At the end of 2017, it became known about Pavel Durov’s ambitious blockchain project – Telegram Open Network (TON). As a result of several investment rounds, the famous businessman from Russia raised about $ 1.8 billion for the project. Telegram entered into an agreement with their participants: investments in exchange for the right to receive Gram tokens, which could be used on the TON platform after its launch. At the same time, the Telegram team undertook to launch the launch itself no later than the fall of 2019.
Work on TON was carried out behind closed doors, the Telegram team did not comment on it publicly, but some details still leaked to the media. Despite the atmosphere of secrecy, Telegram followed one important principle: publish the source code of ready-made TON components in the public domain. In addition, Durov’s company gradually attracted third-party development teams to create and test individual components of the project. This approach later allowed the project to find a second wind.
In the fall of 2020, by the end of the deadline, it became clear that the launch was about to take place. And then the American authorities unexpectedly achieved through the court a ban on the distribution of Gram tokens, which made the launch of TON impossible. According to officials, the tokens were actually not cryptocurrency, but securities that were allegedly illegally sold to American investors. The trial lasted several months, and as a result, Pavel Durov announced the closure of the project (although he did not admit the charges). It would seem that the idea of TON is a thing of the past.
Launching Free TON. The Telegram Open Network was not conceived as a private business project: it was assumed that a living community would form around it, which would take on at least technical development and improvements. Indeed, a close-knit community of developers appeared during the creation of TON. As a result, it picked up the “fallen banner” of Pavel Durov. Using the open source code of ready-made components of the Telegram Open Network, in early May 2020, more than 20 independent companies and organizations launched the Free TON network. Thus, they continued the history of the Telegram Open Network project, but without the support of a businessman and investors.
Among the founders of Free TON is TON Labs, which created the TON OS operating system and a number of other components for the Telegram Open Network and then used these developments when launching Free TON. The company is responsible for the technical development of the ecosystem; today about 60 developers work in its ranks. The technical basis of Free TON corresponded to the “classic” TON. But the founders decided to abandon the legal structure. Instead, they chose the path of decentralized development – by the forces of the community itself.
Features of the Free TON blockchain. The Free TON network uses the architecture developed by Telegram. You can read more about blockchain design in the white paper of the Telegram Open Network project, written by Pavel Durov’s brother, Nikolai. It is easy to find on the Internet, but we will describe the main features.
Free TON blockchain consists of three parts – masterchain, workchain and shardchain. The master chain stores general information about the current version of the protocol and the values of its parameters, validators and their stakes, active workchains and their “shards”, as well as data on the hashes of the last blocks of all workchains and shardchains. There can only be one master chain. Workchains are several “virtual” blockchains, which are an amalgamation of similar shardchains. Workchain can have its own “rules” of work, virtual machines and the like. All workchains must be compatible with each other through the masterchain. So far, only one workchain is working in the Free TON network. Shardchains are the basic blockchain of the Free TON system. They consist of one or more blocks that contain data about the state of network addresses. If the network detects an invalid block, a new block is inserted into the shardchain containing it, replacing the invalid one. Thanks to this mechanism for detecting invalid blocks, there is no need to hard fork.
In fact, sharding was initially implemented in Free TON – the possibility of scalability depending on the load on the network. The multi-level structure of the blockchain allows for its high performance and, if necessary, significantly increase the network speed, up to a million transactions per second. After the launch of Free TON, load tests were carried out, which showed a possible throughput of tens of thousands of transactions per second.
Smart contracts, TON OS and SDK. Since Free TON is designed to run a large number of decentralized applications, achieving this goal would not have been possible without an efficient smart contract system. Almost every element in Free TON (including user wallets) is a smart contract. But, unlike Ethereum, interactions between smart contracts in Free TON are asynchronous, which is necessary for performance.
An important element of Free TON is the TON OS operating system, which is a software stack, or middleware interface between the network and users. Today, various tools are available for developing applications for TON OS – for example, compilers with Solidity and C ++, databases and SDKs. Note that all Free TON components, including TON OS, are open source software that can be modified and improved by community members. A special site has been opened for developers with detailed documentation on all Free TON components.
Consensus algorithm, validators and staking. Free TON uses a variation of the Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) algorithm that is used in some Proof-of-Stake networks. Validators are responsible for generating new blocks and verifying blockchain data in Free TON. For validation, you need “stakes” – coins of the Free TON ecosystem, locked in a special smart contract. However, this work can only be done by validators managing validator nodes. The financial requirements for the minimum validator stake are also high – hundreds of thousands of coins are needed. Therefore, in order for any holder to take part in staking, DePool works. This is a validator smart contract that third-party users can submit their coins to.
Thanks to the features of the Free TON blockchain, the network has low transfer fees, and the average production time is now only 0.2 seconds. More than 75 thousand addresses have already been registered in the network. Information about the current network operation, blocks and validators is available on the site of the Free TON block browser, TON.Live.
Decentralized management system. Perhaps the main advantage of Free TON is the ability of each participant to contribute to the development of the ecosystem. For this, the control system works, which consists of two levels. At the first level – the founders of the project (Governance), who solve the strategic tasks of finalizing the Free TON protocol. At the second level, there is a large number of “working groups” (Sub-governance) that work in narrower areas. For example, there is a working group dedicated to the development of the field of decentralized finance, a group for developers, and so on.
Competitions are the main instrument for the work of these groups. Any Free TON participant can suggest the idea of the contest. He must formulate the task and the timing of its completion, indicate the criteria for winning, offer a prize fund. The competition proposal is published on the official forum, where users discuss it and, if necessary, modify it. After that, the proposal is submitted to a vote through the blockchain. If the project is approved, then the collection of applications begins. Anyone can submit their work to the competition.
After the end of the collection of applications, their public assessment begins: each member of the jury votes for one of the works, explaining his choice. Often there are several prizes.
The voting procedure is transparent, as it takes place in the Free TON blockchain. Each work is evaluated by a jury member in the form of a transaction, in the description of which he also indicates the reason for his decision. The voting results with all the details can be viewed even after the end of the competition.
Thanks to the technical architecture laid down by Pavel Durov’s team, Free TON is today one of the fastest and most productive blockchains in the world. And with the help of an open and decentralized management system, a large and vibrant community has already formed around Free TON. You can find out news about the project on its page in Forklog HUB. Join us!
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