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Understand pledge as service: opportunities and risks, current situation and future

2022-02-03 00:17:20 Unitimes

writing :Rasheed Saleuddin & Chase Devens,Messari analysts

At present, the leading blockchain network is experiencing proof from workload (PoW) To proof of interest (PoS) A massive shift in consensus mechanisms . Originally by Nakamoto  (Satoshi Nakamoto)  Advocated by the PoW The model has fallen out of favor , Critics point out that ,PoW The safety model and the trend of centralized ore pool cause negative externalities .

In its place ,PoS Design is undergoing great development because of its commitment to energy efficiency and better decentralization . If Ethereum 2.0 (Eth2) Of PoS The merger was completed today , Then based on PoS The blockchain will occupy the current L1s ( first floor ) Of the total market value of blockchain network 44%; And if we ignore bitcoin in our calculations , So these PoS The market value share of the chain will soar to 91%. This is from PoW Dominant to PoS The network transformation has produced a second-order effect in the new business model , These new business models protect PoS Make money online .


Bottom up : The currency 、 Ethereum and the top five PoS The market value of blockchain network is 2021 Changes since .

since 2008 Since the birth of bitcoin in ,PoW The chain has helped many enterprises establish a business model centered on maximizing mining returns . Early mining companies understood , They can benefit from economies of scale , And start building... Where energy costs are low “ Server farm ”, To maximize their chances of getting a return from mining . In a short span of 13 years , Infill mining has developed into a value of about 310 Billion dollar industry .

meanwhile , be based on PoS A consensus blockchain seeks PoS Rewarding individuals and companies offer similar business opportunities . JPMorgan estimates that , be based on PoS Of  Staking ( pledge ) industry Has been produced every year 90 Hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue , To  2025 The year will grow into 400 Billion dollar industry . Given this lucrative forecast , understand Staking The nuances of and how they relate to the rising  Staking Namely service  (STaaS)  industry Interaction is crucial .

* notes : In order to avoid conflict with the SaaS (software-as-a-service, Software as a service ) Abbreviations are confused , We will cover... In the rest of this report “Staking Namely service ” (Staking-as-a-Service)  be called  STaaS.

PoS Background introduction

If a blockchain network without permission wants to operate normally , Then there can only be one entity at any given time Update the shared ledger of the network . Consensus mechanism is such a set of rules , That is, the security provider in the blockchain network uses this set of rules to determine which participant's update should be adopted by the network . Be responsible for a series of transactions at any time ( block ) The entities added to the ledger are called 「 Block producers 」. As a reward for producing new blocks and therefore maintaining network security , Block producers can earn block rewards from the network  ( The composition of block awards will be discussed in more detail below ).

As mentioned earlier ,PoW and PoS They are the two most widely used consensus engines in the blockchain field today . stay PoW In the system ,“ The miners ” Consume physical resources in the competition in order to become the next block producer ( Time and energy ). This consumption of external resources gives Pow The network brings security . If a malicious participant wants to stop or change the state of the network , You will need to control the network 50% The above calculation power .

stay PoS In the system , For physical resources ( Calculate the force ) The competition is replaced by the competition that attracts the blockchain's native cryptocurrency . And PoW comparison , This key difference makes PoS The network operates without consuming a lot of power , And allow wider participation in the consensus process ( That is to allow the network to achieve better decentralization ). Participants who want to be network verifiers must pledge ( lock ) A certain number of blockchain network native cryptocurrencies , As a commitment to their honest participation in the consensus process . The total value of pledge in the network provides security for the network , This makes it possible to PoS Different forms of... In the network 51% The cost of an attack is higher than PoW More expensive .

In addition to being mainly used as a safety barrier , There are two reasons why the verifier's deposit is very important . First , The amount of pledge of the verifier is directly proportional to the probability of being selected to add new transactions to the ledger , Therefore, it affects how much reward the verifier can earn . The verifier's pledge also acts as collateral , Used to suppress bad behavior : That is, if you take malicious actions against the network , It will usually be punished by losing part of the deposit or losing the right to participate in the consensus process for a period of time . All in all ,PoS The system encourages healthy online behavior . The verifier will pledge more collateral in order to obtain a larger proportion of the block reward . The more collateral you pledge , The more likely the verifier is to comply with the network specifications ( To avoid being punished ), This ensures the security of the blockchain .

STaaS The rise of

Motivation to participate in pledge

Through the above pairs PoS Basic technical understanding of how consensus works , We can explore the economic opportunities it creates .PoS The Internet rewards verifiers Block rewards  ( It consists of inflation and transaction fees of the original currency of the network ), So as to encourage the pledgor to contribute to the security of the network . Inflation incentives can be seen as PoS The local incentive mechanism used by the network to encourage users to pledge their assets to the network . And for those who choose to hold PoS The native currency of the network without pledging assets to users in the network , Will be diluted by the asset inflation supply plan . If 100% The original currency of is pledged to the network , Then there will be no relative change in network ownership , Because all inflation incentives will be distributed to all existing holders ; But considering that this will mean that no one actually runs applications or makes transactions on the network , So this is very unlikely to happen .

therefore , Every PoS The Internet shows different activity Pledge rate  (staking rate), As shown in the figure below , Every PoS The pledge rate of the network depends on the amount of activity and incentive mechanism in their respective networks . As can be seen from the figure below , majority PoS The active pledge rate of the network exceeds 50%.


Upper figure : The major PoS The active pledge rate of the network (staking rate) situation , Data as 2021 year 11 month 25 Japan

PoS The changing pledge rate in the network makes the network pledgor (stakers) There is a dynamic rate of return . As more collateral enters the network , The reward rate of the pledgor will be reduced , Because the pledge reward will need to be distributed to a larger group of pledgers , vice versa . The overall pledge return in the network is called the nominal pledge yield  (nominal staking rate), This includes transaction fees and inflation . This nominal rate of return subtracts the amount of incentive generated by the overall inflation of the network , It's called the real rate of return  (real rate). Though many PoS The nominal yield of the network may be as high as double-digit percentage , But the real rate of return is usually a single digit percentage . The main exception to this trend is the coin security smart chain (BSC), Because its block reward consists entirely of transaction costs ( No inflation ). Each major PoS The pledge yield of interest transfer is shown in the figure below :


Upper figure : The major PoS The pledge yield of the network , Though many PoS The chain provides an attractive nominal rate of return , But the real rate of return is much lower .

Obstacles to participation in pledge

If participation in pledge is PoS The original revenue channel in the network , So why doesn't everyone run a verifier ( node ) Well ? There are several factors at work . First , Becoming a verifier usually has one Minimum capital requirements , This eventually discourages most retail users . The following figure shows the various PoS Early capital and hardware requirements for running a verifier node in the network .


Upper figure : The major PoS Preliminary capital and hardware requirements for running a verifier node in the network .

Even though Solana In this way, there is no minimum pledge requirement PoS Blockchain , Other forms of capital are still needed , For example, high-end computers 、 The cost of participating in the consensus vote ( At present, it is estimated that every day 2 SOL Or about 500 dollar ), And the need to pledge enough capital to enable the verifier to be selected .

secondly , If a participant has enough capital to meet PoS The minimum pledge threshold of the network , Then he needs to bear Make sure the verifier is always online and running correctly The task of . majority PoS The Internet will use forfeiture (slashing) Punishment to punish offline or misbehaving verifiers .

Last , Participate in PoS Pledge is accompanied by Opportunity cost , That is, the asset is locked for a period of time , Cannot be used for other purposes ( For example, in DeFi To borrow money from ). This problem applies to most people who use mortgage guarantee Staking The mechanism PoS The Internet , But it's like Cardano In this way, this problem is avoided in the network supporting local liquidity pledge .

All in all , These problems are  Staking Namely service  (STaaS)  industry Problems designed to solve for its users .

First create STaaS The purpose of the industry is to provide public participation Staking Economic benefits , At the same time, solve the continuous verifier node maintenance challenge for non-technical users . As the industry matures , We are beginning to see Mobility staking Derivative The addition of ( notes : For example, through the liquidity pledge agreement  Lido Finance  pledge  ETH  after , Sure 1:1 Access to liquid derivatives stETH), To help users pledge ( lock ) The opportunity cost of assets .

STaaS Is a relatively simple business model —— Users transfer or delegate their assets to a group of verifiers  STaaS provider . This allows small users to enjoy participation staking The rights and interests of . By using STaaS provider , Users can easily pledge almost anything with a few mouse clicks PoS assets . The cousin below shows the current main STaaS Provider supported PoS assets :


Upper figure : At present, the main STaaS Provider supported PoS List of assets .

In return for maintaining the necessary verifier services for their customers ,STaaS Providers will charge their customers . This can be a fixed monthly fee , But what is more common is the percentage of return generated by customer pledge ( This kind of commission is usually at the end of the customer's pledge return 5 - 20% Between ). as time goes on , We can expect that the percentage of this fee will be reduced , Because there will be more STaaS Providers join this ecosystem and compete . Besides , With PoS The maturity of the agreement and the reduction of its incentive plan , Each customer is STaaS The nominal cost of the agreement is expected to fall .

STaaS classification

Similar to today's wallets and exchange products , We can put today's STaaS The business is divided into trusteeship or unmanaged . Regardless of these classifications , all STaaS May provide a liquidity pledge function .

Managed class STaaS

Managed class STaaS The characteristics of the provider are throughout Staking Control and maintain customer assets in the process . The most common centralization Staking Providers are centralized exchanges  (CEX), such as  Coinbase  and Kraken.


Upper figure :Coinbase Provided staking service . Picture source :Coinbase

Managed class STaaS Usually for those who want a simple way to get a return from their assets , At the same time, there is no need to worry about the retail users of the back-end pledge process . Any return that can be generated by the pledge of , First assigned to staking provider , Then pass it to the customer . This is similar to the way banks operate : The bank charges the depositor interest , While maintaining custody of these deposits , So as to retain the right to customers . Because customers already trust these third parties to keep their assets , So participate through these third parties staking No additional trust assumptions are required , except STaaS The provider can manage the verifier ( node ) Or outsource this responsibility to another third-party provider . However , The risks of custody wallets and exchanges also apply to custody STaaS provider —— After all , If you don't control the private key , Then it's not yours Crypto (not your keys, not your crypto).

Managed class STaaS Providers usually work with the backend Node as a service  (NaaS)  provider cooperation , So that Staking Infrastructure outsourcing to the latter . under these circumstances ,NaaS The infrastructure provider is responsible for maintaining the hardware facilities and daily verification node operations , and STaaS Providers focus on hosting ( Including secret key management and cold storage ). At present, the more popular white label providers include  Blockdaemon  and  Staked.

Besides , Those who want to have their own verifiers ( node ), But large enterprises or VCs that lack in-house expertise to host or manage verifier nodes also use NaaS provider . these NaaS The provider can bear the additional cost of a dedicated team of experts , Focus on ensuring that the verifier node has maximum uptime and security .2021 Beginning of the year ,Coinbase With 8000 Million dollars  Bison Trails, That's right NaaS First major acquisition of an infrastructure provider . Considering the synergy between the two businesses , This may not be the only acquisition we see .

Unmanaged classes STaaS

If you don't have the ability to participate in and maintain asset custody ,STaaS It's not really Web 3.0 service . Send the pledge to Unmanaged classes STaaS provider The process is called 「 entrust 」(delegation), majority PoS The network supports 「 Local delegation 」(native delegation), That is to say This delegation process is built into the network . Any user who has run a verifier node can You can accept asset entrustment from other users , To increase the proportion of pledged assets in your verifier node , So as to earn more staking earnings .

These verifiers will tell the users of the entrusted assets ( That is, the client )  Charge a commission , Like managed classes STaaS Same provider . However , Rewards are distributed in a slightly different way . because PoS Any network and support delegation , Therefore, the network can directly distribute the remuneration share of clients to them , Instead of letting the verifier node pass the reward to the consignor . This helps to reduce the interaction with managed classes STaaS Some counterparty risks related to the business model .

Although supported at the network level 「 entrust 」 It sounds very simple , But there is always such a risk , That is, the deposit may be excessively concentrated in a few verifier nodes in the network . therefore , And Solana、Polkadot、Avalanche、Cosmos etc. PoS Different networks , To promote staking Decentralization of , Ethereum decided to take this entrusted function from its Eth2 PoS Remove from design , Let the market build a commission function on this network . As shown in the figure below :


Upper figure : And others PoS Different networks , The etheric fang 2.0 Of PoS The mode does not support local pledge delegation

This makes Eth2 Of STaaS Itself becomes an interesting subcategory . That's why some of the biggest STaaS provider ( Whether it's based on the value of its deposit or the value of its support PoS Number of networks ) Does not support Eth2 pledge . such as ,Everstake  It is the one with the highest value of pledge deposit STaaS provider , It supports 27 Different PoS The pledge service of the network , But it doesn't support Eth2 pledge . This may be due to Eth2 There is no built-in local delegation function in the network , Thus, it is impossible to use your own assets to run the verifier node without any additional steps to accept the delegation .

As of the time of writing , Ranked top according to the total value of the deposit 10 Of STaaS Among providers , Yes 7 One is an unmanaged class STaaS provider ,2 One is managed class STaaS provider , As shown in the figure below . It can be seen that , Current unmanaged class STaaS Providers dominate .


Upper figure : Ranked top according to the value of the deposit 10 Of STaaS provider .

in general , We can see , Unmanaged classes STaaS Is an obvious leader in today's market . Considering the decentralized nature of these networks , That's not surprising . An important factor to note is , Most of the above mentioned NaaS ( Node as a service )  Infrastructure providers run public verifier nodes that allow anyone to delegate in : Because of these NaaS Providers have dedicated infrastructure to their large institutional customers , Therefore, providing common services for small participants is a simple supplement .

Liquidity pledge solution

Because of participation staking ( pledge ) Means yes PoS Make a commitment to network security , Therefore, the pledged assets need to be locked , To prevent “ Bank run ” scene , That is to prevent all deposits from being quickly withdrawn and lead to network security collapse . Every PoS The lock-in period of the network varies . such as , stay Solana To release the pledge in the network, just 2 Days time , and Eth2 The pledge in the will be locked up indefinitely , Until... Is completed PoS The transition of .

Liquidity pledge (liquid staking) It provides a kind of Derivative assets , Represent their pledge positions and generate pledge incentives , And can be used for trading or as DeFi Collateral for activities . Although the liquidity pledge is managed STaaS Providers and unmanaged classes STaaS This feature that providers may provide to their customers , But this method is most commonly used in Decentralized pledge pool (staking pools). These pledge pool agreements themselves do not run verifier nodes , contrary , They accumulate pledged deposits from users and allocate these deposits to specific PoS On the verifier node running in the network . therefore , In the pledge pool , Rewards and penalties are usually provided by all depositors ( Pledgor ) share / Shared .

At present, the main decentralized flow properties include Lido Finance、Marinade Finance、Stakehound、Ankr、Rocket Pool and Stakewise etc. , Their respective TLV ( Total value of lock in ) The growth is shown in the figure below :


Upper figure :2021 Since then , The nature of each decentralized liquidity pledge pool agreement TVL ( Total value of lock in ) Growth .

The liquidity pledge solution is still in the early stages of development .Lido Finance First mover advantage and for multiple PoS The Internet ( Include Eth2、Terra  and Solana) Our support enables the agreement to take the lead in the early stage , Its stETH ( The user deposits... Through this agreement ETH Liquidity derivatives obtained later ) Is in DeFi The most liquid in the world staking Derivative , Can be in Maker、Yearn and Curve And so on . as time goes on , The pledged asset derivatives of other liquidity pledge agreements should become a reliable collateral option .

Besides , We expect that more blockchains will have liquid derivatives . In such as The etheric fang 、Solana and Terra  Wait on the blockchain , Liquidity pledge is already a tool that has been put into use , Some agreements on other blockchains are also launching their first liquid derivatives , Like recently ,Acala Published its LKSM Derivative , Allow people to Kusama Carry out liquidity pledge on the network .

STaaS Critical evaluation of

  • risk

although STaaS Enable encryption of the user's staking ( pledge ) Democratization of the process , But it's not without risks . As we discussed earlier ,staking Itself is not risk-free . Any verifier will be because of the forfeiture  ( For example, due to the downtime of the verifier or the double signature behavior that prevents the network from reaching a consensus )  And be punished . Downtime means that the verifier node goes offline at any time and fails to perform its duties in the process of consensus ; Double signature (double signing) Is when STaaS The provider keeps an alternate verifier running  ( To prevent offline situations ) And its two verifier nodes use the same private key to vote on a block ( Signature ) when , There is a double signature behavior . Forfeiture (slashing) Refer to PoS The network protocol deprives the verifier of some or all of the deposit due to the above events . some PoS Network protocol , Especially those agreements that are early in their growth cycle , It has a relatively loose policy of punishment and confiscation , To maximize network growth , But these should be considered as Interim Measures , As more verifiers join the network , These measures will change in the future .

although STaaS Providers rely on their own staking Professional skills to help reduce the risk of forfeiture , But it should be noted that , This risk will always exist in some non-zero form , And by the STaaS The provider decides whether to compensate the user for possible losses . Current STaaS Suppliers have a variety of policies . such as , When Staked When a vulnerability causing multiple verifiers to double sign the same block is found , The pledge pool chooses to compensate the entrusting party 3 Million dollar loss ;Blockdaemon It provides a basis for possible fines and confiscations 100% Insurance for ;Coinbase In its terms means , It may or may not compensate the client , It depends on the reason for the forfeiture penalty . With STaaS The maturity of the industry , We can expect , Participants seeking to avoid risk will require forfeiture insurance  (slashing insurance), In order to reduce the risk of being STaaS Any losses recovered by the provider .

meanwhile , The birth of liquid collateral derivatives has led to a series of intertwined risks . First , Because these derivatives are synthetic assets , they It is necessary to maintain the anchoring with the underlying pledged assets , But it's not easy . such as , Even though Lido Finance Of stETH It is the most reliable liquid derivative , but stETH Sometimes it is difficult to maintain and ETH 1:1 The hook of ( As shown in the figure below ). This is because the completion of PoS Before the transition ,stETH Cannot pass Lido Finance With 1:1 Exchange to ETH. Before that ,stETH We must rely on decentralized exchanges for actual price discovery . The following figure shows stETH And ETH The anchoring of :


Upper figure : since 2021 year 1 Since the month ,stETH And ETH Anchoring between .

This makes it possible to DeFi The use of such derivative assets is more risky , Because sudden price changes may trigger the liquidation domino effect . The second risk of liquid collateralized derivatives is their Liquidity issues . If the pledged derivative cannot exchange any other assets in the market , So it can't actually be used for any purpose , Except as a deposit voucher . The liquidity of these derivatives is also directly related to anchor risk : The more a collateral derivative deviates from its anchor , Then its liquidity will be worse .

About STaaS The last risk of the industry applies only to Decentralized pledge pool , The purpose of these pledge pools is to aggregate pledge deposits and distribute them to different verifiers . Although these pledge pools may inhibit any related counterparty risk when selecting specific verifiers , But they increase the risk of smart contracts , Because the pledge pool agreement must pass these deposits through its approved verifier network . Current DeFi The attack showed that , Hackers will look for protocol vulnerabilities at all costs . Only time will tell , Whether these contracts can withstand the attempts of malicious attackers .

De centralization

in the light of PoW A common criticism of the mining industry is , The industry encourages the centralization of resources , Therefore, it leads to the centralization of network security providers . Any centralization in the blockchain network security system makes the whole network more vulnerable to attack . although PoS The Internet is not like PoW Benefit from economies of scale like the Internet , but  STaaS  The industry is affecting  PoS  A key variable of network decentralization .

To quantify the degree of decentralization of blockchain networks ,Balaji Srinivasan (Coinbase Former CTO )  Introduced Nakamoto coefficient  (Nakamoto Coefficient)  The concept of , It is used to measure the number of entities that an attacker needs to control when he wants to attack at least one important subsystem  ( As shown in the figure below ); The higher the Nakamoto coefficient , It shows that the higher the degree of decentralization of the network . in consideration of PoS The consensus feature of the network , The minimum threshold of endangering the network is the control network 1/3 A deposit for .


take “ Nakamoto coefficient ” Applied to leading PoS The Internet can draw different pictures : Attack someone large PoS The Internet  ( Such as Cardano、Solana and Avalanche) Requires a highly coordinated approach ; And take over other PoS The Internet ( Such as Tron、Polygon、Elrond or Fantom) It will be simpler : Just attack the first two or three pledge pool providers , Then the whole network is yours . Again , This centralized pledge pool distribution is partly due to these PoS Immaturity of network ; As these networks mature , We can expect it to “ Nakamoto coefficient ” Will slowly increase .

Crypto It is necessary for the industry to make large enterprises STaaS The provider is under control , To prevent this concentration problem . Entrusted to a smaller verifier and encourage STaaS Providers maximize the number of verifiers they manage , It's the community that helps these PoS There are two ways to keep the network decentralized as much as possible .

STaaS Industry Outlook

The encryption market has made one thing clear , That's it PoS Is replacing PoW, Become the leading consensus mechanism of public blockchain network . Bitcoin will continue to make PoW Keep relevant , But any generic smart contract network needs an alternative consensus engine to support its large-scale adoption . In the early STaaS Providers are aware of this opportunity , Ready for continued success , Because more and more investors are looking for a way to learn from their PoS Get a reliable return on assets .

In the above , We have discussed in great detail STaaS Market adaptability of emerging products in the industry . But what will happen in the future ?

so to speak ,staking ( pledge ) It is the closest to the blockchain network “ Risk free interest rates ” The way . In the traditional economic system , The risk-free interest rate is expressed by the yield of government bonds , Government is the foundation of a country's economic system . Again , The security of blockchain is the foundation of blockchain economic system . The maturity of encryption economy should attract more long-term investors for their PoS Assets look for this network's native form of income . As we can see now , We can expect STaaS The continuous growth of the industry .

stay STaaS Inside the industry , Liquidity pledge solutions will benefit the most from this continued growth . We are beginning to see the first large hosting providers keep up with this trend . for example ,Binance Provides a liquidity derivative BETH, To offset with Eth2 The opportunity cost associated with indefinite lock-in . With the flow nature, pledge pools are in different blockchains and staking Increase their own network effect among providers , This trend should continue .

We can expect ,STaaS The commission rate will present a bank fee paid with consumers in the past 20 A similar pattern over the years : Competition from fintech companies has intensified , Forcing banks to offer customers lower and lower fees , To retain customers ; Again ,STaaS The increase in the number of solutions will put downward pressure on the commissions that customers need to pay . Of course , One variable that may keep these rates high in the short term is high conversion costs , This can be attributed to the immaturity of the liquidity pledge solution . If a new STaaS Competitors enter the market , Offer lower Commission , So for those who do not use liquidity pledge solutions STaaS For customers , They will need to wait for the lock-in period to end , In order to switch to this new provider ; And when they can switch , Another new STaaS The provider may offer a lower commission fee , This leads to a bottom-up cost competition .

Last , in consideration of STaaS Simplicity of industry business model ,STaaS The provider may Mainly based on brand and reputation , Just like the consumer bank we see today . Wells Fargo Bank (Wells Fargo) Chase Bank (Chase Bank) The services provided actually vary little . The main way for these banks to win customers is through marketing channels and providing a simplified user experience .


Picture source : Bank of America

Similarly , With maximum security 、 Best risk management and reliable liquidity STaaS provider , In the long run, it may accumulate the most customers . We can start with Lido Finance See this argument in the cross chain growth of .

As usual , It is important to remember that we are at an early stage . A new breakthrough consensus mechanism may be established tomorrow , Give Way PoS Become irrelevant . However , Considering the years of research on the design of consensus mechanism , This is very unlikely to happen in the short term . meanwhile , With PoS Continue to develop towards large-scale adoption ,STaaS The future of the industry is still “ Only upward ” The pattern of .

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