So we attended Blockchain Week 2018 London and had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people. We heard some great talks and got to see some interesting uses of blockchain technology. Out of all the talks we heard, only a select few really stood out for me. So much so in fact that I was compelled to write this very article.
Problems and limitations with the existing Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) Blockchain.
If we take a look at the two most popular systems based on blockchain which are Bitcoin and Ethereum, we can clearly see there are a number of issues currently plaguing them. These issues are mainly derived from the way in which both systems reach a consensus when conducting transactions on their respective ledgers. I will briefly go over the issues of both systems below.
It is common knowledge or a well-known fact that blockchain isn’t all that great at scaling. Decentralisation is an intrinsic part of blockchain technology. This means that every participating node on a network must process every transaction. This has the added benefits of security, fault tolerance, and democratic neutrality on the network but comes at the cost of scalability.
There are two main consensus mechanisms known to the blockchain, Proof of Work (PoW) and Proof of Stake (PoS). PoW is the original consensus mechanism and is an algorithm used to confirm transactions on the blockchain. It works by competing nodes called miners trying to solve complex mathematical problems to earn a reward. Once successfully solved a new block is added to the chain. The process of mining requires specialised computer hardware in order to solve these complex problems. These specialised machines consume large amounts of power, so the process of mining is extremely costly. Both Bitcoin and Ethereum work off this mechanism. Although Ethereum has plans of shifting their current consensus mechanism over to PoS (Ethereum Casper) it’s still not there yet. PoS is a slightly different consensus mechanism in that is tries to achieve a distributed consensus by randomly selecting the creator of the next block by use of randomised block selection methods.
So to summarise the main issues of blockchain as a whole are:
- Low transaction throughput
- High transaction fees
- Costly mining processes
Is there an alternative to blockchain? The short answer to that question is yes, Radix.
What is Radix?
6 years in the making, Radix is its own protocol. It’s not a potential or theoretical protocol, it’s here and it’s happening right now. Radix is a new protocol that allows you to do 3 things:
- Create your own assets, tokens, and coins.
- Pay anyone, anywhere, anytime within 5 seconds.
- Build fully distributed applications, in every sense of the word.
Where Radix trumps blockchain
Radix is highly scalable, so the more nodes you have on the network the greater the throughput. If you visit their website, you can see a live representation of that via their explorer which shows the total number of live transactions per seconds that are currently happening. The numbers speak for themselves.
In order to achieve such high scalability and in stark contrast to blockchain technology, Radix has :
- No Proof of Work (PoW)
- No Proof of Stake (PoS)
- No Master Nodes
Radix is appealing to existing developers curious to make a transition into Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs). This is mainly due to the following qualities:
- There are no requirements for special software and is browser ready.
- No need to expensive computer hardware. The Radix Client has been tried and tested on the Raspberry Pi, which is relatively cheap to acquire.
The Tempo consensus is at the heart of making Radix achieve consensus at speed and scale. All nodes on the network have something called a logical clock, which is an ever-increasing integer value which represents the number of events witnessed by that node. When a node witnesses an event which it has not yet previously seen it increments its logical clock value. When storing an event a node stores its current logical clock value with it. It is this value which is used to help validate the temporal order of events. Radix has a well-documented whitepaper which goes into much greater detail about how the whole mechanism works including the node incentivising mechanisms used to reward work carried out on the ledger.