Longest-chain blockchain protocols, such as Bitcoin, guarantee liveness even
when the number of actively participating users is variable, i.e., they are
adaptive. However, they are not safe under network partitions, i.e., they do
not guarantee finality. On the other hand, classical blockchain protocols, like
PBFT, achieve finality but not adaptivity. Indeed, the CAP theorem in the
context of blockchains asserts that no protocol can simultaneously offer both
adaptivity and finality.

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We propose a new blockchain protocol, called the checkpointed longest chain,
that offers individual users the choice between finality and adaptivity instead
of imposing it at a system-wide level. This protocol’s salient feature is that
it supports two distinct confirmation rules: one that guarantees adaptivity and
the other finality. The more optimistic adaptive rule always confirms blocks
that are marked as finalized by the more conservative rule, and may possibly
confirm more blocks during variable participation levels. Clients (users) make
a local choice between the confirmation rules as per their personal preference,
while miners follow a fixed block proposal rule that is consistent with both
confirmation rules. The proposed protocol has the additional benefit of
intrinsic validity: the finalized blocks always lie on a single blockchain, and
therefore miners can attest to the validity of transactions while proposing
blocks. Our protocol builds on the notion of a finality gadget, a popular
technique for adding finality to longest-chain protocols.

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