Influential papers in decentralized systems (cryptocurrencies, contracts, consensus, etc.)
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Awesome Decentralized Systems Papers


A curated list of the top papers in decentralized systems (cryptocurrencies, contracts, consensus, etc.) This list has a focus on the technical aspects of decentralized systems, and papers are unordered within each category.


What is a decentralized system? A decentralized system is a system in which lower level components operate on local information to accomplish global goals. The global pattern of behaviour is an emergent property of dynamical mechanisms that act upon local components, such as indirect communication, rather than the result of a central ordering influence. (definition taken from here)

History While decentralized systems occupy a fairly broad set of research in privacy, security, finance, and more, they have become ever-more relevant in today's ecosystem. The academic side of the technology has recently gone through a renaissance period, after the release of the Bitcoin whitepaper by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008.

Table of Contents

Cryptocurrencies / Blockchains

  • Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System (2008), S. Nakamoto [pdf]
  • Hashcash - A Denial of Service Counter-Measure (2002), A. Back [pdf]
  • Reusable Proofs of Work (2004), H. Finney [html]
  • B-Money (1998), W. Dai [html]
  • SoK: Research Perspectives and Challenges for Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies (2015), J. Bonneau et al. [pdf]
  • Provable Security for Cryptocurrencies (2016), A. Miller [pdf]
  • Non-interactive proofs of proof-of-work (2017), A. Kiayias et al. [pdf]
  • Atomically Trading with Roger: Gambling on the success of a hardfork (2017), P. McCorry et al. [pdf]
  • On Bitcoin and Red Balloons (2012), M. Babaioff et al. [pdf]
  • Quantitative Analysis of the Full Bitcoin Transaction Graph (2012), D. Ron and A. Shamir [pdf]
  • Mimblewimble (2016), A. Poelstra [pdf]


  • Mixcoin: Anonymity for Bitcoin with accountable mixes (2014), J. Bonneau et al. [pdf]
  • TumbleBit: An Untrusted Bitcoin-Compatible Anonymous Payment Hub (2014), E. Heilman et al. [pdf]
  • A Fistful of Bitcoins: Characterizing Payments Among Men with No Names (2013), S. Meiklejohn et al. [pdf]
  • An Analysis of Anonymity in the Bitcoin System (2012), F. Reid and M. Harrigan [pdf]

Smart Contracts

  • Ethereum: A Next-Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform (2014), V. Buterin et al. [md]
  • Ethereum: A Secure Decentralised Generalised Transaction Ledger (2014), G. Wood [pdf]
  • Making Smart Contracts Smarter (2016), L. Luu et al. [pdf]


  • BigchainDB: A Scalable Blockchain Database (2016), T. McConaghy et al. [pdf]
  • Filecoin: A Cryptocurrency Operated File Storage Network (2017), J. Benet [pdf]
  • Blockstack: A Global Naming and Storage System Secured by Blockchains (2016), M. Ali et al. [pdf]

Payment/State Channels

  • The Bitcoin Lightning Network: Scalable Off-Chain Instant Payments (2016), J. Poon and T. Dryja [pdf]
  • Plasma: Scalable Autonomous Smart Contracts (2017), J. Poon and V. Buterin [pdf]
  • Concurrency and Privacy with Payment-Channel Networks∗ (2017), G. Malavolta and P. Moreno-Sanchez et al. [pdf]

Credit Networks

  • PathShuffle: Credit Mixing and Anonymous Payments for Ripple (2016), P. Moreno-Sanchez et al. [pdf]
  • SilentWhispers: Enforcing Security and Privacy in Decentralized Credit Networks (2016), G. Malavolta and P. Moreno-Sanchez et al. [pdf]
  • Listening to Whispers of Ripple: Linking Wallets and Deanonymizing Transactions in the Ripple Network (2016), P. Moreno-Sanchez et al. [pdf]


Nakamoto/Proof-of-Work Consensus

  • The Honey Badger of BFT Protocols (2016), A. Miller et al. [pdf]
  • Power Fault Tolerance (2017), Protocol Labs [pdf]
  • Tangaroa: a Byzantine Fault Tolerant Raft Christopher Copeland and Hongxia Zhong pdf


  • Casper the Friendly Finality Gadget (2017), V. Buterin and V. Griffith [pdf]
  • PPCoin: Peer-to-Peer Crypto-Currency with Proof-of-Stake (2013), S. King and S. Nadal [pdf]

Prediction Markets

  • On Decentralizing Prediction Markets and Order Books (2014), J. Clark et al. [pdf]
  • Augur: a Decentralized, Open-Source Platform for Prediction Markets (2016), J. Peterson and J. Krug [pdf]
  • Numeraire: A Cryptographic Token for Coordinating Machine Intelligence and Preventing Overfitting (2017), R. Craib et al. [pdf]

Verifiable Randomness

  • On Bitcoin as a public randomness source (2015), J. Bonneau et al. [pdf]
  • Proofs-of-delay and randomness beacons in Ethereum (2017), B. Bünz et al. [pdf]
  • Scalable Bias-Resistant Distributed Randomness (2017), E. Syta et al. [pdf]

Programming Languages/Formal Methods

  • Simplicity: A New Language for Blockchains (2017), R. O’Connor [pdf]
  • KEVM: A Complete Semantics of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (2017), E. Hildenbrandt et al. [pdf]

Zero Knowledge

  • Zerocash: Decentralized Anonymous Payments from Bitcoin (2014), E. Ben-Sasson et al. [pdf]
  • Scalable Zero Knowledge via Cycles of Elliptic Curves (2015), E. Ben-Sasson et al. [pdf]
  • Succinct Non-Interactive Zero Knowledge for a von Neumann Architecture (2015), E. Ben-Sasson et al. [pdf]

Book / Survey / Review

  • Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies (Book, 2016), A. Narayanan et al. [html]
  • Mastering Bitcoin (Book, 2015), A. Antonopoulos [html]

Video Lectures / Blogs / Labs


  • ECE598AM, Cryptocurrency Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [web]
  • MAS.S65, Blockchain Technologies: Decentralize all the Things, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [web]
  • CS251P, Bitcoin Engineering, Stanford University [web]
  • CS251, Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies, Stanford University [web]
  • Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies, Princeton University (Coursera) [web]
  • 08-303, Cryptocurrencies, Blockchains, and Applications, Carnegie Mellon University [web]
  • MAS.S62, Cryptocurrency Engineering and Design, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [web]


  • Hacking, Distributed (Emin Gün Sirer) [web]
  • Unenumerated (Nick Szabo) [web]
  • Vitalik Buterin [web]
  • Gavin Andresen [web]

(Research Labs)

  • Decentralized Systems Lab, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [web]
  • The Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts, Cornell University [web]
  • Digital Currency Initative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [web]
  • Applied Cryptography Group, Stanford University [web]
  • crypto@berkeley, University of California, Berkeley [web]
  • The UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies (CBT), University College London [web]


  • Financial Cryptography [web]
  • IEEE Security & Privacy on the Blockchain (IEEE S&B) [web]
  • Blockchain Protocol Analysis and Security Engineering [web]



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