A taxonomy of blockchain consensus protocols: A survey and classification framework

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Blockchain, the underlying technology of Bitcoin, refers to the public ledger used in a distributed network. Because blockchain does not rely on a central authority, peers have to agree on the state of the ledger among themselves, i.e., they have to reach a consensus on the state of the transactions. The way nodes reach that consensus has gained incredible attention in the literature. Bitcoin uses the Proof-of-Work (PoW) mechanism, as did Ethereum at first. The latter decided to move from PoW to Proof-of-Stake (PoS) because of the high energy consumption required by PoW. To date, many other consensus protocols have been proposed to address the limitations of the seminal ones. In this paper, we inform researchers and practitioners about the current state of consensus protocols research. The aim is to provide an analysis of the research introducing new consensus protocols in order to enable a more unified treatment. To that end, we review 28 new consensus protocols and we propose a four-category classification framework: Origin, Design, Performance and Security. We demonstrate the applicability of the framework by classifying the 28 protocols. Many surveys have already been proposed in the literature and some of them will be discussed later in the paper. Yet, we believe that this work is relevant and important for two reasons. Firstly, blockchain being a fast evolving topic, new consensus protocols emerge regularly and improvements are also put forward on a regular basis. Hence, this work aims at reflecting the latest state-of-the-art in terms of consensus protocols. Secondly, we aim to propose a comprehensive classification framework, integrating knowledge from multiple works in the literature, as well as introducing classification dimensions that have not been proposed before. This work demonstrates that multiple consensus have been proposed in a short period of time, and highlights the differences between these protocols. Furthermore, it is suggested that researchers and practitioners who aim to propose consensus protocols in the future should pay attention to all the dimensions presented in the classification framework.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114384
JournalExpert Systems with Applications
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2021


  • Blockchain
  • Consensus Protocols
  • Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance
  • Proof-of-Stake
  • Proof-of-Work
  • Survey


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