Can someone explain if the proof of work effort varies with the number of nodes, the number of transactions being made and the proof of work being done by other users. Does it increase over time?

I'm looking for a general answer which doesn't require deep mathematical knowledge.


The difficulty of the POW is also called the minimal weight magnitude. It's up to you to choose this threshold (it's possible in wallet UI). High minimal weight magnitude means longer computation time, but you must be aware of few things when selecting the minimal weight magnitude :

  • today, on the main net : nodes running the default IRI implementation will reject all transactions with weight magnitude < 14
  • choosing high weight magnitude increase average time to attach the transaction and consequently decrease the probability to be selected as a tip by incoming transactions

Note that duration of the pow can be very short if you are lucky:

To do the POW, a computer must generate a random set of chars called "nonce". Then compute a "hash" for your transaction with that "nonce". If the hash ends with 14 (i.e. min weight magnitude) trailing zeros : then the nonce is good and POW is done. If the hash don't ends with 14 trailing zeros : the computer generate a new random "nonce" and try again. The computer must try, and re-try, and re-re-try ... until a valid hash is found.

The hash function is particular in the sense that there is no way to predict it's outcome: one single bit inverted in the nonce will completely change the resulting hash in an unpredictable way.

Regarding the minimal level of magnitude required to be accepted on the tangle: this minimum is currently, by default, 14 on the main net (and 13 on the test net). This default value is in IRI source code and can be easily changed by full node owners (but I think most of them won't change it).

This default value is increased to reduce the spam on the network: a higher value discourage spam, but make more difficult for honest nodes to submit a transaction. Iota devs may decide one day to reduce this value if spam became less problematic.

  • WM of a transaction has no impact on tip selection, at least in current iri.
    – mihi
    Dec 27 '17 at 12:41

Proof of work does not increase over time automatically. It may be that the IOTA foundation or the majority of nodes will decide later that more PoW (or less) is needed, so they can adjust the MWM value in the protocol. Apart from that, you will have to find 14 zero trytes for every transaction hash, regardless how many nodes or transactions or other users are there.

The only thing that controls your PoW amount is the number of transactions you make (e.g. when using multisig addresses you will make more transactions to fit the larger signature) and the MWM value chosen by the network (currently 14 and I know of no plans to change that).

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