Staking means you are holding your cryptocurrency funds in a wallet and thus support the functionality of a blockchain system. Stakeholders lock their cryptos in their wallets. In return, they are rewarded by the network.
Staking is a way of making an income. However, it’s not the only way to make profits with cryptocurrency.
If you want to learn more about making money with crypto, read our cryptocurrency investment guide for beginners.
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What Is Proof Of Stake
To clear up the idea of staking, we should explain the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism. PoS and its versions are widely used in many blockchain networks.
The pioneers of PoS were (most likely) Sunny King and Scott Nadal. They were the first to describe and implement this idea for the crypto project Peercoin (PPC). Originally, its blockchain was using a hybrid of PoW and PoS. It made the network less dependent on the alternative protocol and attracted more participants. They were miners who came to compete for a reward.
Delegated Proof Of Stake
Two years later, Daniel Larimer, a prominent software developer, and crypto entrepreneur introduced a modified version of PoS. Its name was Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS). The first network to apply it was Bitshares. Larimer also launched EOS and Steem. Both projects adopted the Delegated Proof of Stake protocol for their blockchains.
What is the key feature of DPoS? This mechanism allows all network users to ‘convert’ their crypto holdings into votes. These votes are used to elect trusted witnesses (‘delegates’). They will manage the blockchain on your behalf. The delegates validate the transactions and make sure the network functions as it should. The weight of your vote depends on how big your stake is. As a stakeholder, you get a regular reward for keeping your crypto in the network.
The DPoS model addresses the important problems of PoS and PoW blockchains. First of all, it’s the scalability issue. DPoS improves network capacity by increasing the speed of transaction processing. It is possible because the DPoS model allows reaching consensus much faster, as it needs fewer nodes to validate a transaction. On the dark side, Delegate Proof of Stake usage promotes centralization: a DPoS network relies on a limited group of delegates for its operation.
How Staking Works
As we said earlier, staking means holding cryptocurrency or tokens to support a network operation and getting a reward for it. Naturally, this process is typical for blockchains using the PoS protocol or any of its versions.
Unlike PoW, this protocol does not rely on miners who validate blocks by doing ‘work’. This work consists of solving math puzzles using increasingly powerful mining hardware. Instead, the mining power of any network participant depends on how many coins they commit to stake. It allows a PoS-based blockchain to avoid usage of ASICs and other equipment that consumes a great amount of electricity.
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Advantages Of Staking
The bigger is the amount you stake, the better are your chances to become the validator for the next block and grab the reward. The PoS model saves you a lot of money. You don’t have to invest in expensive mining hardware and cooling equipment. Also, you don’t have to pay huge electricity bills every month. You still spend some money, but it’s a direct cryptocurrency investment. Every PoS network features its own ‘staking currency’.
The increased scalability, ensured by staking, is one of the main reasons why the Ethereum plans to move to this model in 2020 when it adopts the Casper protocol.
There are networks that prefer DPoS. In this model, you may use other network participants to signal your support for some event. It means you delegate decision making to the nodes you trust.
In fact, these delegates are responsible for handling the blockchain, as they deal with the issues of major importance. They play a key role in consensus achievement and make management decisions.
There are blockchains who pay a staking reward in the form of a fixed percentage, the so-called ‘inflation rate’. The purpose is to persuade more people to stake their coins. It’s like a bank encouraging you to keep your money with them and not at home.
Until recently, Stellar was a typical example of such a scheme. Their fixed inflation rate was 1%. Every week, the network used to distribute ‘inflation money’ among the holders, who kept their funds in the staking pool. The main pro of this model is that you get a fixed bonus regularly.
For example, a Stellar user who was holding 10,000 XLM for 1 year, could expect the reward of 100 XLM. This information was open to all the users, helping them to decide in favor of staking. It motivated the people who preferred a moderate but predictable reward to a big but random one.
In the 4th quarter of 2019, Stellar abandoned the inflation scheme.
An idea behind staking pools is simple. To form a pool, many network stakeholders combine together. It increases their collective odds of validating a new block and getting rewarded for it. Like in a PoW mining pool, the reward is proportionately split among all the participants. The money you put in, the bigger is your share.
Pooling might be the best staking solution if your network has a high entry barrier. In practice, it means that you have to contribute a large amount of money to enter, but you cannot afford it alone. Note, that running a pool is not free, as there are maintenance and development costs. As a result, you often have to pay a ‘membership fee’ to the pool providers. Normally, it’s a fixed percentage of your reward share.
Besides, pools may offer additional benefits related to withdrawal time, minimum balance, etc. It attracts new participants and results in a greater degree of decentralization of the network.
Cold staking is when you stake your crypto using a cold (hardware) wallet. Such a wallet has no connection to the Internet. There are networks that let you stake the funds kept in cold storage. The biggest benefit of cold staking is that your funds are 100% safe. For large stakeholders, it’s the top priority. If a stakeholder takes the crypto out of the cold wallet, their rewards are discontinued.
Future Of Staking
The number of users seeking to contribute their assets to participate in blockchain management and decision-making grows. It means staking becomes popular. To meet the demand, the entry process is becoming more user-friendly. Accordingly, more people will be taking an active part in the development of their blockchain ecosystems.
For example, our own Channels app supports staking. Users can stake their EON (the in-house cryptocurrency) at up to 15% a year, and receive a reward every week for supporting the network.
In conclusion, staking is an innovative investment tool. It can compete with traditional ones in terms of stability. In terms of assets growth potential, it’s superior to them.