WTF Happened to Solana's Proof of History?  by@andrarchy

WTF Happened to Solana's Proof of History?

Andrew Levine HackerNoon profile picture

Andrew Levine

CEO of Koinos Group, creators of the Koinos blockchain

I’m Andrew Levine, CEO of Koinos Group, where our mission is to help people leverage blockchain to benefit humanity. So when we saw that one of the most rapidly growing blockchains in the space, Solana, was down for 17 whole hours we decided to do some research into that protocol to understand what went wrong because that’s a long time for $4 billion dollars in value to be inaccessible regardless of whether you call yourself a beta or not. 

But keep in mind that just because we’re looking at a negative event, that doesn’t mean we are condemning the entire project.  It’s just that when things break, those breakages often reveal interesting details about a project and their design decisions. Whatever went wrong with Solana, we don’t want to go wrong with our blockchain, and if in the course of our investigation we can also learn about what a project is doing right and leverage that information to our benefit as well, then all the better.

Blockchain Experts

In the video above I speak with one my co-founders, Michael Vandeberg, who is one of the blockchain architects building Koinos. He shares his findings from the little bit of research he’s been able to do. But just remember, the value here is not based on Michael being an expert on Solana which he is not. He’s an expert on building blockchains, and so the potential value in this conversation stems from his perspective as someone who builds blockchains, again not as a Solana expert.

Proof of History

We focus on the idea of a cryptographic clock because a lot of people don’t realize that, according to the people behind Solana, the innovation at the core of that blockchain is what they call Proof of History, but which is essentially a cryptographic clock. Their central claim seems to be that by building a separate system alongside the blockchain that allows people who are running nodes to know what time a transaction was submitted somehow allows them to achieve the high transactions per second number they’ve been advertising. 

This is not a common view of this problem, by which I mean that it’s not like there was this widespread concern within the blockchain space that without a cryptographic clock, we would never be able to achieve high transaction throughput. In other words, there was no consensus that the key to improving throughput was adding a clock to the blockchain. 


After taking a brief look at the Solana documentation, which we find to be extremely lacking and confusing, we came to the conclusion that Solana has not proven that proof of history is necessary for scaling the transaction throughput of blockchains.

While proof of history likely does allow them to increase their throughput by practically eliminating the time required to apply a block, the costs of their solution are extremely high and, we believe, defeat the purpose of blockchains entirely!

Technological Breakthrough?

If proof of history were really some technological breakthrough, it wouldn't impose the kind of strict hardware and software requirements that are built into Solana. In other words, Solana is simply highly optimized for transaction throughput, and proof of history is just one part of that highly optimized system.

The consequence is that it is NOT optimized for user experience, developer experience, flexibility, or upgradeability. Running a node is totally inaccessible and always will be because that is a feature of Solana, not a bug.

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