IOTA Outlines Plans for Killing Off its Centralized ‘Coordinator’

The IOTA Foundation has revealed for the first time that it plans to gradually phase out the IOTA network Coordinator, which some see as a centralization risk.
In a series of posts on its official blog on this week, the foundation outlined a sequence of steps it plans to take before “Coordicide”, which it sees as a major landmark on the road to complete decentralisation.

IOTA Network Coordinator Origin

While IOTA is not a blockchain but a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG), it does however employ a Proof-of-Work network security mechanism like a blockchain. This means that in theory, if a user were to command enough of the network’s hashing power, they could bend the consensus rules to do anything they want including double spending and network splits.  This was a particularly real risk for IOTA because unlike Bitcoin or Ethereum which have thousands of miners, the IOTA network’s hashing power was relatively small, meaning it would be less difficult for an attacker to gain control of it.

To forestall such a scenario, the IOTA network coordinator was created with a primary remit of preventing double spends. Known as “Coo”, the coordinator, which is controlled by the IOTA Foundation issues periodic transactions known as milestones. If any transaction on the IOTA network is not directly or indirectly references by a milestone, it is not confirmed. While this gives the foundation a certain amount of control over the network, it should be noted that it does not allow for transaction history to be changed or user funds to be accessed.

IOTA Gets Rid of Coo

According to the IOTA Foundation, while Coo has served its purpose well, in the interests of the long-term success of the framework, it is necessary to kill it off first of all because at least theoretically it permits the Foundation to choose which transactions receive priority, and also permits the Foundation to freeze suer funds by instructing milestones to ignore transactions involving such funds.

In addition, Coo provides a central point of risk because if it stops functioning or is taken over by a bad actor, all confirmations on the IOTA network would halt. Even more significantly, the need for milestones to confirm transactions works against the scalability of IOTA in the long term.

Despite the announcement, for now there exists no firm timeline has been given for the removal of Coo. A quote from the blog post reads:

“The short answer is that the Coordinator can and will be removed when our research team is satisfied that we understand the coordinator-free Tangle sufficiently.”

According to the Foundation, while it will get rid of Coo eventually, there is no plan to rush this through. The “Coordicide” project is the vehicle being used to ensure that all changes are communicated clearly and ahead of time as the Foundation begins the process of killing the coordinator, as outlined in a subsequent post.


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