Stake Wars III is Halfway to the Finish Line: What Does This Mean for NEAR’s Sharding?

August 19, 2022 — NEAR Team

The incredible Stake Wars III journey is still unfolding, but now is a good time to celebrate some important milestones. Let’s look at a few quick stats and updates, as the organizers move forward in this effort to prepare NEAR’s sharding to move from Phase 0 to 1.
Before we do that, there’s now a leaderboard where you can see the performance of the participants. As you can see, everyone in the top 25 has a 90% or above success rate in getting their chunks online. Great job!

During the program, shardnet, the testing network set up specifically for Stake Wars, frequently had more than 1,500 active nodes participating and 400 validators (chunk + block producers) competing in 11 successful challenges in the shardnet while a few more lined up. The Stake Wars organizers will continue to operate Stake Wars exclusively in shardnet until the program ends on September 9th. 

Stake Wars will not be moved to testnet as previously announced. Testnet is used as a final staging environment, and is part of the regular release cycle. Separating that cycle from Stake Wars will allow the team to focus on the community and not on the release requirements. 

Major credit for Stake Wars’ success goes to the dedicated NEAR community and partners, without whom Stake Wars wouldn’t have been possible. Their thoughtful and continuous feedback shaped the program. Last but not least, a big shout-out to the entire Pagoda team, who stands tall and has been a backbone throughout the process.

Some Wins

Since the launch of Stake Wars III four weeks ago, the community has rallied a massive amount of participation–much more than previously anticipated. The stats have been stunning as shown above, and there is a tremendous amount of activity in the dedicated Discord channels, e.g. #stake-wars. Let’s keep this momentum up throughout the second part of the program all the way through to the finish line and beyond!

The 11 published challenges (competitions) have helped shed light on the work required to become a successful validator. They also created a battleground in shardnet for testing chunk-only producer code.

One of the most important takeaways so far is that Stake Wars is teaching community members the ins-and-outs of running successful validator nodes. It is also offering them a pathway, through stake support, to securing seats as mainnet validators. 

Some Learnings

Win or lose, there’s always something to learn. In these four intense, amazing weeks, the Stake Wars organizers have faced a series of potential setbacks, but with the help of the community the team persevered, and NEAR is a stronger ecosystem for it.

The first of these challenges was the abuse of the distribution mechanism for the shardnet token. The Stake Wars organizers addressed this issue by switching over to a delegation model to protect the network. Although this created some additional friction for participants, it did have the silver lining of introducing them to the underlying staking and delegation models in mainnet.

The other issue the Stake Wars organizers faced was handling simultaneous setup and token-distribution, which warranted creating several hard forks. Fortunately, this decision essentially helped bring the network back into a functional state. While there is no expectation that these situations will be seen in mainnet, being able to “safely” learn from them during Stake Wars contributes to an optimal operational experience for program participants. Hence, running Stake Wars in a dedicated test network (shardnet) gives the team the flexibility to respond and adapt to the different situations that may be encountered throughout the duration of the program. 

What Next? – Phase 1 of Sharding

In the run-up to the launch of Phase 1 of sharding, which is scheduled for next month, the chuck-only producer feature was released to testnet on Aug 15th. This will create more opportunities to earn rewards and further secure the NEAR Ecosystem. The chunk-only producer is also a great onramp to becoming a validator for those who may not have the $NEAR or system requirements to run a validator node since chunk-only producers are solely responsible for single shards. 

The number of validators will also increase from ~100 to ~300, and the seat price to become a validator will be lowered. This is a crucial step to better facilitate scaling, improve NEAR’s decentralization, and bring the Open Web to mass adoption.

References:

It’s not late yet, learn how to be chuck-only producers. And the best way to join testnet.


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