Proof of stake (PoS) is a type of consensus algorithm used by a public blockchain network to achieve distributed consensys. It is an alternative to the widely known Proof of Work (PoW) consensus algorithm used by Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
PoS was initially introduced in 2011 on the Bitcointalk forum to solve problems faced by the popular PoW algorithm. In 2012, a cryptocurrency named Peercoin was the first to implement the new consensus algorithm. Since then, a number of leading cryptocurrencies have adopted PoS including NEO, EOS, Cosmos, Waves, Tron, and others. Ethereum is also migrating to a PoS consensus algorithm with its upcoming Casper implementation.
The main advantages of PoS over PoW are energy efficiency, security, reduced centralization risks, new economic penalties to prevent various attacks, and the issuance of new coins can be reduced because participants are incentivised to stake coins to participate in the network rather than mine them.
In PoS-based public blockchains, new blocks are forged or minted rather than mined like in PoW. The new blocks are minted from a set of validators who lock up their cryptocurrency into a deposit. Validators then receive a reward for staking their tokens and minting new blocks and validators with a larger stake receive more rewards. Therefore, individuals are incentivized to partake in the system.
While PoS presents various advantages over PoW, it is not without downfalls. Some experts argue that PoS is not ideal for a distributed consensus algorithm, claiming there is a "nothing-at-stake" problem. However, there are different solutions that various projects are working on and implementing to combat issues surrounding PoS.
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