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Koen van Schaijk
Koen van Schaijk

The XRP Ledger’s Missing Genesis Block

Many are unaware of the fact that the XRPL effectively has no recorded genesis block. Due to a server bug, approximately the first week of the ledger’s history has been lost and so far has not been recovered yet.

Genesis blocks are considered the most important element of a blockchain’s history. Every blockchain consists of a series of so-called blocks that are used to store information related to transactions that occur on a blockchain network. These blocks get layered – one on top of the other, with the Genesis Block being the first block – and they grow in height until the end of the blockchain is reached.

Due to a mishap early in the XRP Ledger’s history, ledgers #1 through #32,569 were lost. Thus, ledger #32,570 is the earliest ledger available anywhere. Because the Ledger’s state is recorded in every ledger version, the ledger can continue without the missing history. A ledger index reset to #0 was deemed too disruptive, therefore #32,570 may be thought of as the Genesis ledger (Schwartz, 2013).

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Early Mistakes

Archived forums show that the mishap happened due to a “server bug”, resulting in the first week of ledger history disappearing. At the time, David Schwartz wrote “All that was lost was the ledger headers – all the transactions are still available, so there’s some hope that the history may still be recovered”. However, after nearly a decade, they have still not been able to recover the lost data. 

While the missing Genesis block essentially means that there is a void in the XRP blockchain, which effectively obscures the early and most fundamental days of Ripple’s history, it contains the initial creation of all XRP tokens, there has been little doubt about the blockchain’s functioning, vitality, and longevity by investors.

If, for example, XRP were to somehow appear, there would have to be an accepted ledger before the XRP appeared and an accepted ledger after the XRP appeared. All these ledgers would be signed by the majority of validators or they wouldn’t have been accepted. In the first ledger after the XRP appeared, there would either have to be a transaction whose metadata included the increase in XRP or not. If not, then there is 100% conclusive evidence that a stated invariant was broken – an account’s balance may not be changed without a transaction whose metadata shows that change. If so, then there is still 100% conclusive evidence that a stated invariant was broken – an account’s metadata may only change the total XRP in the ledger by destroying its transaction fee (Schwartz, 2013).

While the XRPL has many safeguards in place to prevent events like the aforementioned example from happening, a blockchain like the XRPL that operates without a Genesis block is an anomaly in the entire industry and will continue to cause controversy in the years to come.

Koen van Schaijk
Koen van Schaijk