Back in September, the Loom Network noted that part of its roadmap included onboarding third-party validators for its delegated proof-of-stake (DPoS) sidechains, one being PlasmaChain, an updated version of the team's original ZombieChain. Now, according to a November 15 announcement, Loom has officially onboarded its first group of validators – Mythos, bitfish, Bixin, and MW Partners – for the PlasmaChain testnet.
For a bit of context: In a proof-of-stake system, validators are like a proof-of-work (PoW) system's miners – their purpose is to create new blocks on a blockchain. There are key differences in how this is done, though. Whereas PoW miners add blocks by being the first to solve an expensive computer calculation, proof-of-stake validators are deterministically chosen to propose and vote (using tokens) on the next block. If others agree that the block is valid, they also vote on it. This system reduces the computational power necessary for block creation.
DPoS systems also have deterministically chosen validators, but one major point of difference is that the network has a small, predetermined pool of validators that can be voted in or out by token holders.
Put simply, the overall success of the blockchain (or, specifically, the sidechain in Loom's case) relies on the work of validators.
In its announcement, Loom indicated that its first four validators bring "the deep expertise and experience that will help propel PlasmaChain to the next level." The team praised the four projects for the variety of beneficial qualities they possess, such as Mythos' "secure and professional grade infrastructure," bitfish's "well-researched educational content that's accessible to anyone," Bixin's "prolific" mining division with "validators and nodes across a broad array of top blockchain" initiatives in the space, and MW Partners' "multi-disciplinary set of expertise and experience." The Loom crew believes this initial group sets a high standard for later validators joining the network.
As for the future, the team plans to continue onboarding validators through the first quarter of 2019. Although the validators would be joining the PlasmaChain testnet, Loom also aims to onboard them onto the mainnet, too.
The overall goal, according to Loom, involves a steady increase in the number of third-party validators while maintaining the network's stability. Eventually, the team believes PlasmaChain will be operated and governed "entirely by the community itself."
Of course, running a validator node requires a huge stake – 1.25 million LOOM tokens to be specific. This is clearly a prohibitive amount for most groups.
Those interested in helping to secure the network, however, can become delegators rather than validators, which is where the true democratic power of a DPoS system comes into play. Delegators "proxy" (or give control of) their LOOM to validators, who then use the tokens in their staking pools. Each token, then, serves as a kind of vote for a certain validator, and the parties with the biggest staking pools are, as the analogy goes, "elected" to the role of validator.
Although not every group can contribute to the network in a validator capacity, the underlying DPoS consensus mechanism is set up to (theoretically) allow everybody in the community to participate in the maintenance of the chain.
Whether parties support Loom as validators or delegators, the network is plunging itself headlong into the realm that is DPoS.