This document describes how our network works. At this moment, it is known to be somewhat outdated, as we are in the process of refactoring the network protocol somewhat significantly.

1. Overview

Near Protocol uses its own implementation of a custom peer-to-peer network. Peers who join the network are represented by nodes and connections between them by edges.

The purpose of this document is to describe the inner workings of the near-network package; and to be used as reference by future engineers to understand the network code without any prior knowledge.

2. Code structure

near-network runs on top of the actor framework called Actix. Code structure is split between 4 actors PeerManagerActor, PeerActor, RoutingTableActor, EdgeValidatorActor

2.1 EdgeValidatorActor (currently called EdgeVerifierActor in the code)

EdgeValidatorActor runs on separate thread. The purpose of this actor is to validate edges, where each edge represents a connection between two peers, and it's signed with a cryptographic signature of both parties. The process of edge validation involves verifying cryptographic signatures, which can be quite expensive, and therefore was moved to another thread.


  • Validating edges by checking whenever cryptographic signatures match.

2.2 RoutingTableActor

RoutingTableActor maintains a view of the P2P network represented by a set of nodes and edges.

In case a message needs to be sent between two nodes, that can be done directly through a TCP connection. Otherwise, RoutingTableActor is responsible for pinging the best path between them.


  • Keep set of all edges of P2P network called routing table.
  • Connects to EdgeValidatorActor, and asks for edges to be validated, when needed.
  • Has logic related to exchanging edges between peers.

2.3 PeerActor

Whenever a new connection gets accepted, an instance of PeerActor gets created. Each PeerActor keeps a physical TCP connection to exactly one peer.


  • Maintaining physical connection.
  • Reading messages from peers, decoding them, and then forwarding them to the right place.
  • Encoding messages, sending them to peers on physical layer.
  • Routing messages between PeerManagerActor and other peers.

2.4 PeerManagerActor

PeerManagerActor is the main actor of near-network crate. It acts as a bridge connecting to the world outside, the other peers, and ClientActor and ClientViewActor, which handle processing any operations on the chain. PeerManagerActor maintains information about p2p network via RoutingTableActor, and indirectly, through PeerActor, connections to all nodes on the network. All messages going to other nodes, or coming from other nodes will be routed through this Actor. PeerManagerActor is responsible for accepting incoming connections from the outside world and creating PeerActors to manage them.


  • Accepting new connections.
  • Maintaining the list of PeerActors, creating, deleting them.
  • Routing information about new edges between PeerActors and RoutingTableManager.
  • Routing messages between ViewClient, ViewClientActor and PeerActors, and consequently other peers.
  • Maintains RouteBack structure, which has information on how to send replies to messages.

3. Code flow - initialization

First, the PeerManagerActor actor gets started. PeerManagerActor opens the TCP server, which listens to incoming connections. It starts the RoutingTableActor, which then starts the EdgeValidatorActor. When an incoming connection gets accepted, it starts a new PeerActor on its own thread.

4. NetworkConfig

near-network reads configuration from NetworkConfig, which is a part of client config.

Here is a list of features read from config:

  • boot_nodes - list of nodes to connect to on start.
  • addr - listening address.
  • max_num_peers - by default we connect up to 40 peers, current implementation supports up to 128.

5. Connecting to other peers.

Each peer maintains a list of known peers. They are stored in the database. If the database is empty, the list of peers, called boot nodes, will be read from the boot_nodes option in the config. The peer to connect to is chosen at random from a list of known nodes by the PeerManagerActor::sample_random_peer method.

6. Edges & network - in code representation

P2P network is represented by a list of peers, where each peer is represented by a structure PeerId, which is defined by the peer's public key PublicKey, and a list of edges, where each edge is represented by the structure Edge.

Both are defined below.

6.1 PublicKey

We use two types of public keys:

  • a 256 bit ED25519 public key.
  • a 512 bit Secp256K1 public key.

Public keys are defined in the PublicKey enum, which consists of those two variants.

fn main() {
pub struct ED25519PublicKey(pub [u8; 32]);
pub struct Secp256K1PublicKey([u8; 64]);
pub enum PublicKey {

6.2 PeerId

Each peer is uniquely defined by its PublicKey, and represented by PeerId struct.

fn main() {
pub struct PeerId(PublicKey);

6.3 Edge

Each edge is represented by the Edge structure. It contains the following:

  • pair of nodes represented by their public keys.
  • nonce - a unique number representing the state of an edge. Starting with 1. Odd numbers represent an active edge. Even numbers represent an edge in which one of the nodes, confirmed that the edge is removed.
  • Signatures from both peers for active edges.
  • Signature from one peer in case an edge got removed.

6.4 Graph representation

RoutingTableActor is responsible for storing and maintaining the set of all edges. They are kept in the edge_info data structure of the type HashSet<Edge>.

fn main() {
pub struct RoutingTableActor {
    /// Collection of edges representing P2P network.
    /// It's indexed by `Edge::key()` key and can be search through by calling `get()` function
    /// with `(PeerId, PeerId)` as argument.
    pub edges_info: HashSet<Edge>,
    /// ...

7. Code flow - connecting to a peer - handshake

When PeerManagerActor starts, it starts to listen to a specific port.

7.1 - Step 1 - monitor_peers_trigger runs

PeerManager checks if we need to connect to another peer by running the PeerManager::is_outbound_bootstrap_needed method. If true we will try to connect to a new node. Let's call the current node, node A.

7.2 - Step 2 - choosing the node to connect to

Method PeerManager::sample_random_peer will be called, and it returns node B that we will try to connect to.

7.3 - Step 3 - OutboundTcpConnect message

PeerManagerActor will send itself a message OutboundTcpConnect in order to connect to node B.

fn main() {
pub struct OutboundTcpConnect {
    /// Peer information of the outbound connection
    pub target_peer_info: PeerInfo,

7.4 - Step 4 - OutboundTcpConnect message

On receiving the message the handle_msg_outbound_tcp_connect method will be called, which calls TcpStream::connect to create a new connection.

7.5 - Step 5 - Connection gets established

Once connection with the outgoing peer gets established. The try_connect_peer method will be called. And then a new PeerActor will be created and started. Once the PeerActor starts it will send a Handshake message to the outgoing node B over a tcp connection.

This message contains protocol_version, node A's metadata, as well as all information necessary to create an Edge.

fn main() {
pub struct Handshake {
    /// Current protocol version.
    pub(crate) protocol_version: u32,
    /// Oldest supported protocol version.
    pub(crate) oldest_supported_version: u32,
    /// Sender's peer id.
    pub(crate) sender_peer_id: PeerId,
    /// Receiver's peer id.
    pub(crate) target_peer_id: PeerId,
    /// Sender's listening addr.
    pub(crate) sender_listen_port: Option<u16>,
    /// Peer's chain information.
    pub(crate) sender_chain_info: PeerChainInfoV2,
    /// Represents new `edge`. Contains only `none` and `Signature` from the sender.
    pub(crate) partial_edge_info: PartialEdgeInfo,

7.6 - Step 6 - Handshake arrives at node B

Node B receives a Handshake message. Then it performs various validation checks. That includes:

  • Check signature of edge from the other peer.
  • Whenever nonce is the edge, send matches.
  • Check whether the protocol is above the minimum OLDEST_BACKWARD_COMPATIBLE_PROTOCOL_VERSION.
  • Other node view of chain state.

If everything is successful, PeerActor will send a RegisterPeer message to PeerManagerActor. This message contains everything needed to add PeerActor to the list of active connections in PeerManagerActor.

Otherwise, PeerActor will be stopped immediately or after some timeout.

fn main() {
pub struct RegisterPeer {
    pub(crate) actor: Addr<PeerActor>,
    pub(crate) peer_info: PeerInfo,
    pub(crate) peer_type: PeerType,
    pub(crate) chain_info: PeerChainInfoV2,
    // Edge information from this node.
    // If this is None it implies we are outbound connection, so we need to create our
    // EdgeInfo part and send it to the other peer.
    pub(crate) this_edge_info: Option<EdgeInfo>,
    // Edge information from other node.
    pub(crate) other_edge_info: EdgeInfo,
    // Protocol version of new peer. May be higher than ours.
    pub(crate) peer_protocol_version: ProtocolVersion,

7.7 - Step 7 - PeerManagerActor receives RegisterPeer message - node B

In the handle_msg_consolidate method, the RegisterPeer message will be validated. If successful, the register_peer method will be called, which adds the PeerActor to the list of connected peers.

Each connected peer is represented in PeerActorManager in ActivePeer the data structure.

fn main() {
/// Contains information relevant to an active peer.
struct ActivePeer { // will be renamed to `ConnectedPeer` see #5428
    addr: Addr<PeerActor>,
    full_peer_info: FullPeerInfo,
    /// Number of bytes we've received from the peer.
    received_bytes_per_sec: u64,
    /// Number of bytes we've sent to the peer.
    sent_bytes_per_sec: u64,
    /// Last time requested peers.
    last_time_peer_requested: Instant,
    /// Last time we received a message from this peer.
    last_time_received_message: Instant,
    /// Time where the connection was established.
    connection_established_time: Instant,
    /// Who started connection. Inbound (other) or Outbound (us).
    peer_type: PeerType,

7.8 - Step 8 - Exchange routing table part 1 - node B

At the end of the register_peer method node B will perform a RoutingTableSync sync. Sending the list of known edges representing a full graph, and a list of known AnnounceAccount. Those will be covered later, in their dedicated sections see sections (to be added).

message: PeerMessage::RoutingTableSync(SyncData::edge(new_edge)),
fn main() {
/// Contains metadata used for routing messages to particular `PeerId` or `AccountId`.
pub struct RoutingTableSync { // also known as `SyncData` (#5489)
    /// List of known edges from `RoutingTableActor::edges_info`.
    pub(crate) edges: Vec<Edge>,
    /// List of known `account_id` to `PeerId` mappings.
    /// Useful for `send_message_to_account` method, to route message to particular account.
    pub(crate) accounts: Vec<AnnounceAccount>,

7.9 - Step 9 - Exchange routing table part 2 - node A

Upon receiving a RoutingTableSync message. Node A will reply with its own RoutingTableSync message.

7.10 - Step 10 - Exchange routing table part 2 - node B

Node B will get the message from A and update its routing table.

8. Adding new edges to routing tables

This section covers the process of adding new edges, received from another node, to the routing table. It consists of several steps covered below.

8.1 Step 1

PeerManagerActor receives RoutingTableSync message containing list of new edges to add. RoutingTableSync contains list of edges of the P2P network. This message is then forwarded to RoutingTableActor.

8.2 Step 2

PeerManagerActor forwards those edges to RoutingTableActor inside of the ValidateEdgeList struct.

ValidateEdgeList contains:

  • list of edges to verify.
  • peer who sent us the edges.

8.3 Step 3

RoutingTableActor gets the ValidateEdgeList message. Filters out edges that have already been verified, those that are already in RoutingTableActor::edges_info.

Then, it updates edge_verifier_requests_in_progress to mark that edge verifications are in progress, and edges shouldn't be pruned from Routing Table (see section (to be added)).

Then, after removing already validated edges, the modified message is forwarded to EdgeValidatorActor.

8.4 Step 4

EdgeValidatorActor goes through the list of all edges. It checks whether all edges are valid (their cryptographic signatures match, etc.).

If any edge is not valid, the peer will be banned.

Edges that are validated are written to a concurrent queue ValidateEdgeList::sender. This queue is used to transfer edges from EdgeValidatorActor back to PeerManagerActor.

8.5 Step 5

broadcast_validated_edges_trigger runs, and gets validated edges from EdgeVerifierActor.

Every new edge will be broadcast to all connected peers.

And then, all validated edges received from EdgeVerifierActor will be sent again to RoutingTableActor inside AddVerifiedEdges.

8.5 Step 6

When RoutingTableActor receives RoutingTableMessages::AddVerifiedEdges, the method add_verified_edges_to_routing_table will be called. It will add edges to RoutingTableActor::edges_info struct, and mark routing table, that it needs a recalculation (see RoutingTableActor::needs_routing_table_recalculation).

9 Routing table computation

Routing table computation does a few things:

  • For each peer B, calculates set of peers |C_b|, such that each peer is on the shortest path to B.
  • Removes unreachable edges from memory and stores them to disk.
  • The distance is calculated as the minimum number of nodes on the path from given node A, to each other node on the network. That is, A has a distance of 0 to itself. Its neighbors will have a distance of 1. The neighbors of their neighbors will have a distance of 2, etc.

9.1 Step 1

PeerManagerActor runs a update_routing_table_trigger every UPDATE_ROUTING_TABLE_INTERVAL seconds.

RoutingTableMessages::RoutingTableUpdate message is sent to RoutingTableActor to request routing table re-computation.

9.2 Step 2

RoutingTableActor receives the message, and then:

  • calls recalculate_routing_table method, which computes RoutingTableActor::peer_forwarding: HashMap<PeerId, Vec<PeerId>>. For each PeerId on the network, gives a list of connected peers, which are on the shortest path to the destination. It marks reachable peers in the peer_last_time_reachable struct.
  • calls prune_edges which removes from memory all the edges that were not reachable for at least 1 hour, based on the peer_last_time_reachable data structure. Those edges are then stored to disk.

9.3 Step 3

RoutingTableActor sends a RoutingTableUpdateResponse message back to PeerManagerActor.

PeerManagerActor keeps a local copy of edges_info, called local_edges_info containing only edges adjacent to current node.

  • RoutingTableUpdateResponse contains a list of local edges, which PeerManagerActor should remove.
  • peer_forwarding which represents how to route messages in the P2P network
  • peers_to_ban represents a list of peers to ban for sending us edges, which failed validation in EdgeVerifierActor.

9.4 Step 4

PeerManagerActor receives RoutingTableUpdateResponse and then:

  • updates local copy of peer_forwarding, used for routing messages.
  • removes local_edges_to_remove from local_edges_info.
  • bans peers, who sent us invalid edges.

10. Message transportation layers.

This section describes different protocols of sending messages currently used in Near.

10.1 Messages between Actors.

Near is built on Actix's actor framework. Usually each actor runs on its own dedicated thread. Some, like PeerActor have one thread per each instance. Only messages implementing actix::Message, can be sent using between threads. Each actor has its own queue; Processing of messages happens asynchronously.

We should not leak implementation details into the spec.

Actix messages can be found by looking for impl actix::Message.

10.2 Messages sent through TCP

Near is using borsh serialization to exchange messages between nodes (See We should be careful when making changes to them. We have to maintain backward compatibility. Only messages implementing BorshSerialize, BorshDeserialize can be sent. We also use borsh for database storage.

10.3 Messages sent/received through chain/jsonrpc

Near runs a json REST server. (See actix_web::HttpServer). All messages sent and received must implement serde::Serialize and serde::Deserialize.

11. Code flow - routing a message

This is the example of the message that is being sent between nodes RawRoutedMessage.

Each of these methods have a target - that is either the account_id or peer_id or hash (which seems to be used only for route back...). If target is the account - it will be converted using routing_table.account_owner to the peer.

Upon receiving the message, the PeerManagerActor will sign it and convert into RoutedMessage (which also have things like TTL etc.).

Then it will use the routing_table, to find the route to the target peer (add route_back if needed) and then send the message over the network as PeerMessage::Routed. Details about routing table computations are covered in section 8.

When Peer receives this message (as PeerMessage::Routed), it will pass it to PeerManager (as RoutedMessageFrom), which would then check if the message is for the current PeerActor. (if yes, it would pass it to the client) and if not - it would pass it along the network.

All these messages are handled by receive_client_message in Peer. (NetworkClientMessages) - and transferred to ClientActor in (chain/client/src/

NetworkRequests to PeerManager actor trigger the RawRoutedMessage for messages that are meant to be sent to another peer. (ShardsManager) has a network_adapter - coming from the client’s network_adapter that comes from ClientActor that comes from the start_client call that comes from start_with_config (that creates PeerManagerActor - that is passed as target to network_recipent).

12. Database

12.1 Storage of deleted edges

Every time a group of peers becomes unreachable at the same time; We store edges belonging to them in components. We remove all of those edges from memory, and save them to the database. If any of them were to be reachable again, we would re-add them. This is useful in case there is a network split, to recover edges if needed.

Each component is assigned a unique nonce, where first one is assigned nonce 0. Each new component gets assigned a consecutive integer.

To store components, we have the following columns in the DB.

  • DBCol::LastComponentNonce Stores component_nonce: u64, which is the last used nonce.
  • DBCol::ComponentEdges Mapping from component_nonce to a list of edges.
  • DBCol::PeerComponent Mapping from peer_id to the last component nonce it belongs to.

12.2 Storage of account_id to peer_id mapping

ColAccountAnouncements -> Stores a mapping from account_id to a tuple (account_id, peer_id, epoch_id, signature).