Protocol Major Version

Cardano Network Parameters Part 14

Cardano is renowned for its rigorous, research-driven approach to development. What is less well known is the set of meticulously defined network parameters that make the entire system function smoothly. In today’s installment of our Cardano Parameters series, we will cover the protocolMajor parameter.

What is it?

The protocolMajor parameter is a number that counts the major upgrades (hard forks) within the Cardano network. It denotes the current version of the protocol rules that the Cardano network is running. The current major protocol version is 8.

How does it work?

Each time a substantial update or a protocol overhaul occurs, the protocolMajor number increments upward. These updates are typically performed when there are new features, big performance improvements, and enhanced security measures. These periodic and ongoing updates ensure that the network remains competitive and innovative.

Why is it interesting?

The protocolMajor parameter is integral to the governance and upgrade processes of the global network, indicating significant updates and changes in the protocol that impact the entire blockchain. In addition to simply counting the number of major upgrades, the parameter has several implications:

Governance and Coordination
Major version changes require coordination across all network participants. Stake Pool Operators (SPOs) must upgrade to the new version to continue participating in consensus and block production. This ensures that all nodes are following the same set of rules, which is vital for network integrity.

If you are an SPO, you must pay attention to this parameter.

If you stake your ADA with any pool, you might want to know that your SPO is staying up to date with this parameter.

Backward Compatibility
Unlike minor updates, major version changes often introduce breaking changes, meaning that older versions may no longer be compatible with the latest protocol rules. On Cardano this is rare, thanks to a technologically dubbed “Hard Fork Combinator (HFC).” Thanks to the HFC, Cardano nodes are capable of running previous versions of the network rules alongside the current version. Clients and users are able to negotiate the version they want to use when communicating with the node.

Feature Implementation
Major protocol upgrades typically bring significant new features and improvements. These can range from enhanced security mechanisms to scalability solutions and new functionalities. The major version number helps users, businesses and other stakeholders track these important milestones in the network’s development.

Stakeholder Engagement
Each major version change involves a comprehensive review and approval process within the Cardano community. This can include discussions, proposals, and voting, ensuring that major changes reflect the collective will and best interests of the community. The current threshold of stakeholder engagement required to green light a major protocol version are:

  • 75% of SPO’s nodes updated to the hard fork version
  • Exchanges that manage 80% of the liquidity update their systems to produce compatible transactions
  • The top ten DApps by total value locked (TVL) value integrated to the hard fork node


The protocolMajor Version parameter is a cornerstone of Cardano’s sustainability and resilience. It signifies major protocol changes that shape the future of the network, driving innovation and ensuring robust performance. This parameter encapsulates the ongoing evolution and governance of one of the most scientifically advanced blockchain platforms. By staying informed about major version changes, stakeholders can better prepare for and contribute to the network’s growth and success.

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