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NEAR Validator Upgrade Allows Hundreds To Help Secure The Network

November 29, 2021 — NEAR Team

Since the NEAR Mainnet launch in October 2020, we have seen steady growth in the number of validators. Today, NEAR has roughly 60 validators on mainnet, with many more wanting to join. Nevertheless, the extremely high threshold of 3.6M $NEAR makes it challenging for new validators to join. 

This was certainly not our intention when we designed the current validator selection algorithm more than three years ago. That’s why we’re upgrading our validator process. 

At present, the issue with the current algorithm is that the maximum number of validators allowed by the protocol is only achievable when everyone has an equal amount of stake. In practice, this is unrealistic. 

The NEAR Ecosystem is working to add more validators to the blockchain to further decentralize the network. After reviewing a number of options, we made the decision to change the protocol’s validator selection process. This will take place in two steps: the top 100 proposals by stake amount will be listed as potential validators. The second step will be to ensure the number of tokens staked is high enough to maintain the security of the network. While 3.5 million $NEAR is very high, we want to avoid making the new number too low.  

Improving access, one step at a time

Compared to the existing selection algorithm, this seemingly simple change requires a lot of heavy lifting behind the scenes. NEAR’s target block speed of 1 second means that any validator selection process must be extremely fast while continuing to maintain the security of the network. This means the change requires very fast sampling from a discrete probability distribution. 

NEAR’s core developer team is happy to announce that this change has now been implemented, allowing more validators to join NEAR. This is great news for validators as it will dramatically reduce the barrier of entry to mainnet and makes it easier for them to maintain their seats. If more than 100 proposals are submitted, the threshold will simply be the stake of the 100th proposal, provided that it’s larger than the minimum threshold*. 

We expect to reach 100 validators soon after Mainnet is upgraded to this change—leading to a 60% increase in the number of validators we have active today. Other than the change to the validator selection process, everything else remains the same. Validators still produce blocks proportional to their stake and receive rewards accordingly.

This change is only the beginning of a number of ecosystem-wide initiatives that will continue increasing the number of validators and improving network decentralization. With the upcoming launch of phase 1 of sharding in early 2022, we expect to add another 200 validators to Mainnet. 

NEAR has always been, and will always be committed to building a secure, scalable, and decentralized network to help onboard the world into web3. To take advantage of the upcoming expansion, and to onboard validators onto the NEAR Mainnet, we have collaborated with the Open Shard Alliance to release a bootcamp to help train new validators. 

If you’re interested in joining our bootcamp, you can find more information here. 

If you’d like to start running your nodes on Testnet and Mainnet, head to the Open Shards Alliance server on Discord. 

* The minimal threshold depends on the total amount of stake, which at this point we estimate it to be 67,000 NEAR.

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