Update 24 March, 2022

The Safe Network is built around the concept of keeping the building blocks simple. Individual elements react to external stimuli in limited and predictable ways, yet combine to create an entity that’s capable of performing complex tasks in an unpredictable world and defending itself against enemies - the ant colony analogy.

But for this to work, subtle feedback mechanisms are required. The individual ants need to be able to signal they are under pressure and can’t carry any more, otherwise the system becomes brittle and the colony collapses. @oetyng has been working on a system of message queueing and backpressure, which is a way for nodes to go, ‘Jeez back off will you? I’ll get to you in time but I’ve only got six legs, two mandibles and a tiny brain’. The code’s not complete just yet, but already tests are showing impressive improvements in stability and performance.

General progress

Team MaidSafe are getting to grips with the draft of the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which was released last week, and how it may impact us as a business as well as the Safe Network as a project. Our concerns about the Bill, which has always attempted to regulate the internet around Facebook, certainly have not been assuaged by the new draft; if anything, they’ve been made worse. So we’re working to understand what stances we might need to take, and what discussions we might need to have, to help the government understand that projects like ours aren’t Facebook, nor should we be treated like we are. Fortunately, our policy and governance manager @Heather_Burns has been dealing with this Bill for over three years in her previous jobs and understands it as well as anyone. She’s currently locked in a dark basement with over 500 pages of the Bill’s legal text and a crate of Irn Bru, and will report back soon.

In working through the DBC flows @danda and @davidrusu came to the realisation that the mint, as it was originally specced, was no longer needed, because the functionality - verifying and signing transactions - had now been built into the spentbook. As some sharp-eyed members of the community (hi @happybeing!) spotted, this means that whole swathes of code can be stripped out, leaving less work to do by both the client and the elders. We’re now debating whether to make the spentbook a separate data type - and perhaps whether to rename it ‘mint’ to fit with convention.

@Chriso is looking into the licensing of the codebase which has become inconsistent over time. The idea is to license the core network under GPL3 with non-safe network crates being licensed under MIT/BDS so as not to limit client apps that can be built on it.

@joshuef has also been working to integrate the dysfunction tracking code, which has exposed a couple of bugs in the node’s query handling. Prior to these fixes, nodes might not have returned a valid chunk to clients if another node responded faster with a fail. They may not have enqueued a peer if one already existed for the same chunk, and we may not have been resending queries out to nodes at all if the original messages were dropped in transit for any reason. Those couple of commits fix up that flow and appear to have had a reasonable impact on test results, which is nice.

Backpressure and message queueing

Because of limits in their CPU and memory, nodes cannot handle an infinite number of requests. Thus far, when they have collapsed under the strain we’ve simply killed them off, which results in lots of churn, even more messages flying about, and eventual failure, but backpressure - allowing a node to complain before the crunch point is reached - is a way of smoothing the curve.

So nodes can now push back and say, ‘Hey, I’m going under here, give me a break, only send me 10 messages within the next second’. The network will look proactively at what nodes say they’re capable of doing at a given point in time, and not deluge them with messages if they’re under stress. This will allow them to recover once they’ve finished their task.

Throttling the messages in this way also gives us time to prioritise messages, so if there’s something that is a top priority then that will still go through, whereas less important messages can wait.

Each node now has a message queue, which holds unsent messages as long as the node is considered live. If not, then the messages are dropped.

With this system all nodes are aware of the number of messages per second the other peers in their section are capable of receiving, as calculated by the back_pressure module, and messages are prioritised so that important infrastructure messages are always sent before less important client service messages.

This is not live yet, but in testing the changes have yielded some really impressive results:

Store and read 5 MB from many clients with 50 client readers gave the following on the test branch:

Time: 30 s
CPU: ~40 % (very briefly above 50%)
Mem: ~60 MB / Elder (very briefly up to 125 MB)

compared to the results on main:

Time: 704 s
CPU: 100%, all the time
Mem: ~2 GB / Elder, all the time

All of which means happier and healthier ants. :ant:

Useful Links

Feel free to reply below with links to translations of this dev update and moderators will add them here:

:russia: Russian ; :germany: German ; :spain: Spanish ; :france: French; :bulgaria: Bulgarian

As an open source project, we’re always looking for feedback, comments and community contributions - so don’t be shy, join in and let’s create the Safe Network together!


First ? ……


No it’s all a dream :sleeping_bed:


third at least :blush:

cool update! super ants coding super ants :stuck_out_tongue:


Nice and steady progress again it seems. Keep it up team :+1:t2:


I can’t wait for next playground !


Sounds good so far! love the progress!


Excellent progress, looking forward to testing the backpressure enhancements. As @Atom says, can’t wait for the next playground.

As for comnets, thanks as always to @dreamerchris @Josh and @folaht for their efforts. Could it be worth us building from the backpressure branch just to poke about for ourselves? Off to look at github again…

Thank you to all of the team aaaaand a huge special thankyou to @Heather_Burns for doing the unglamarous but utterly essential hard slog on the legal side.


Gov keeps evidencing they are several steps behind the curve and this project pushing several steps ahead… hopefully those can work together… no good reason government should get in the way.

Good work as usual, keep at it


Thanks so much to the entire Maidsafe team for all of your hard work! :racehorse:


What a great news.


Amazing. Well done.

@oetyng how many lines of code!? :ok_hand:


This indeed is a very impressive improvement🚀

What are the levels that we have to reach in order to have a good functioning network?


I love those little moments where you can delete hundreds of lines of code and reduce and compartmentalize responsibilities and performance goes way up. Distillation. Keep going team!


Thx @danda @davidrusu & specially @happybeing !!!

I am curious about the criteria for important messages. In general, transaction fees are the criteria in other blockchain networks, but this project has no transaction fees, so there must be other criteria. Thx… all


@loum I would guess elder split would be more high ranking than accepting new adults?


excellent work to all the team !!
I second that I cant wait till the next playground as well :slight_smile:


As I understand, user needs a tiny amount SNT to generate ID. But it is too small, so it is not a critical issue like as EOS, Solana.


All credit is due to @danda @davidrusu and the team not me. All I did is note that they’d done this work!