Kovan is a new testnet for Ethereum using Parity's Proof of Authority consensus engine, which is immune to spam attacks as Ether supply is controlled by trusted parties and provides a consistent 4 second block time.

Kovan is a new testnet for Ethereum using Parity's Proof of Authority consensus engine, which is immune to spam attacks as Ether supply is controlled by trusted parties and provides a consistent 4 second block time.

A select group of trusted parties (“Consortium”) will be responsible for maintaining a cluster of Ethereum nodes running PoA to verify blocks.

Decentralization

To ensure a sufficient degree of trust and redundancy, a minimum number of Consortium members should be recognised as being trusted members of the Ethereum/Blockchain community. Servers should not be controlled by a single entity, but run individually by the consortium’s companies, preferably with servers located in multiple regions.

Governance

Formal process to be confirmed. Currently using gitter for decision making. The Parity codebase (and thus Kovan) is ultimately controlled by Parity Technologies.

Blockchain Configuration

Faucet Service

A secure “Faucet” service will be provided to allow for verified (non-malicious) developers to acquire testnet Ether. It is important that the distribution of testnet Ether is available but is also rate-limited, so as to be not available in large amounts to non-trusted parties (to prevent spam attacks).

The faucet will have a web-based interface, and will require some level of verification (to be determined), but could include:

  • Github User Verification (OAuth)
  • SMS Verification (already developed by Parity)
  • Manual KYC from consortium members

It is to be determined whether or not the faucet service will require manual approval from the consortium validators, with one or more validators approving requests for testnet Ether. This could be achieved using an admin backend for approving requests optionally, with an on-chain multi-sig wallet to prevent an individual validator from ‘going rogue’.

Another approach could leverage the economic properties of the Ethereum mainnet, by automatically granting testnet Ether to users who send mainnet Ether into a specific contract (which could in turn be used to fund maintenance of the Kovan testnet). This approach would grant privacy benefits to developers, whilst still creating an economic barrier to entry that prevents large amounts of testnet Ether from being accrued.

Blockchain Explorer

An important requirement for testnet developers is to be able to easily verify that transactions have been processed using a third party interface. The most popular blockchain explorer for Ethereum is Etherscan, which currently provides an explorer interface for both the Ethereum mainnet and Ropsten testnet. Etherscan will also provide this service and also a set of API endpoints for the Kovan testnet.

JSON-RPC Endpoints

Any developer, including non-consortium-members, can interact with the blockchain by running a local Parity node using a specific configuration.

Additionally, a number of public JSON-RPC endpoints will be provided for deploying Smart Contracts and interacting with the network, where developers can use “zero-wallets” for signing transactions, providing further convenience for any given dev environment - this removes the requirement of running a local node, and is useful for mobile and web-based applications.

Ideally, a scalable load-balanced service (such as Infura) should be used to ensure uptime and reliability.

Deployment

It is critical that validators have correctly-configured PoA validation nodes running in reliable and redundant way. Various deployment options will be provided to validators:

  • Docker Images (TBC)
  • Manual Configuration/Setup Documentation
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