Block producers are an essential component in the delegated proof-of-stake (DPoS) network, as they are responsible for creating new blocks with recent network transactions and verifying the chain’s legitimacy. These block producers, also referred to as delegates or witnesses, can be randomly determined by a verifiable random function (VRF), or voted by the community of users on the blockchain to undertake this role of generating and validating blocks. Being decentralized entities, block producers ensure that the processing of transactions on the chain is secure, without the possibility of being attacked or hacked.
To produce a block, block producers collect and store transactions in blocks for validation on the network. Upon validation, they upload transaction data to the blockchain to complete the process of a transaction. To facilitate a smooth, ongoing process, block producers are expected to produce, achieve consensus, and broadcast the generated blocks within a specific time slot defined by the network consensus parameters. The work is similar to miners on a proof-of-work (PoW) network or validators on a proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain.
On a PoW blockchain like Bitcoin’s, it requires massive computing hardware and energy for miners to solve the complicated mathematical problems generated by each block of transactions, before the block can be placed on the network for verification by other miners in order to reach a consensus. Upon obtaining a consensus, the block is returned to the chain, and the miner receives a reward for solving the equation and completing the validation process. On the other hand, a PoS blockchain like Ethereum requires users to stake a specific number of tokens to become validators, so that they can process blocks of transactions to add to the chain. The higher the number of tokens staked, the higher the likelihood for validators to be assigned blocks for validation.
The DPoS network is a variant of PoS, where block producers are either selected by the community of network users, as in the EOS blockchain, or randomized, as in the Mina Protocol. In the EOS network, 21 block producers are selected by the community, based on their trustworthiness as reliable accounts who can be depended on to generate blocks and carry out the validation process consistently. However, should any block producer be unable to generate a block within a 24-hour period, they will be removed from the list. The Mina Protocol, however, uses a VRF to determine the slot for block producers to produce a block for processing and validation.
Responsibilities of a Block Producer
Block producers have the following responsibilities:
Select transactions and gather transaction data to build a new block.
Propose the next state of the new block by creating a different staged ledger to cover both the account ledger, and transactions that have yet to be proven.
Generate blockchain proof to validate the new state, and create a delta transition chain proof to verify the validity of the block within an acceptable network delay time frame (as defined by the network).
Apply the proof to the new state.
Broadcast and disseminate the new block to other block producers.
Submit new blocks to the network for reward after verification is completed.
The advantages of DPoS blockchains include a shorter block creation time, with greater efficiency and faster transaction rate, as compared to PoW and PoS protocols. Although there’s little chance of forking, DPoS is still at a relatively early development stage. Hence, it may not yet be secure enough for monetary transactions on blockchains. Nevertheless, Google Cloud’s interest in becoming a block producer on the EOS network is a promising sign for the potential and growth of DPoS blockchains.