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The Growing Threat of Blockchain Bloat

February 22, 2018

There is a major scalability roadblock threatening the future viability of many cryptocurrencies known as “blockchain bloat”. Every transaction submitted to a blockchain stays forever in the blockchain. Every time one node adds data to the blockchain, every other node needs to download that new data and update its local copy of the blockchain. Higher transaction volume means that more people are adopting a particular cryptocurrency, which is good for the coin, but it also means that more and more data is being transmitted on the blockchain.

 

Bitcoin developers have long been concerned about the size of the Bitcoin blockchain. Ethereum is now facing a similar issue. Bitcoin transaction fees and Ethereum gas prices are increasing steadily as their blockchains continue to grow much faster than all other cryptocurrency blockchains out there. Maturing blockchain ecosystems can be expected to someday be based on terabyte-size blockchains.

 

Full node computers must store a complete copy of the entire ledger. Bitcoin requires tens of thousands of full nodes located all around the world. Blockchain bloat makes the use of a large hard drive essential for all nodes on the associated network and it makes synchronization of a desktop wallet a long and sluggish process, even when using a solid state drive.

 

Micro-transactions add just as much bloat as large transactions. Fewer full nodes may remain on the network, resulting in increased centralization of the network which then lowers its overall security. And, yes, each cryptokitty transaction on the Ethereum network adds as much bloat to the blockchain as any other transaction.

 

The potential solution that is getting the most attention at present is to take part of the transaction information off the main blockchain and use sidechains. Removing transaction hashes from the main blockchain would reduce the amount of bloat generated for subsequent transactions. Most transactions would be on the sidechains and these transactions could also be “pruned,” with new nodes on the network only needing to validate the parent chain transactions.

 

There are many other blockchain bloat mitigation technologies being researched, developed, and tested, and a tremendous amount of work still needs to be done.

 

 

By: BGN Editorial Staff

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