Coinbase announced it was acquiring staking as a service provider Bison Trails earlier this week. The usual congratulations and back patting went around on Twitter.
To me, however, this wasn't good news. It represents an acceleration in staking centralization.
Staking in these early days is already more centralized than decentralized. A small number of large validator operators control a majority of the stake in most staking networks. Current staking economics compound the problem with rich get richer economics.
I've been thinking about this problem for years. Over the past few months I also started thinking about exit strategies for these large validator operators.
This is my running list of crypto and blockchain governance resources here. I'll annotate them as well, as I find the time and attention to review them.
This is Part 1 of a two part series titled "The Rise of the Activist Validator". Part 1 describes the current situation as I see it. It explains why I see a need for activist validators. Part 2 will describe why I feel the current situation could prevent staking networks from maximizing their longevity and value creation.
The Blissful Honeymoon
These early staking days are characterized by a blissful harmony. Projects get along with their validators. Validators get along well with the projects. There's an optimism that permeates early testnets. It continues into the early mainnet days.