Solana’s active validator count, almost at 2000, is much higher than other chains
It’s been twelve months since a Tweet from the Solana foundation announced the number of active validators passing 1,000, and now Solana has 1,875 active validators.
This gives Solana the most active validators of any Proof of Stake blockchain. (Besides Ethereum, which has 8,417 nodes and 409k validators, but some node operators will run many validators, so there’s uncertainty as to how many node operators there are…)
Most validators are in the US and Germany, and this isn’t unique to Solana
Using validators.app to look at the locations of Solana’s validators, we see that almost half are located in the US and Germany. This is problematic, and unfortunately not unique to Solana: If we look at the locations of Ethereum’s nodes (not all of which are validators), the distribution is similarly dominated by the US with a 46% share, and Germany a more distant second with almost 12%. Avalanche, the only other network to boast over 1,000 validators, has over 75% of its validators in the US and Germany.
Validator geo-diversity is important
If too many validators are concentrated in the same places, the health of a blockchain becomes reliant on the regulatory regimes of those countries. Professional validators are businesses, using bank accounts and crypto exchanges, creating contractual relationships with hosting providers or data centers, carrying out payroll and HR functions, and paying tax. Changing regulations put these business activities into question. The most extreme example is the Chinese ban on Bitcoin mining in May of 2021, which forced miners to quickly relocate and caused Bitcoin’s hashrate to fall by a massive 50% in two weeks.
Changing regulation isn’t the only reason to seek out geographic diversity. In 2011, Japan’s deadly earthquake and tsunami seriously tested the resilience of data centers and the entire power grid. Everstake, currently the largest Solana validator, happens to be a Ukrainian company. Thankfully, their CEO claims to have been prepared for the war, explaining that “an important part of doing business is assessing and addressing all potential risks.”
While we can debate the exact definition of “decentralization”, it’s ideal to have validators spread across the globe – Solana and other blockchains have room for improvement in this category.
Most validators are hosted on AWS and Hetzner, and this isn’t unique to Solana
The emergence of cloud computing has made it easy to spin up blockchain nodes and validators. Pay a