Where does the governance happen?

EOS governance is the almost exclusive domain of the 21 Block Producers (BPs), with a supermajority of 1521 BPs required to adopt any change to the consensus rules.

Most of the major decisions seem to be communicated in Telegram channels by representatives of Block.one and the BPs.


  • Does the project have its own blockchain or is it a token on another chain? (many questions are not relevant for tokens)

The EOS token was originally an erc-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain, issued to participants in a year-long ICO which raised $4 billion for Cayman Islands startup Block.one.

The EOS mainnet launched in June 2019, after a few false starts and generally hard time, with security issues uncovered by audits and phishing attacks on Block.one’s email address book.

  • What is the mechanism for ensuring consensus about the state of the blockchain?

EOS uses Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) consensus, with 21 active Block Producers taking it in turns to produce new blocks in a form of Byzantine Fault Tolerant DPoS (the chain is highly resistant to forking and will more likely stall if something goes wrong). The Block Producers who get to create blocks and receive rewards are those which the EOS holders have delegated their staking rights to - the 21 BPs with the most delegated EOS voting power.

Voting power associated with a delegation decays unless it is refreshed.

EOS BPs must run nodes that have relatively high specifications to participate in block production - this is fundamental to EOS’ solution to scaling and allowing a large number of transactions per second.

  • Which entities interact with the blockchain? What role does each entity play? How are the “block producers” selected?

Only BPs add new blocks to the chain, and they have exercised considerable discretion in changing the consensus rules

The best source I have found for info about how EOS is set up is the EOS whitepaper, followed up with medium articles from various BPs since the mainnet launch about changes to the consensus rules or collective decision-making of BPs. You can follow some of these changes in the {significant events file for EOS}.

EOS BPs are rewarded with 1% inflation funding, which mostly goes to the 21 active BPs. These rewards are divided according to the amount of delegated EOS the BP controls, with a bonus for the 21 BPs who are active. “Standby BPs” can collect a smaller reward for whatever amount of delegated stake they have.

This article by Steve Floyd has a good description and graphic explaining BP rewards.

  • How are changes to the consensus rules implemented?

When 15 of 21 active BPs agree to change the consensus rules, they can coordinate the activation of the change between themselves. Beyond changing the consensus rules, the BPs can coordinate to achieve specific aims.

An example of this occurred shortly after EOS launch in June 2018, when the EOS Core Arbitration Forum (ECAF) responded to complaints of private keys being stolen by ordering BPs to freeze 27 accounts. The BPs coordinated to freeze these accounts by agreeing not to process transactions from them, and maintained this freeze-out until February 2019, when a newly active BP was rotated in and did not apply the blacklist, allowing some of the funds to be moved.

This locking of accounts proved controversial, as it was not clear how the ECAF would resolve the disputes, and the EOS community appeared to lose enthusiasm for such arbitration. The ECAF had been part of the EOS constitution, a document outlining rules for participation in the network which all users and BPs had to agree to. The constitution also had other rules which presented issues with enforcement, like rules against lying and vote buying, and soon after launch Block.one made it known that they were looking to replace the constitution.


EOS launched with 5% inflation and 4% of this was to be used to fund to a Worker Proposal System, according to the EOS constitution. However, a method of distributing the WPS savings has not been developed and the savings have been burned. The idea of using 4% inflation to fund development seems to have fallen out of favor.

On the other hand Block.one received $4 billion in its EOS ICO and has an interest in developing and investing in the EOS blockchain and ecosystem.

Block.one is a private company registered in the Cayman Islands, and I am not aware of any efforts on their part to be transparent about what the company spends its money on.

The Block.one website lists 3 major initiatives, EOSIO (EOS core software), EOS VC (investing in companies building on EOS) and Voice, the EOS-based social network announced in June 2019.

Proposals and Voting

The EOS constitution called for a referendum tool through which EOS holders could vote directly on issues related to the network, with the idea being that the BPs would implement these decisions if they met a quorum requirement of 15% EOS voting and 10% more voting Yes than No.

EOS referendums went live in January 2019, and saw an initial burst of activity, but the proportion of circulating EOS that votes in these polls is low (maximum of 2-3% of EOS voting) and has dropped over time. For the 50 referendums with the highest participation, the mean is 0.9% voter turnout.

EOS turnout per proposal

For this analysis I have only included the top 50 referendums by turnout, data from EOS Authority. There have been around 200 proposals in total according to EOS Authority, but many of these are effectively spam proposals with no votes (there are some Lorem Ipsums in the mix). There is no fee to submit a referendum poll and no gatekeeper to filter out spam. One of the more popular referendums suggests adding such a fee.

EOS turnout per proposal over time

As this scatterplot shows, much of the activity around EOS referendums occurred in January 2019, soon after the tool was launched. The proposals with the greatest turnout were submitted in January, and all of the proposals with 2% or greater participation were submitted by end of March. Only 7 of the most active 50 proposals were submitted in April-July 2019.

I am aware of two actions the BPs have taken which were in line with referendum results: replacing the Constitution with a new User Agreement, and burning the accumulated WPS funds.

In April 2019 the EOS constitution was replaced with a new user agreement, proposed on chain by EOS New York and approved by the 21 Block Producers. This change had been put to EOS holders in a referendum, which had 99% approval but only 1.7% turnout at the time when the BPs enacted it.

In May 2019 EOS Block Producers burned 34 million EOS (~$272 million) from the eosio.saving account. These funds had accumulated from the 4% inflation which was to be used to fund project development through a Worker Proposal System. This idea fell out of favor with the EOS BPs and community, and 15 BPs supported the proposal to burn accumulated savings on May 8. New tokens are still accumulating in the savings account, but this seems likely to be removed as there is an open referendum to remove the 4% inflation for development entirely, which has almost unanimous support from around 2.7% of EOS tokens that have voted.

Of the 50 top proposals, 29 have been “approved” or are on course to be approved, based on a supermajority criteria of the yes - no score being larger than 10% of the total voting stake. The original EOS constitution defined a quorum requirement of 15% participation of EOS tokens, so by this measure none of the proposals would be considered approved. The BPs have enacted 2 decisions in line with referendum polling, but it is not clear how many of the other 27 referendums with positive outcomes will be enacted. I think it’s fair to say that referendums don’t play a large role in EOS’s governance.

I am not aware of any public platforms where significant discourse about EOS governance takes place. There is a Telegram channel where Dan Larimer occasionally comments, and these comments are posted to reddit. I’m not going to count them but it seems like a lot of the top posts on /r/EOS are quotes of things Larimer has said on Telegram or Twitter.

The EOS Block Producers provide some of the best EOS governance resources and discussion spaces, and often release statements about what is happening on the network. There are a number of BPs which provide platforms for viewing and participating in EOS referendums. I used EOS Authority’s referendum page to collect data for the top 50 proposals by turnout, as it has the most comprehensive metadata for proposals. There is a space for comments on each proposal but the comments tend to be short and few.

The referendums themselves are on chain. EOS is addressing the market for high throughput and capacity blockchains, and so the capacity required to host referendums on the EOS blockchain is not a significant factor.

Although the referendums are on chain, they are somewhat peripheral to the EOS ecosystem, with limited participation and attention, and any discussion being fragmented across a variety of platforms.

The election of BPs is the most important aspect of EOS governance, and whales holding large EOS balances dominate this process. This video looks at the breakdown of BP voting and identifies 14 whales that dominate proceedings, with every BP in the top 21 having support from at least 4 of these whales. Among these whales there are two that stand out as having as much EOS as the rest of the whales put together - the Bitfinex and Huobi exchanges, and two factions have formed of whales that tend to vote with either of these large exchanges,

It is interesting to note that these exchanges are playing a major role in EOS governance with what is in some part their customers’ EOS. This dynamic likely negates much of the skin in the game advantage of token-holders as a constituency - with the exchanges not having the same incentive to look out for the health of the network. Exchanges which run major BPs also collect significant rewards from this activity.

Bitfinex for its part does make some effort to relay the voting wishes of its customers with the stake it controls.

Coin/Token distribution

Block.one held an ICO lasting for 1 year, from June 2017 to June 2018, in which 1 billion EOS tokens were available. 10% of the tokens were reserved for Block.one. 20% were distributed in the first 5 days of the crowdsale, and the remaining 70% were distributed in 350 23 hour sales. This retrospective report from Consensys Media is a good source for information about the EOS token sale.

The EOS token sale was unusual in that it lasted for a full year and the tokens were issued and traded while the sale was ongoing. The ETH which participants sent to the EOS contract was withdrawn regularly during the token sale, presumably by Block.one, which raises the possibility that they could have used it to buy more EOS in the token sale or in the open market, and thereby stimulate demand and push up the price. EOS was the largest token sale (and still is), taking in $4 billion for Block.one, which also received 10% of the EOS tokens (on a vesting schedule). With 1% annual inflation going to BPs and the 4% WPS fund being burned (see below), around 99% of the EOS tokens currently in circulation originated in the token sale.

Related projects

Telos is a fork of the EOS software and initial token distribution - with a number of key differences designed to address perceived flaws with EOS. It limited the number of tokens which could be received by 1 crowdsale participant to 40k, neutralizing the outsize influence of the biggest whales. It reduced the number of standby BPs to 30, so that each SBP might receive enough rewards to maintain their service, and introduced a mandated rotation of standby BPs to ensure that SBPs were in fact ready and waiting to step in as BPs, as required. Telos

Telos launched in December 2018 and is still running. It can be difficult to measure the significance of forks which are not listed on (m)any exchanges, but according to telostracker.io 1 TLOS is worth 0.012 EOS or $0.05 (6 Aug 2019), giving it a market cap of $17 million

Telos is in some ways a smaller hobbyist version of EOS, where the actors who would be crowded out by Block.one and the mega-whale voters in the EOS ecosystem have a chance to try their hand at running an EOS-type network themselves.

Significant Events

Jan 2019

The EOS referendum system for constitutional amendments went live on Jan 11. So far 77 proposals have been submitted. The voting period for these proposals is flexible and specified by the submitter, some last as long as four months. The proposals with the most votes (as of Jan 31) have votes from around 2% of circulating EOS, but most proposals have very low participation (only 10 have greater than 0.5% participation). So far the most popular proposals are to change where the fees for short names and RAM purchases go, delete the EOS Core Arbitration Forum, and burn the inflation funds in eosio.saving (to be used for funding the worker proposal system).

Feb 2019

The blacklist issued by the EOS Core Arbitration Forum (ECAF) in Jun 2018 was allowed to lapse when a new Block Producer was rotated in which had not configured the blacklist. This allowed one of the blacklisted addresses to move over 2 million EOS. The lapse occurred because the blacklist has been implemented as a list of addresses from which block producers will not process transactions, with each block producer being responsible for maintaining the blacklist manually. If only one top 21 BP does not have an updated blacklist, blacklisted accounts are vulnerable to being emptied. One solution that has been suggested is to “null the keys” until a decision has been made about what to do with the frozen funds. What to do with the blacklisted funds is already an issue for EOS, and the ECAF itself may be disbanded if an open referendum to “Delete the ECAF” passes (currently on 99% Yes with 2.4% of EOS having voted).

Apr 2019

The EOS constitution was replaced with a new user agreement, proposed on chain by EOS New York and approved by the 21 Block Producers. This change had been put to EOS holders in a referendum. The referendum had a long duration (3 months) and was not due to finish until May 8, there was strong support for the proposal (98% Yes) but voter participation was very low (1.7%). EOS referendums had a notional quorum requirement of 15%, but in light of the fact that none of the polls are even close to reaching that level of participation, it seems like the BPs have decided to bypass the formal referendum process and move forward with some of the proposed changes. The EOS BPs also approved the deployment of REX (Resource Exchange), but it failed execution on chain and will have to be re-proposed.

May 2019

EOS Block Producers burned 34 million EOS (~$272 million) from the eosio.saving account. These funds had accumulated from the 4% inflation which was to be used to fund project development through a Worker Proposal System. This idea fell out of favor with the EOS BPs and community, and 15 BPs supported the proposal to burn accumulated savings on May 8. New tokens are still accumulating in the savings account, but this seems likely to be removed as there is an open referendum to remove the 4% inflation for development entirely, which has almost unanimous support from around 2.7% of EOS tokens that have voted.

Sep 2019

A settlement between the SEC and EOS was announced in which Block.One must pay $24 million in penalties for conducting an unregistered securities sale. This relates to the sale of ERC-20 EOS tokens in a year-long ICO that raised $4.1 billion, the fine amounting to 0.6% of the raised amount. According to Block.One’s press release the settlement only applies to the ERC-20 tokens, which have since been swapped for EOS mainnet tokens, considered to be in the clear and not require SEC registration for trading.

Nov 2019

The EOS blockchain entered “congestion mode” due to a surge in transactions related to an airdrop program (EIDOS), which at one stage accounted for 95% of all EOS transactions. One effect is that users who have less staked EOS are unable to make transactions until demand for the airdrop subsides or its CPU lease expires in 30 days. Another effect was a surge of 100,000% in the cost of CPU time on the network.

Block.One announced that it is going to begin voting for block producers with the 9.5% of EOS it controls - classifying itself as a “Small, but significant EOS token holder”. Block.One did not announce how they will be voting.

EOS New York tweeted to uncover the fact that 6 of the registered EOS BPs appear to be operated by the same entity. Although the BPs in question are not in the top 21 active BPs, they were receiving rewards regularly as standby BPs.