Sharding Could Be The Answer To Bitcoin (BTC) Scaling
Even in spite of the dismal market conditions, developers and industry leaders continue to push for the maturation of blockchain technologies, which will subsequently spark the growth of the industry backing crypto assets and this up and coming innovation. One of these industry leaders is Mark Friedenbach, a Bitcoin developer and the co-founder of blockchain tech startup Blockstream, who recently hosted an event highlighting the scaling of the largest blockchain network in the world.
For those who aren’t in the loop, the scaling of the first blockchain ever has become a hot topic in the cryptosphere, as many believe that for Bitcoin to truly reach worldwide adoption, there needs to be a way for hundreds of transactions to be processed, verified, and put into a block each second. As seen by late 2017’s transaction fee debacle, which saw the average BTC transactor pay $25-$50 in fees, a solution is evidently a necessity, which is why so many developers have dedicated their time and effort to amending scaling once and for all.
At the event, which occurred on October 5th, Friedenbach highlighted a potential scaling solution that could see block sizes increase drastically without a hostile hard fork. According to a transcript of his presentation at the event, this scaling solution, which mainly utilizes so-called “forward blocks” will allow the chain to scale through a series of friendly soft forks and “privacy-enhancing alternative ledgers (side chains).” The goal of implementing forward blocks will reportedly allow for Bitcoin’s on-chain transaction throughput to increase by up to 3584 times, quite the figure, to say the least.
To accomplish this feat, Friedenbach highlighted the use of sharding, an alteration to the current PoW system, shared coinbase (not to be confused with the company) headers, along with a series of other developments that could see the blockchain scale to the point where transaction throughput isn’t a worry.
But, as astutely pointed out by some, this isn’t the type of sharding often referenced by Ethereum developers, with Friedenbach explaining that the use of sharding in his prospective scaling solution is different than ideas proposed by Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin and other leading developers and advocates. Still, the proposals that the Blockstream executive has in mind seem to show promise, that’s for sure.
Speaking with CoinDesk reporters, the forward-thinking developer spoke on the need for a scaling solution that isn’t imposed by hard forks (think Segwit2x debate), stating:
“‘Forward blocks makes that whole argument pointless. We don’t need a hard-fork to scale bitcoin, if and when we decide to do so. It can be accomplished as a soft fork, like SegWit was.”
In the presentation, he also claimed that getting rid of Bitcoin’s halving mechanism, which sees block rewards be cut in half every four years, may be beneficial, explaining that a more linear (instead of abrupt) method of distributing BTC may be less of a shock to the ecosystem.
Major Progress Made With Segwit And The Lightning Network
Friedenbach’s drive to introduce forward blocks comes amidst the growth of both Segwit and the Lightning Network, already established Bitcoin scaling solutions that have seen success as of late. Segwit transactions, for one, which allows for more transactions to be squeezed into each block, now account for more than 50% of all BTC transactions made, which is evidently a step in the right direction.
But, despite Segwit’s large reduction in fees and increase in tx/s rates, some believe that this is just a Band-Aid, so to speak, as the improvement only essentially doubles the transaction throughput limit in optimal scenarios, no more, no less.
The aforementioned Lightning Network, which aims to facilitate near-instant and $0.01>x fees through a series of off-chain (yet secure) ledgers and nodes, has also seen its fair share of development, recently surpassing over 10,000 active payment channels and nearing $1 million in network capacity/throughput.
It isn’t clear if the aforementioned scaling solutions are the key to the worldwide adoption of Bitcoin, but progress is being made, so don’t forget it.