Another day, another proposed improvement to Ripple’s XRP Ledger (XRPL). The latest proposal waiting on an 80% majority from its network validators is “Deletable Accounts” – and it sounds just a little bit concerning.
XRPL’s Amendment Process
Before laying out the case for Deletable Accounts, Ripple CTO David Schwartz explained how XRP incorporates new features into its ledger. The XRP Ledger (XRPL), he stated, was designed to be “robust,” “stable,” and “decentralized.”
As such, like all blockchains, its developers continually make improvements. When it comes to XRPL, one particular area of interest is governance:
As the XRP Ledger network grows, so does the need for improved governance.
He then dove into the details of how new features are incorporated into the XRPL. Unlike cryptocurrencies that opt to go down the hard fork route, Ripple favors an Amendment Process.
In a nutshell, for a new feature to be introduced to the XRP Ledger, it must first be debated in the community before being converted into a proposed implementation and generating code changes to make it a feature.
The new feature must acquire an 80% majority support which must hold for a two-week period. Validators who don’t approve the feature are out of luck since the majority decide. However, it’s a pretty high majority requirement that ensures that most of the network is happy and hard forks are avoided.
In the past, Schwartz points out, among the features incorporated through this process are managed multi-signing as well as the ledger’s on-chain escrow and payment channel features.
Deletable Accounts Would Give Ripple Sweeping Control
The latest feature, Deletable Accounts, is awaiting the 80% thumbs-up as of yesterday. The proposal, which was first discussed in October 2019, states that new powers are needed to be able to remove suspicious accounts and repatriate the XRP funds held by them.
The XRP Ledger doesn’t have very many levers to discourage abusive behaviors. Pretty much all it can do is make abusive behaviors more expensive.
One desirable feature for the XRP Ledger would be for it to be possible to completely remove an account from the ledger and recover the reserve from that account. We call this a deletable account.
Schwartz argues that it would help benefit the network by controlling spam accounts,
This feature allows XRPL accounts to be removed from the ledger and recover most of the reserve locked in the accounts for spam prevention.
He maintains that the deletable accounts feature will “bring further trust to the ledger and ensure that XRPL continues to experience high performance without downtime.”
However, sweeping powers to delete XRPL accounts at will and move the funds to a new destination sounds an awful lot like some twisted scene from an Orwellian surveillance state. Disturbingly centralized at best, horribly over-controlling at worst.
Will deletable accounts get the 80% majority XRPL seeks? It’s hard to see a “decentralized” network voting for something so entirely against its ethos, even if it is primarily in the interest of thwarting bad actors.
What do you make of the ‘Deletable Accounts’ proposal.
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