Cardano Ouroboros Explained – DailyCoin

Cardano’s Ouroboros protocol is the bread and butter of what makes this blockchain so special. According to the Cardano (ADA) community, this algorithm is the first ‘provably secure’ Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism in the cryptocurrency world. 

In theory, this academically founded and peer-researched blockchain protocol wipes the floor with its rivals, offering unmatched decentralization, scalability, and energy efficiency. Bold claims.

Adopted by Charles Hoskinson and Input Output Global (IOHK) to secure the Cardano blockchain, is Ouroboros truly the best consensus algorithm in crypto? How does this PoS protocol work, and what separates it from other blockchain networks? 

What is Ouroboros?

Originally, the Ouroboros is an ancient mythological symbol of a serpent or dragon eating its tale. It symbolizes the cyclical nature of life, death, and eternity. Our hungry snake represents time feeding back into itself.

Amongst the crypto crowd, however, Ouroboros is the name of Cardano’s consensus mechanism. This refers to the algorithmic process by which new blocks are validated and added to the blockchain network. Consider Ouroboros, the engine room powering the Cardano ecosystem’s range of dApps and CNFTs.

Ouroboros is a heartbeat for the Cardano network, ensuring its security, sustainability, and seamless functionality. Because of meticulous peer-reviewed research and cryptography, Ouroboros is the underlying Proof-of-Stake protocol that keeps Cardano ticking.

How Does Ouroboros Work?

Here, we have a simple question with a complicated answer. Published by Aggelos Kiayias, Alexander Russell, Bernardo David, and Roman Oliynykov, the document outlining how Ouroboros works is a 67-page document, with most pages showing complex mathematical formulas that the average human cannot decipher: 

To save you time and headaches, I’ve distilled the Ouroboros consensus protocol to three essential features:

Epochs and Slots

Epochs mark the passage of time within Ouroboros. An epoch is a period during which a fixed number of blocks are created, typically lasting several days.

Each epoch is further divided into slots, short intervals during which a block can be created. The duration of a slot is fixed and determined by the network parameters. A designated slot leader is responsible for adding a new block to the blockchain in each slot.

Leaders and Stake Pools

In each slot, cryptographic randomness chooses a block leader from a set of eligible validator nodes determined based on their stake in the network. The more ADA staked, the higher your chances of being selected. The slot leader is responsible for verifying and validating that each new block’s transactions are correct.

Users can delegate their stake to a stake pool, a group of validators that work together to be selected as slot leaders and create new blocks. Stake pools receive rewards for their work, and users who delegate their Cardano wallet holdings to a stake pool also receive a share of the rewards. 

Not only does this mean that network participants don’t need thousands of ADA to earn staking rewards, but it also helps to further decentralize the network by distributing contributors as widely as possible.

Rewards and Incentives

Slot leaders and stake pool operators receive ADA emissions as a reward for staking ADA tokens and securing the network. These incentivize network participants and encourage people to ensure the Cardano network is as decentralized as possible.

Cardano Ouroboros Development

Like everything in the crypto space, Caradno’s Ouroboros protocol is constantly being updated and improved to match the demands of a rapidly evolving industry. There have been several different implementations of Ouroboros, with each new version building upon the foundations laid by its predecessor. 

1. Ouroboros Classic

The first version of Ouroboros was born with simple goals. It aimed to provide an efficient alternative to energy-intensive consensus mechanisms like Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work and create true randomness when selecting slot leaders.

Ouroboros Classic used publicly verifiable secret sharing (PVSS) to generate unbiased randomness, laying the groundwork for a fair and decentralized leader selection process.

Most importantly, true randomness avoids repeated patterns, which malicious actors can exploit. Cardano was the first blockchain protocol to make security guarantees that its rivals couldn’t match.

2. Ouroboros BFT

Ouroboros BFT introduced a robust mechanism to handle bad behavior and ensure the integrity of the network, even in the presence of malicious actors. It used Byzantine Fault Tolerance to achieve consensus and maintain network cohesion, even when some participants may act dishonestly.

This iteration was a transitional protocol during Cardano’s Shelley era, bridging the gap between Ouroboros Classic and the subsequent versions. It was crucial in facilitating network upgrades and ensuring a smooth transition between Cardano Hard Forks, like the Mary fork.

3. Ouroboros Praos

Ouroboros Praos introduced adaptive security, a feature that fortified Cardano against common network attacks, like DDoS hacks (Distributed Denial of Service). As I’m sure you know, the crypto space is laced with nasty hackers looking for any exploitable bug in the code. This adaptability ensured the network was durable and robust despite a changing digital environment. 

The Praos implementation introduced a new mechanism for stake-based leader selection that utilized verifiable random functions (VRFs). Most importantly, stakeholders knew which slots they would lead ahead of time, while the rest of the network would only find out who the slot leader was when a block was published.

Finally, Praos also operates under a semi-synchronous network model. This feature allowed for greater flexibility and resilience, ensuring the continuous and seamless functioning of the Cardano network.

4. Ouroboros Genesis

The next implementation, Ouroboros Genesis, deals with another new chain selection ruling. This time, network participants can join Cardano and participate in the protocol without relying on a centralized checkpoint. This feature will mark a key step towards true decentralization, ensuring the network remains open, inclusive, and resilient to centralization risks.

Ouroboros Genesis will also bring lightweight operating clients into the fold. This is expected to reduce the barriers to entry and encourage a more accessible blockchain ecosystem on Cardano.

5. Ouroboros Crypsinous

Our paths diverge here, and our self-eating snake seeks another meal. The Crypsinous update isn’t expected to be deployed on Cardano. However, given that its community governs Cardano, this decision may be overridden, so it’s still worth learning about.

Crypsinous aims to bring greater privacy to the Ouroboros protocol by implementing SNARK technology, or what some Ethereum-based networks call zero-knowledge proofs. These zk proofs allow network participants to prove they know sensitive data without revealing the information itself.

6. Ouroboros Chronos

Reverting to Ouroboros’s mythic theme, we have Chronus. Named after the Greek Titan of Time, Chronos brings forth asynchronous consensus, which helps the network reach agreement and maintain cohesion, regardless of variations in message delivery times. 

Chronos handles the intricacies of time, introducing a flexible approach to timekeeping and slot management. This flexibility allows for adaptive slot lengths, accommodating variations in network conditions and ensuring that block production and transaction validation occur efficiently.

Cardano Ouroboros Pros and Cons

Ouroboros provides a wealth of benefits that make Cardano a technological powerhouse in the cryptocurrency industry. However, it’s not without its faults. Let’s review some of Ouroboros’s pros and cons.


  • Sustainability – Ouroboros operates on a proof-of-stake model, significantly reducing energy consumption compared to proof-of-work systems.
  • Adaptability – The protocol’s continuous evolution and adaptability showcase that the developers always seek to improve the Cardano network.
  • Security – Ouroboros boasts a provably secure framework that is exceptionally resilient in the face of blockchain hacks and malicious actors.
  • Privacy and Confidentiality – Advanced cryptographic techniques help to balance user privacy and data confidentiality with network transparency.


  • Complexity – The intricate design and continuous evolution of Ouroboros make it hard for users and developers to keep up to date.
  • Slow Progress – Cardano is often criticized for lengthy development periods that frustrate ADA holders and network supporters.

On the Flipside

  • For all its bells, whistles, and technological jargon, Ouroboros is essentially a Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism like most others. Dozens of other Layer-1 blockchains, like Ethereum, Solana, and Algorand, use similar protocols to secure their network.

Why This Matters

Ouroboros is the beating heart of the Cardano network. If you’re a Cardano or ADA fan, learning about how Ouroboros and its various versions work will give you a better understanding of the network.


What are the versions of Cardano Ouroboros?

In order of creation, the versions of Cardano are Classic, BFT, Praos, Genesis, Crypsinous, and Chronus.

What is Cardano Ouroboros?

Cardano Ouroboros is a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism that secures the network and creates new blocks.

What crypto uses Ouroboros?

Both Cardano and Polkadot use Ouroboros, although the Polkadot network has made some alterations to the protocol.

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