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Is it possible to amend the P2P layer of Tezos? As far as I understand from here, the amendment process is only for the economic protocol.

If we wanted to suggest changes to how the P2P layer works through future research, how would we go about it? Through a hard fork?

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The P2P layer is part of the shell and is not amended via the onchain governance. Improvements to the existing approach are always welcome by contributing to the gitlab.

People are also free to work on separate implementations of the shell and explore different approaches to optimization while still remaining compatible with the existing shell. And of course nothing stops anyone from deciding they want to be incompatible and attempt to fork.

There is already an implementation in Rust underway whose motivation is described as:

The Tezos ecosystem will benefit from an increase in the diversity of its nodes (multiple implementations across a range of different programing languages & operating systems). It allows us to verify that the protocol is unambiguous. It keeps the door open for innovation and secures the honesty of all participants.

For more details see here.

  • You don't have to fork even if you make a different version of the protocol. – Pierre Chambart Apr 8 '19 at 21:13
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There is a version negotiation at the initialization of the connection. You can make an incompatible version of the P2P protocol as long as it has a different version name. For the network not to be split, you need at least one node that speaks both versions of the protocol.

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