Creating New Blocks

In Linera, the responsibility of proposing blocks is separate from the task of validating blocks.

While all chains are validated in the same way, the Linera protocol defines several types of chains, depending on how new blocks are produced.

  • The simplest and lowest-latency type of chain is called single-owner chain.

  • Other types of Linera chains not currently supported in the SDK include permissioned chains and public chains (see the whitepaper for more context).

For most types of chains (all but public chains), Linera validators do not need to exchange messages with each other.

Instead, the wallets (aka linera clients) of chain owners make the system progress by proposing blocks and actively providing any additional required data to the validators. For instance, client commands such as transfer, publish-bytecode, or open-chain perform multiple steps to append a block containing the token transfer, application publishing, or chain creation operation:

  • The Linera client creates a new block containing the desired operation and new incoming messages, if there are any. It also contains the most recent block's hash to designate its parent. The client sends the new block to all validators.

  • The validators validate the block, i.e. check that the block satisfies the conditions listed above, and send a cryptographic signature to the client, indicating that they vote to append the new block. But only if they have not voted for a different block on the same height earlier!

  • The client ideally receives a vote from every validator, but only a quorum of votes (say, two thirds) are required: These constitute a "certificate", proving that the block was confirmed. The client sends the certificate to every validator.

  • The validators "execute" the block: They update their own view of the most recent state of the chain by applying all messages and operations, and if it generated any cross-chain messages, they send these to the appropriate workers.

To guarantee that each incoming message in a block was actually sent by another chain, a validator will, in the second step, only vote for a block if it has already executed the block that sent it. However, when receiving a valid certificate for a block that receives a message it has not seen yet, it will accept and execute the block anyway. The certificate is proof that most other validators have seen the message, so it must be correct.

In the case of single-owner chains, clients must be carefully implemented so that they never propose multiple blocks at the same height. Otherwise, the chain may be stuck: once each of the two conflicting blocks has been signed by enough validators, it becomes impossible to collect a quorum of votes for either block.

In the future, we anticipate that most users will use permissioned chains even if they are the only owners of their chains. Permissioned chains have two confirmation steps instead of one, but it is not possible to accidentally make a chain unextendable. They also allow users to delegate certain admistrative tasks to third-parties, notably to help with epoch changes (i.e. when the validators change if reconfigured).