Table of Contents

  1. Requirements
  2. Prepping the environment
  3. Constructing a dummy protocol
  4. Deploying your protocol

The Tezos white paper takes the view that blockchains can be viewed as
the synthesis of three distinct protocols; namely network,
transaction, and consensus. However, for many blockchains the network
protocol is just a detail that must be figured out before being able
to deploy the more novel consensus and/or transaction systems. Tezos
realized this and created a generic shell that is agnostic to these
two protocols. Thus, it may be advantageous for such chains to first
model themselves inside of Tezos before dealing with such
plumbing. This, however, is predicated on the deployment and creation
of the protocols being easier than dealing with the networking plumbing.

This blogpost sets out to show that deploying a custom protocol in
Tezos is rather simple. A future post will be a detailed walkthrough
of creating a protocol.


For active development, Tezos currently supports

  • macOS/x86_64
  • Linux/armv7h (32 bits) (Raspberry Pi3, etc.)
  • Linux/aarch64 (64 bits) (Raspberry Pi3, etc.)

Currently Windows development is not supported.

For deployment of Tezos, a working installation of OCaml, Dune, and
Opam are required.

Prepping the environment

We will first need to clone the Tezos code base.

git clone
cd tezos/

Now I would suggest running make build-dev-dep.

  • build-dev-deps installs Merlin which is useful for OCaml
  • This will also create an Opam switch with the Tezos custom

Run eval $(opam env), to properly go to the correct OCaml compiler

  • Make sure to run this before running any other command, or
    else there will be serious issues that will cause future commands
    to not work.

We can now run make install, and finish the environment

Constructing a dummy protocol

For the purposes of this tutorial, we will be copying the proto_demo
protocol, and modifying the bare minimum to make a distinct
protocol. The new protocol's name is proto_custom_demo, feel free to
replace any mention of proto_custom_demo with your own protocols
name. This section will also cover the essentials for getting the
development environment working properly.

  1. Copy the demo protocol over to the new folder.

    cp -r src/proto_demo src/proto_custom_demo
  2. Cd into the new directory

    cd src/proto_custom_demo/
    • The new directory should look like this

      ├── lib_client
      │   ├──
      │   ├── client_proto_main.mli
      │   ├── dune
      │   ├── dune-project
      │   ├──
      │   ├── tezos-client-demo.install
      │   └── tezos-client-demo.opam
      └── lib_protocol
          ├── dune -> ../../lib_protocol_compiler/dune_protocol
          ├── dune-project
          ├── main.mli
          ├── services.mli
          ├── tezos-embedded-protocol-demo.install
          ├── tezos-embedded-protocol-demo.opam
          ├── TEZOS_PROTOCOL
          ├── tezos-protocol-demo.install
          └── tezos-protocol-demo.opam
      2 directories, 20 files
      • the .install files can be safely deleted!
  3. In this directory we will need to change/remove a few file names to make this
    protocol distinct, namely:

    • lib_protocol

      • tezos-embedded-protocol-demo.install
      • tezos-embedded-protocol-demo.opam
      • tezos-protocol-demo.install
      • tezos-protocol-demo.opam
    • lib_client

      • tezos-client-demo.install
      • tezos-client-demo.opam
    • Thus we need to run

        mv lib_protocol/tezos-protocol-demo.opam lib_protocol/tezos-protocol-custom-demo.opam
        mv lib_protocol/tezos-embedded-protocol-demo.opam lib_protocol/tezos-embedded-protocol-custom-demo.opam
        mv lib_client/tezos-client-demo.opam lib_client/tezos-client-custom-demo.opam
        rm lib_client/tezos-client-demo.install
        rm lib_protocol/tezos-embedded-protocol-demo.install
  4. The Contents of some of these files need to be slightly altered as
    well. In the dune file of lib_client, any mention of _demo
    or -demo should be changed to _custom_demo and -custom-demo

    sed -i 's/-demo/-custom-demo/g' lib_client/dune
    sed -i 's/_demo/_custom_demo/g' lib_client/dune

    The opam files in both directories will also need to be changed,
    mentions of demo should be changed to custom_demo. lib_client
    should also first change -demo to -custom-demo first to avoid a
    naming error

    sed -i 's/demo/custom_demo/' lib_protocol/tezos-embedded-protocol-custom-demo.opam
    sed -i 's/demo/custom_demo/' lib_protocol/tezos-protocol-custom-demo.opam
    sed -i 's/-demo/-custom-demo/' lib_client/tezos-client-custom-demo.opam
    sed -i 's/ demo/ custom_demo/' lib_client/tezos-client-custom-demo.opam

    The last thing that needs to be changed for now is the
    lib_client/, namely

    module Name = struct let name = "demo" end
    module Proto = Tezos_protocol_demo.Functor.Make(Demo_environment)


    module Name = struct let name = "custom_demo" end
    module Proto = Tezos_protocol_custom_demo.Functor.Make(Demo_environment)
  5. Now we need to generate a new file, this will serve as the
    injection of how the rest of Tezos sees your code, setups
    environments, and allows auto completion to run. This file is
    normally completely automatically generated, however since we
    copied over proto-demo, we must first run a few sed commands
    on it before it will actually change

    sed -i 's/-demo/-custom-demo/' lib_protocol/
    sed -i 's/_demo/_custom_demo/' lib_protocol/

    We can now generate our new file

    dune build @lib_protocol//runtest_dune_template --auto-promote

    Every time you make a new file, I'd suggest rerunning this last

  6. Now we should change lib_protocol/TEZOS_PROTOCOL, by default the file looks
    something like this

        "hash": "ProtoDemoDemoDemoDemoDemoDemoDemoDemoDemoDemoD3c8k9",
        "modules": ["Error", "Services", "Main"]

    For any new modules (i.e. new files), we will need to include them

    We will also need to change the hash of this JSON structure, as
    proto_demo already has this hash registered. Note that we can not
    insert an arbitrary hash, by say turning the 9 into 0, instead it
    must be a valid hash.

    Thankfully, Tezos comes with a script that can automatically
    generate the hash for us.

    tezos-protocol-compiler -hash-only ./lib_protocol/

    This generates a hash of the protocol, replace the hash of json
    file shown above with this newly generated hash.

  7. Change lib_client/ to reflect the new hash.

    The file contains the following line

    let protocol =

    Change it so it includes the new hash!

  8. Finally, rerun

    dune build @lib_protocol//runtest_dune_template --auto-promote
  9. We will need to tell Tezos about our protocol now, we can do this
    in multiple ways, first we'll cd back to the root directory and run

    cd ../..
     ./scripts/ src/proto_custom_demo/
    Link in the Node? (no if you want to test injection) (Y/n) Y
    User-activated update in 3 blocks? (Y/n) n
    • Like above you'll want to say yes to the first prompt and no
      to the second.

    • This command however has some draw backs, in particular it'll add
      the following unwanted lines to src/bin_client/dune and

      • "tezos-client-custom-demo-commands"

      • "tezos-baking-custom-demo-commands"

      • "tezos-client-custom-demo-commands"

      • tezos-baking-custom-demo-commands.registration

      • tezos-client-custom-demo-commands.registration

      For a fully functioning client, this may be ideal, however since
      our protocol is a dummy one, all we need is the
      tezos-client-custom-demo links.

      Go to these files and delete the offending lines.

Now the custom protocol should be able to be built!

Deploying your protocol

Now that we've constructed a protocol, all that is left is to test
it. First, let's go back to the root directory of the project and

make build-dev-deps
make install

A good guide with more details on the following steps can be found

  1. create a new terminal and run.

    ./src/bin_node/ 1 --connections 1
    • This runs a sandboxed node for testing
  2. On your previous terminal run.

    eval `./src/bin_client/ 1`
  3. Now, if the instructions of the last section were followed
    correctly, you should be able to see your protocol in the following

    tezos-admin-client list protocols
    • For me, the hash came out to be Psi56CyzCAftZ7sFb8QoWYrme3a7ZHhstPoKRgvudwDFEVwrpH7.
  4. Inject the protocol.

    # create some protocol parameters in a temporary file
    # this needs to be proper arguments if your protocol is not a dummy one!
    mkdir tmp && echo { } > tmp/protocol_parameters.json
    # replace Psi56CyzCAftZ7sFb8QoWYrme3a7ZHhstPoKRgvudwDFEVwrpH7 with your protocol hash!
    tezos-client activate protocol Psi56CyzCAftZ7sFb8QoWYrme3a7ZHhstPoKRgvudwDFEVwrpH7 \
                 with fitness 5 and key activator and parameters tmp/protocol_parameters.json
  5. Bake a block.

    tezos-client bake
    • for a real protocol, the command wouldn't be a simple bake, it
      would be what ever command you programmed bake to be.
  6. Check the head to confirm you are on the new protocol.

    tezos-client rpc get /chains/main/blocks/head/metadata
       The node you are connecting to claims to be running in a
                        Tezos TEST SANDBOX.
          Do NOT use your fundraiser keys on this network.
      You should not see this message if you are not a developer.
    { "protocol": "Psi56CyzCAftZ7sFb8QoWYrme3a7ZHhstPoKRgvudwDFEVwrpH7",
      "next_protocol": "Psi56CyzCAftZ7sFb8QoWYrme3a7ZHhstPoKRgvudwDFEVwrpH7",
      "test_chain_status": { "status": "not_running" }, "max_operations_ttl": 0,
      "max_operation_data_length": 0, "max_block_header_length": 42,
      "max_operation_list_length": [] }

You've now deployed your own protocol on Tezos.

Written by Jeremy Ornelas, core developer and researcher at Metastate.

Metastate has ceased its activities on the 31st of January 2021. The team members have joined a new company and working on a new project. If you're interested in distributed systems research and engineering and systems engineering in Rust, checkout the open positions at Heliax.

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