Nebulas brands itself as a decentralized platform that provides a search framework for all blockchains. This framework allows users to search through all blockchains for decentralized applications and users, like how Google created the first web search engine. Instead of ranking pages based on how often they were cited, Nebulas ranks people on how ‘valuable’ they are with metrics like how often people are sending transactions and how liquid their supply of funds is.
Nebulas also has created a dynamic programming environment equipped to handle future upgrades with considerable ease. Along with their ‘value’ rank, Nebulas incited a self-evolving ecosystem for their blockchain in which their Nebulas Virtual Machine (NVM) and its upgrades are isolated from the node clients. This means that as the NVM is upgraded, there is no responsibility on the part of the wallets, exchanges, or nodes to upgrade their software. This also means that unlike in Ethereum, smart contracts do not need to be changed or supplied with a new version during upgrades. In this way, the NVM is stored in the blockchain itself where the Ethereum Virtual Machine is a standalone entity.
Finally, they have implemented a “Developer Incentive Protocol” which aims to reward developers accurately for participating in their development ecosystem. This is specifically for smart contracts on the Nebulas platform, as opposed to the platform participants. This relies on the user ranking system mentioned above by gauging how many many high-ranking users are interacting with the smart contract.
The team believes that these principles will allow them to create an ecosystem that is self-fulfilling, in that it can evolve its core value proposition while relying exclusively on monetary incentives, similar to an app store. It will also try and serve as a base layer of operability for the blockchain ecosystem, serving the ‘search’ and ‘rankings’ niches instead of specifically targeting transactions as many blockchains do.
Nebulas Rank is what the team calls their ranking algorithm, used to judge how effectively a person or dApp is contributing to an ecosystem. Their ranking system is based on three separate dimensions, liquidity, propagation, and interoperability. Liquidity is the frequency and scale of transactions that pass through a particular address. In terms of propagation, they are referring to “the scope and depth of asset liquidity”. Interoperability is judged by the prevalence of an address across other blockchains. This is less relevant today as there is limited interoperability among any blockchains, however it will become more significant over time. The ranking algorithm is based off of LeaderRank using transaction data taken straight from the blockchain. LeaderRank is a variant of PageRank used specifically in social networks that identifies users spreading useful items (in this case dApps).
Nebulas Force is the term used to describe the evolutionary capabilities that the Nebulas blockchain possesses. Force is made up of three components, the NVM, protocol upgrades, and smart contract upgrades. In Nebulas there is less need for hard or soft forks. Similar to Tezos, users are allowed to vote on proposals to upgrade the protocol and if passed, the proposals are then written into code by the core developers and implemented through a transaction. This is possible because the protocol code is implemented into the block structure, i.e. you can gradually adjust the ranking algorithm over time without redoing the core structure of the blockchain. The process involves replacing the old bytecode of the NVM compiler with a new bytecode, essentially replacing the interpreter. The structure is similar for upgrading the smart contract functionality on the platform.
Developer Incentive Protocol:
The Developer Incentive Protocol (DIP) is a reward algorithm that incentivizes developers to create useful smart contracts by giving them Nebulas tokens. The higher the number and quality of users that are interacting with a smart contract, the more tokens are sent to the owner. This is carried out once a week to ensure accuracy. To prevent cheating within this protocol the founders have made it unfeasibly costly to improve your rank through address fraud.
The final significant unique aspect of the Nebulas blockchain is its proof-of-devotion consensus algorithm. The principle behind this new algorithm is to disempower large miners with the ability to outspend their peers in capital expenditure in order to control significant portions of the blockchain. Instead, proof-of-devotion selects block leaders by calculating the rank of each account and assigning a leadership probability based on this ranking. This theoretically adjusts the power of controlling the network to those with the most effort invested in it.