratic process, certainly it can be very slow and inefficient in the implementation phase.

- Governance by trusted actors: There can be model between the two previously mentioned examples as well, where several trusted (and sometimes well known) actors can initiate and implement changes in the platform. Such governance model will be implemented directly by Hedera Hashgraph. Similar initiative can be found like in Dash or Monero, where indirectly the stakeholders or the master node responsibles can be regarded as trusted actors.