A new class of consensus mechanism called Avalanche is being actively developed by Ava Labs, a startup founded by researchers from Cornell University.
This new consensus mechanism is completely different from most systems we’ve reviewed until now.
Avalanche works by randomly polling peers and comparing its own “opinion” to that received from the sample obtained from the network. By gathering replies from several randomly chosen peers, the node then develops its own conviction about what the consensus should be.
The core idea in Avalanche is metastability. This is the name given to a system which isn’t fully stable at all times. In an Avalanche network, each node has its own consensus which it shares with peers upon request.
Unlike Bitcoin, there isn’t a single rigid decision in an Avalanche network. Instead, decisions become more and more rigid as time passes.
At first sight, it may seem a bit ironic that an Avalanche network reaches consensus (thus stability) by never being 100% stable!
The idea of metastability is that there’s a very delicate balance between yes and no questions. The definitive answer can be swayed either way by adding more information to the decision process. Finally, when enough information is added, the balance tips towards one side, which is then considered the consensus.
While Avalanche may seem complicated at first, it’s actually a very simple consensus mechanism. Consensus can be reached with just 3 or 4 iterations. It makes “mining” (minting, actually) very inexpensive and can be run in cheap hardware.
Avalanche network integrity and security are guaranteed by staking – which translates to risking funds in exchange for the right to mint new vertices (AVAX has no blocks), rather than investing in expensive mining hardware.
AVAX staking borrows some of its ideas from Proof of Stake protocols, so you may want to take a look at our PoS summary in this series as well.
For more details about Avalanche, please read our full article about the Avalanche consensus mechanism.
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