Core values of the Celestia social layer

One of the most important aspects of a blockchain is its social layer. The canonical fork of a blockchain is ultimately defined by its community, and so a strong and united social layer is important for the community to agree on protocol upgrades and improvements. In this post, I want to document some of the values of the Celestia community.

1. Off-chain governance trumps token-holder governance.

“We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code.” – David D. Clark, IETF

A vital aspect of the trust-minimisation that the Celestia network strives for is that no majority of dishonest parties can arbitrarily change or violate protocol rules. Therefore the canonical fork—and the state transition function—of the Celestia blockchain is ultimately defined by its social layer and ecosystem, not by token voting, validators or whales.

Network upgrades through hard forks are considered to be the canonical chain if they have broad uptake by the social layer and ecosystem. Before being adopted, a network upgrade can be evaluated against the values of the social layer, which may involve the values described in this post.

2. Users are first class citizens of the network.

Requiring users to trust centralised endpoints or committees is a violation of the key principles of decentralisation and Web3. The Celestia community has prioritised the development and adoption of trust-minimised light nodes that allow users to directly verify the correctness of the chain with techniques such as data availability sampling.

3. Credible neutrality to execution environments and applications.

The Celestia community believes in a positive-sum crypto ecosystem where modularism thrives over maximalism. For this to be effective, the Celestia base layer strives to be a generalised data availability layer, neutral to any execution environments and applications built on top of it. This means not favouring any execution environment in such a way that it detriments experimentation with other execution environments.

4. Economic sustainability through economy of scale.

Celestia is a public good. Therefore, Celestia strives to achieve economic sustainability by providing high quality blockspace at scale to serve billions of people, rather than through artificial scarcity of resources. Resources should be priced to achieve economic sustainability, but not to be unnecessarily extractive.

5. Overhead and state bloat minimisation.

A core design choice of Celestia is to minimise on-chain state, thereby creating an overhead-minimised blockchain optimised for data availability. This means that Celestia does not currently have any enshrined on-chain smart contract environment. Future network improvements should strive to keep Celestia’s state machine minimal in order to preserve this property.

This enables rollups to verify Celestia’s canonical chain without the overhead of needing to verify unrelated smart contracts, and reduces state bloat for both rollups and Celestia.


Completely agree and back the values listed above. Curious to understand how off chain governance mechanisms would work and represent the interests of the broader Celestia community. I think I can pretty clearly see how off chain governance would work for critical upgrades and uncontroversial additions to the stack. But how do you foresee off chain governance working for not explicitly technically driven decision making?

Community pool spends, tokenomic changes, strategy and direction definition. I feel like chains which are on chain governance heavy, primarily create a lot of conversations around these topics (not saying that’s a good thing at all). Would foundation / core teams play this role? (And would on chain governance decide this, or are we completely laying off Cosmos SDK governance?).

I think DAOs and DAO roll ups could be an interesting option to enforce off chain governance without centralizing decision making and maintaining transparency. DAO / committee governance happening on chain (as a roll up, because state minimization) without a simple majority token voting system would be interesting to see. DAOs could have a mandate and have resolutions that they could pass that advances their mandate.

Thinking out aloud, but would be cool to research this. I understand we’re still defining things and its early days. All the questions above, are more thinking points than explicit questions.


For community pool spends, there’s still the Cosmos on-chain governance module for that, as well as certain other on-chain parameters, so I suppose that’s kind of an embedded on-chain DAO. For bigger changes like tokenomic changes or upgrades, or overriding or setting limits to on-chain parameters, there’s the proposed Celestia Improvement Proposal (CIP) process, which core developers participate in, similar to Ethereum governance.


Bringing Celestia’s Core Values to Life Through a Citizens’ Assembly

Dear Mustafa, dear all,

Thanks for this very nice outlining. I would like to propose a very concrete approach to bring them to life. Could we imagine establishing a Citizens’ Assembly, dedicated to embodying and advancing these values?

  1. Embracing Off-Chain Governance: The Citizens’ Assembly aligns with the ethos of rejecting centralized governance models in favor of rough consensus. Participants in a CA are randomly selected. This assembly would serve as a platform for open, inclusive discussions, ensuring that no single group dominates decision-making processes. It would operate as a microcosm of the broader social layer, reflecting diverse perspectives and fostering agreement on protocol upgrades and improvements.

  2. Prioritizing Users as First Class Citizens: The assembly would actively involve users in decision-making, symbolizing the decentralization and trust-minimization Celestia aspires to. By recurring to sortition, the assembly ensures equal probability of participating while reducing risk of power capture.

  3. Upholding Credible Neutrality: The assembly would function as an impartial entity, ensuring that there is no faction capture and power capture.

  4. Focusing on Economic Sustainability: The Citizens’ Assembly would play a vital role in discussing and implementing strategies for economic sustainability. By focusing on providing high-quality recommendations based on a process of collective intelligence, the assembly would contribute to making Celestia a sustainable public good that serves billions effectively.

The Citizens’ Assembly for Celestia could act as a second chamber or “user centric” chamber aside a chamber of key stakeholders. It would be a reflection of the community’s commitment to its foundational values. It would facilitate deeper engagement, broader consensus, and a more vibrant and resilient ecosystem, truly bringing the spirit of Celestia’s values to life.

I’d be happy to jump on a call to pursue/explore this path based on my experience of running such processes for 10+ years.

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