In today’s digital-centric world, distributed ledger technologies (DLT) change how we perceive and interact with digital infrastructures. Among these groundbreaking technologies, Hedera Hashgraph emerges as a standout player. The brainchild of Dr. Leemon Baird, Mance Harmon, and Paul Madsen, Hedera Hashgraph’s comprehensive whitepaper articulates a clear and ambitious vision: to forge a trusted, secure, and empowering digital landscape accessible to everyone.
Vision and Mission of Hedera
Hedera Hashgraph envisions creating a cyberspace that is not only trusted and secure but also free from the undue influence of centralized entities. This vision is to build a digital world where individuals can work, play, buy, sell, create, and engage in social interactions with an underlying sense of safety and privacy. The essence of this vision lies in empowering users, offering them confidence in their digital interactions, and ensuring that this digital future is accessible to all. This vision of Hedera is to become the trust layer of the internet, a platform where every interaction is secure and empowered.
Hedera’s mission is to build a trusted and safe online world. This mission has several core objectives integral to Hedera’s approach:
Decentralized Governance: Hedera aims to decentralize platform governance through its Governing Council. This council comprises a term-limited, rotating set of governing members from diverse industries and geographies, each wielding equal voting rights over key platform decisions.
Performance Optimization: The hashgraph distributed consensus algorithm has near-perfect bandwidth usage efficiency; this allows for processing hundreds of thousands of transactions per second, addressing a critical performance aspect that often constrains the adoption of public distributed ledger technologies.
Technical and Legal Stability: Technical and legal controls, including mechanisms to prevent network forks and ensure the integrity of the codebase. The Hedera codebase, governed by the Hedera Governing Council, offers transparency while maintaining stability.
Regulatory Compliance: Hedera is committed to ensuring its network complies with applicable laws and regulations, including data privacy regulations like GDPR and anti-money laundering (AML) obligations. The technical framework of Hedera includes features for controlled mutability of the network state and the potential to request or attach additional data to transactions, such as identity certificates, facilitating regulatory compliance.
Enabling a Broad-Based Adoption: Hedera’s mission is not just to innovate but to drive the adoption of its technology across mainstream markets.
The Potential of DLTs
Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), epitomized by innovations like Hedera Hashgraph, introduces secure, transparent, decentralized systems that operate independently of central authorities. DLT’s relevance extends across various sectors, offering a reliable framework that minimizes fraud risks and enhances efficiency.
Despite its transformative potential, the widespread adoption of DLT encounters significant hurdles. The Hedera Hashgraph whitepaper illuminates five critical challenges preventing DLT from achieving mainstream acceptance:
Performance Excellence: The most compelling DLT applications require a system capable of handling hundreds of thousands of transactions per second with minimal delay. Public DLT platforms often struggle to meet these demanding performance criteria, which hampers their practical utility.
Robust Security Measures: As the value transacted over public DLT platforms escalates, so does their allure to cyber criminals. A secure DLT platform must have an ironclad network security protocol, beginning with its foundational consensus algorithm. Hedera Hashgraph’s use of the hashgraph consensus algorithm, known for its asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance (aBFT), ensures a high-security level scalable to diverse needs.
Effective and Balanced Governance: A sound governance structure is non-negotiable for a DLT platform to be stable and reliable. Hedera Hashgraph’s governance, comprising up to 39 top global enterprises, ensures that no single entity or small group wields disproportionate influence. This governance model brings together diverse industrial and geographical perspectives, fostering well-rounded decision-making.
Ensuring Platform Stability: Stability fosters trust and encourages user adoption in a DLT platform. Hedera Hashgraph maintains its integrity and consistency through stringent technical and legal measures, preventing network fragmentation and ensuring a unified approach.
Adherence to Regulatory Norms: Hedera Hashgraph’s technical framework, which includes features like controlled network state mutability and transaction-specific data attachment, facilitates regulatory compliance while safeguarding user privacy and security.
Hedera Hashgraph is a public network that leverages the unique capabilities of the hashgraph consensus algorithm. This network aims to provide a platform for distributed consensus, allowing a community of users to agree on transaction orders without the need for mutual trust. Hedera’s vision is to create a trusted, secure cyberspace free from the influence of centralized entities, and it achieves this through a decentralized architecture encompassing various industries and geographies.
A council comprising up to 39 leading global enterprises governs the Hedera network. This council is pivotal in bringing business and process expertise, notably absent in previous public ledger platforms. Council membership encompasses a broad spectrum of industries and geographies, ensuring that no single member or small group has undue influence over the network. This diverse and balanced governance structure guarantees fair decision-making and provides oversight of Hedera operations, establishing policies for council membership, network rules, and codebase changes. The governance model is a significant factor in ensuring trust and fairness in the Hedera network.
The hashgraph consensus algorithm stands at the core of Hedera Hashgraph’s functionality. This algorithm is distinguished by its asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance (aBFT), ensuring robust security against various attacks, including Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The hashgraph algorithm is also noted for its efficiency in bandwidth usage, allowing for processing hundreds of thousands of transactions per second in a single shard. This efficiency results in low consensus latency, measured in seconds rather than minutes or hours, a crucial factor for high-performance DLT platforms. Combining these unique features makes the hashgraph consensus algorithm a fundamental advance in distributed systems and a cornerstone of Hedera’s design.
Hedera Hashgraph remarkably processes hundreds of thousands of transactions per second within a single shard, a feat that starkly contrasts with the capabilities of many conventional blockchain networks. Hedera’s backbone, the hashgraph consensus algorithm, is engineered for optimal bandwidth utilization, facilitating this high-volume transaction processing with unprecedented efficiency.
Hedera achieves consensus on transactions in mere seconds. This rapid transaction handling enhances user experience and opens new avenues for real-time data-driven applications, making Hedera a prime choice for sectors needing immediate transaction processing.
Hedera’s decentralized and leaderless consensus model significantly enhances its security and political neutrality, addressing key challenges conventional blockchain technologies face; this makes Hedera particularly well-suited for a broad spectrum of applications, from consumer-focused to large-scale enterprise solutions, where rapid and reliable transaction processing is crucial.
Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance (aBFT)
Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerance (aBFT) is a key feature of Hedera Hashgraph’s security measures. This advanced form of Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) signifies that the network can reach a consensus even in the presence of malicious actors or network issues. In aBFT, no single node or a small group of nodes can prevent or alter the network’s consensus. Each node in the Hedera network eventually understands with certainty that there is consensus, a significant contrast to blockchain platforms where consensus is typically probabilistic and not guaranteed. This robust security measure ensures that even if some actors collude or control aspects of the network, such as delaying messages, the network will ultimately reach a consensus as long as more than two-thirds of the nodes follow the protocol correctly.
Resistance to Common Security Threats
Hedera Hashgraph’s consensus mechanism is uniquely resistant to various common security threats, including DDoS attacks. This resilience is due to the lack of a single leader or coordinator in its consensus process, which is typically a vulnerability in other systems. Hashgraph’s approach ensures that attacks against consensus mechanisms, like DDoS, are less likely to succeed, thereby providing a more secure and stable network.
Cryptography and Network Security
Cryptographic solid foundations further reinforce the security of the Hedera network. All network communications are encrypted using TLS 1.2, ensuring secure data transmission. Additionally, all transactions on the network are digitally signed, and the hashgraph uses cryptographic hashes. Hedera’s cryptographic algorithms and key sizes comply with the CNSA Suite security standard required to protect the U.S. government’s top-secret information. This standard includes using AES-256, RSA-3072, SHA-384, ECDSA, and ECDH with p-384 and ephemeral keys for perfect forward secrecy, ensuring high network security.
Fairness in Hedera Hashgraph
Fairness in Hedera Hashgraph is critical concerning fair access and transaction ordering. The hashgraph algorithm ensures that the consensus order of transactions reflects the actual order in which the network receives transactions. This approach prevents any single party from inhibiting the flow of transactions into the network or influencing their order in the eventual consensus. The hashgraph consensus algorithm’s design ensures that no individual node can significantly delay a transaction from being added to the consensus, thus maintaining fairness in access and transaction ordering.
The fairness in transaction ordering provided by Hedera Hashgraph has significant implications for various market applications, especially those where the order of transactions is critical, such as in stock markets or auction systems. In traditional blockchain platforms, miners or leaders can determine the order of transactions within a block or delay certain transactions, potentially leading to unfair practices like front running. In contrast, Hedera’s system ensures a level playing field where no single participant can influence the transaction order unduly.
The Hedera Governing Council has a broad representation and avoids centralized control. These Governing Members are responsible for establishing policies for Council membership, setting network rules, managing the platform’s treasury of coins, and approving changes to the platform codebase. Each member, except Swirlds (the company holding the patent titles to the hashgraph consensus algorithm), serves a limited term, ensuring no single member or group of members gains centralized control. The Council has equal governing rights among its members, promoting a decentralized and balanced decision-making process.
Hedera Hashgraph’s governance model emphasizes decentralized and expert-driven management. The Council members bring their experience in business and process expertise, which is crucial for the fair governance of the network. This expertise spans various sectors, contributing to a wide range of perspectives in decision-making. The Governing Members also participate in committees overseeing Hedera operations, including but not limited to a Technical Steering & Product Committee, a Finance Committee, and a Legal & Regulatory Committee. This structure ensures that decisions are made by informed and experienced professionals, fostering a governance model that is both decentralized and expert-driven.
The Council’s responsibilities extend to managing technical and legal controls, which include preventing network forks and ensuring consistent application of software updates, thus maintaining the stability and integrity of the network. This governance model, akin to the original model used by National BankAmericard Inc. (later renamed VISA), is crafted to ensure that Council members act in the best interest of the Hedera platform and its users, fostering an environment of trust and stability.
Stability and Technical Controls
Hedera Hashgraph has mechanisms to prevent forks, ensuring the stability and continuity of the network. These mechanisms are part of Hedera’s technical controls and include a shared state mechanism. This mechanism ensures that a network node can’t fork the official version of the Hedera hashgraph platform, make changes, and have those changes accepted as valid. If the original hashgraph platform and a copy are independently changed, software clients using the Hedera platform can identify which version is correct and which is not. Additionally, Hedera’s hashgraph technology allows the Hedera Council to specify and synchronize software changes across network nodes, ensuring that any node with outdated or invalid software cannot modify the ledger or have its version of the log accepted.
A combination of legal and technical controls reinforces the stability of Hedera Hashgraph. On the technical side, all nodes maintain a copy of the state, and at the end of each round of the algorithm, each node calculates the new state, signs a hash of this shared state, and gossips it out to the network. This process ensures a consistent and unified form across the network. On the legal side, the Hedera Governing Council governs the Hedera codebase. While the code will not be open source, it will be available for anyone to read, recompile, and verify.
Hedera Hashgraph’s technical framework ensures compliance with key regulatory requirements, including the European Union’s GDPR and AML obligations. The platform provides tools that enable users, enterprises, and developers to meet these legal requirements. Hedera Hashgraph acknowledges the importance of adapting to new and changing laws and regulations and commits to working with regulators to enable compliance across its network. This focus on regulatory compliance is essential for gaining the trust of mainstream markets and ensuring the platform’s wide adoption.
Hedera Hashgraph implements controlled mutability of the network state. This feature enables data publishers on the network to define authorization policies for future data deletion and modification, specifying which keys have these authorizations. This functionality supports the GDPR’s “right to erasure” requirement, allowing developers to build applications that comply with such regulations. The Hedera network also enables users to manage their identities and transaction requirements. While accounts are pseudonymous by default, the Hedera technology framework supports future implementations where users can attach their real identity to their ledger accounts, as asserted by an accredited party acting as a Certificate Authority. This identity management capability enables appropriate identity checks, such as KYC and AML screenings.
Hedera Hashgraph has a multi-tiered, tailor-made architectural design to cater to enterprise-level and consumer needs. This sophisticated architecture has distinct layers, each serving a vital function:
The Internet Layer: As the backbone of the Hedera network, this layer features a network of computers utilizing TCP/IP connections. These connections are fortified with TLS encryption, ensuring secure and seamless communication. Addressing nodes via IP addresses and ports, rather than symbolic names, adds an extra layer of security against DNS system attacks.
The Hashgraph Consensus Layer: This pivotal layer of the Hedera ecosystem employs a gossip protocol for sharing transactions across the network. Central to this layer is the Hedera Consensus Service, which ensures decentralized and unbiased transaction ordering. This service is crucial for achieving a consensus that is not only rapid and equitable but also secure.
The Services Layer: The layer hosts essential services, amplifying the versatility of Hedera Hashgraph. This layer is engineered for minimal latency and maximal throughput, addressing a broad spectrum of user requirements.
Hedera Hashgraph’s architectural prowess has three core services, each designed to address specific digital needs:
Cryptocurrency Service: redefines value transfer efficiency, enabling rapid and cost-effective transactions between accounts sans intermediaries. It is tailored for micro-transactions and combines high throughput with minimal network fees, making it ideal for modern financial applications.
Smart Contracts: At the heart of Hedera’s smart contract offering is the capability for deterministic code execution without the need for trust in the application operator. Users can leverage this service to create equitable markets, issue tokens, and embed complex business logic while enjoying the trusted security and orderly execution that Hedera’s platform ensures.
File Service: Hedera’s File Service provides robust data storage solutions, allowing for both broad network access and the preservation of data integrity over time. It’s a powerful tool for creating decentralized data registries and maintaining comprehensive public records.
Hedera Hashgraph presents a groundbreaking approach to distributed ledger technology. Its unique architecture, comprising the Internet Layer, Hashgraph Consensus Layer, and Services Layer, provides a robust and secure foundation for various services, including cryptocurrency transactions, smart contracts, and file storage.
Hedera stands out with its emphasis on regulatory compliance, security measures like a BFT, and a governance model that ensures decentralized and balanced decision-making. This innovative platform addresses critical challenges such as performance, security, and stability and positions itself as a pioneer in the DLT space, offering scalable and efficient solutions for both enterprise and consumer applications.
Hedera Hashgraph’s commitment to creating a trusted, secure, and empowered digital future is poised to drive significant advancements in how we interact and transact in the digital world.