Cardano is ready to begin the first phase of its transition to a decentralized Shelley mainnet, which will introduce the Ouroboros Praos consensus algorithm.
The Cardano (ADA) network will perform a scheduled upgrade on Feb. 20 to introduce Ouroboros BFT, an improved consensus mechanism. The update is an intermediate step between the current Byron era and Shelley, which will introduce staking on mainnet.
Announced by IOHK on Feb. 19, the upgrade will be executed on Thursday at 9:44 PM UTC, or 4:44 PM EST. The network will undergo a hard fork, though the team emphasizes that “it is a planned and managed protocol upgrade.”
What is Ouroboros BFT?
The new protocol is a development over the original Ouroboros “Classic,” which is currently active on Cardano’s mainnet. While Ouroboros is a provably secure proof-of-stake consensus protocol, the original version made several compromises in decentralization. Namely, the list of validators is currently fixed and their succession is known ahead of time.
Cardano’s Shelley era focuses entirely on removing the “training wheels” and letting the community decide on block validators through staking. It will be powered by Ouroboros Praos, which adds several features to make it much harder to corrupt validators.
In between the two major eras, the Cardano team decided to split the transition into two hard forks. The decision was taken to ensure that no interruptions to network service occur as its validation is delegated to the community.
The Cardano team suffered strong setbacks in its Shelley plans. While it was initially planned to be released before the end of 2019, the team was only able to launch an incentivized testnet in December.
The testnet was an important step in preparing for Shelley, helping create a staking community in a safe environment. In the meantime, Cardano is also working on every subsequent phase, such as smart contracts.
Following a commitment to improve timeline estimates, Cardano delivered the hard fork on time. In January, IOHK CEO Charles Hoskinson promised a mid-February date for the upgrade.