Majority of cryptocurrencies are plagued with scalability issues which are threatening the mainstream status of the burgeoning technology. In recent years, the crypto market has witnessed a meteoric rise in the number of investors interested in blockchain-based transactions. This in turn has increased the strain on blockchains and scalability is becoming a recurring issue.
What Is Scalability?
In the blockchain space, scalability refers to the ability of a blockchain network to process and accommodate more transaction at a record time. In terms of transaction processing time, majority of blockchain platforms are unable to compete with traditional payment platforms like PayPal and Visa. Bitcoin which is the biggest network in the market can only verify 7 transactions in a second while ethereum’s capacity is 20 transactions in a second.
However, Ripple has shown that it is quite possible for blockchain payment platforms to rival and beat traditional platform’s transaction processing time. The platform currently has the capacity to process 54,000 transactions in a second, which is almost double of PayPal’s capacity. As such, blockchain developers are exploring different ways to resolve scalability issues.
What Are Blockchain Scalability Issues?
Blockchain is a distributed ledger, as such, peer-to-peer verified transactions are registered on a new block that will be added to the chain. Eventually, the encrypted history of the blockchain accumulates as more investors or users join the network. This could strain and severely affect the functionalities of the blockchain. In addition, the size of blocks can reduce the transaction processing time of a blockchain. Presently the size of blocks on the bitcoin blockchain is fixed at 1MB, which many believe can no more accommodate the sheer size of transactions facilitated by the network.
As earlier mentioned, blockchain depends on a peer-to-peer verification system. In simple terms, all the nodes of the network must accept and verify transaction details. This is one of the mechanism prevents double spending. However, this requirement is also one of the reasons many blockchains experience congestion since verification must involve all participants.
During congestion, miners are more inclined to favor transactions with higher transaction fees. As such, it is common for users to pay exorbitant transaction fees during congestion.
What Are the Possible Solutions to Blockchain Scalability Issues?
Segregated Witness (SegWit)
SegWit is a protocol that allows the network to free up block space by removing the signatures which accounts for 62% of transaction details. This will increase the number of transactions a block can accommodate. Litecoin was the first blockchain to upgrade its network with SegWit.
The lightning Network is a protocol that integrates with SegWit as it allows the network to record transactions on a parallel blockchain during congestions.
Sharding is a validation protocol that allows only a sub-ecosystem in a blockchain network to participate in transaction verification. As such, transaction processing time will reduce as the entire nodes of the network are not involved in verification.
The ethereum blockchain will be using this Plasma to remove unnecessary data from the root chain. In addition, the mechanism will only distribute completed transactions to the participants of the network. As such, this will reduce the memory and computing power the users need to participate in the ethereum network.
The list above represents some of the attempted solutions by developers to resolve the perennial scalability issue that is affecting blockchain efficiency. While the community acknowledges this problem, it is important to note that blockchain is yet in its early stages of development and several adjustment will continue to be made as the technology finds its way into mainstream adoption and implementation.