How do you scale a blockchain so that it can process hundreds or even thousands of transactions per second – but without compromising on decentralization? It’s a question that has kept some of the brightest minds in the space awake at night, and some of the more ardent crypto factions sniping at each other for years. In this primer on blockchain scaling, news.Bitcoin.com looks at the very different approaches being taken by three prominent cryptocurrency projects – Bitcoin Core, Bitcoin Cash, and Zilliqa.
A Short History of Scaling
In Bitcoin’s early years, scaling was rarely discussed because it simply wasn’t a problem. Transactions per second (TPS) were low, fees were low, and there were more important concerns, like resolving critical bugs, and creating an ecosystem that would support a vibrant community of users who would ensure Bitcoin survived long enough to need to scale. That’s not to say that scaling was never broached; in fact the topic was discussed on multiple occasions on the Bitcointalk forum, on IRC chat and in emails, but with little urgency.
Increasing throughput without compromising on decentralization is tougher than it sounds
For example, in an email with Bitcoinj developer Mike Hearn, Satoshi proposed the idea of payment channels in which parties “can keep updating a tx by unanimous agreement …Only the final outcome gets recorded by the network.” Advocates of the Lightning Network have seized upon this as evidence of Satoshi’s vision for a layer two solution built upon the Bitcoin protocol. Given Satoshi’s near-nine-year absence, however, it is impossible to say with any certainty what his vision may have been for scaling Bitcoin along these lines.