Have you ever heard of the blockchain trilemma? It’s an ongoing issue in the blockchain system that struggles to balance three key components: decentralisation, security and stability.
What exactly is the issue? Assume your letting agent introduces you to several potential locations, but you can only choose two of three fundamental features for your new rental: a spacious apartment, a desirable location, or a low price. The trilemma dilemma feels like making that exact choice, however, the key features are a bit different: decentralisation, security and stability. That’s what the blockchain trilemma dilemma is all about.
In this article, we’ll take a look at these components in detail and help you understand how they interact with each other, why the trilemma is essential and what steps are being taken by developers to relieve the issue.
The Trilemma Explained
To understand the trilemma, it’s important to mention that only a certain number of transactions may be processed by blockchains simultaneously. Seven transactions can be processed every second on the Bitcoin network. Suppose blockchain technology is to be widely embraced. In that case, it must be able to process far more data at quicker rates so that more users can access the network without it becoming prohibitively slow or expensive to use.
However, because of the underlying structure of many decentralised networks, scalability increases typically have a negative impact on security or decentralisation. This situation is referred to as the “blockchain trilemma.” The phrase was coined by Ethereum’s founder and computer programmer, Vitalik Buterin. Before we get into why it occurs, let’s give some definitions of the three main components we mentioned above.
Decentralisation vs Scalability vs Security
According to the trilemma theory, it is impossible for a blockchain network to concurrently reach the highest potential level for all three qualities – decentralisation, security, and scalability. To help you get a detailed look at the dilemma, let’s break down these features and explain how each contributes to the situation at hand.
A blockchain network’s scalability is its capacity to handle growing volumes of transactions and data without compromising on speed and effectiveness. A blockchain network can handle more users and execute more transactions per second the more scalable it is. To address these transactions quickly, a blockchain network needs additional processing power as more users sign up for it. In the end, scalability relates to how efficiently a blockchain network can confirm and process transactions.
The term “security” describes a blockchain network’s capacity to thwart hostile parties and guarantee that transactions are neither changed nor reversed. Cryptographic algorithms and consensus procedures like proof of stake and proof of work are some of the methods used to achieve security.
Although blockchain is naturally safe, it is not entirely impervious to hackers. If a hacker can take over more than 50% of the blockchain network, they can alter a blockchain and influence transactions to profit from the web. In a blockchain, security increases with the number of nodes.
Decentralisation refers to the distribution of power and control among the participants in a blockchain network. The more decentralised a blockchain network is, the less influence any single participant has over the network and the more resistant it is to censorship and manipulation. Decentralisation in blockchain allows users to operate the network using their computers (called “nodes”) rather than having the network’s control reside with a single company or individual.
Trade-Offs and Challenges
The fundamental element of blockchain and cryptocurrencies is decentralisation. It means there is no other authority or organisation behind it. Unlike banks, which have taken the responsibility to keep our assets and finances safe and transport them from A to B, a blockchain leaves the security in the hands of the individual. This also allows direct access to their funds. Now you can begin to understand how decentralisation and security are connected.
Security and Decentralisation
So how is this decentralisation achieved? It leaves the blockchain responsible by utilising a set of autonomous rules. Because each transaction must be verified by more than half of the network’s nodes, the network maintains its security. On the one hand, this is an excellent perk because no intermediary gets involved in security. However, it’s also considered a drawback – imagine the sheer weight of information that gets processed in just a single transaction. Consider this on a larger scale: the more people who participate, the slower the process becomes.
Scalability and Security
Let’s say that each bit of information in a blockchain has some sort of weight. The more information you process, the more difficult it is to move the weight, and therefore, slower. Information travels across the blockchain in a constrained path to speed things up, making it harder for cyber-attackers to target. It’s not ideal and demonstrates the cost of bringing scalability to the blockchain trifecta.
Finally, the problem with the scalability of blockchains can be explained with a simple comparison to traffic. Traffic gets built up because roads weren’t designed for the great demand of commuters, and neither was the blockchain network. To top it all off, every “commuter” then needs to be validated before reaching their final destination. So, to put it simply, scalability is essential if blockchain technology is to experience any type of widespread acceptance. A network won’t be able to compete with traditional platforms in terms of convenience, transaction speed, and throughput if it can’t scale.
Why Is This Important?
Anyone involved in or interested in the blockchain industry should have some understanding of the blockchain trilemma. While it’s not essential, it gives you a better grasp of why certain things are so time-consuming in the world of crypto trading. In addition, you might have a lot more questions on this or any other crypto subject.
Getting in touch with a crypto brokerage is a great way to find the answers you are looking for and keep learning about crypto. There are numerous platforms available that can pair you with a great specialist ready to answer your questions any time, any day, even in the small morning hours.
Crypto brokers live and breathe these topics and can provide industry insights, help you take your first steps into the crypto world and give you various trading options you usually can’t access on your own accord. These specialists can also assist with a steady investment plan and help kickstart your trading. They are an excellent option for experienced and newbie traders, giving them access to many of the top currencies on the market. No matter where you are browsing from, platforms like Bitcoin Evolution can help you complete transactions successfully. Signing up with a platform like Bitcoin Evolution is free, and getting paired with a broker can be achieved for a low-investment deposit of $250. Not a bad tradeoff, don’t you think?
Blockchain Projects and the Trilemma
The problem for blockchain developers is striking a balance between the trilemma’s three elements. While achieving all three to their fullest potential may be challenging, it is still possible to strike a compromise that permits respectable levels of scalability, security, and decentralisation. It’s interesting to see how different ideas might affect the network in the future, depending on the project’s foundation and whether it depends on another project to function (like a dApp needs Ethereum, for example).
Without going into too much technical detail, there are a few fantastic approaches that projects have taken, including the following:
A few popular blockchain projects try to approach this topic and find a solution. Surprisingly, the trilemma has even led to some exciting innovations. Cryptocurrencies that have their own blockchain network can use what is called “sharding”. Simply put, it is a way of splitting information horizontally to split out the work so that the network efficiently processes it. Sharding is currently developed by Ethereum and is yet to be released, but it is said to arrive in 2023.
Think of the Lightning Network as an additional layer covering the blockchain. Instead of using the leading network, this alternative allows individuals to set up channels with other people and transact with them directly. They are powered by smart contracts, which also reduce your cost and add a layer of security. Once you complete a transaction and close a channel, the only information processed by the blockchain is the opening and closing rather than the complete process.
Layer 2 Solutions
Mechanisms such as sharding are considered layer 1 solutions because they focus on moulding the fundamental design of the blockchain network. Another way of tackling the trilemma is by working on top of existing networks, in other words, building a second layer or Layer 2. State channels and sidechains are two such examples.
Sidechains are different blockchains that are connected to the primary chain. Due to how they are set up, assets can easily flow between the two. Sharding and Layer 2 solutions can work hand in hand to help tackle the blockchain trilemma.
The final solution we will discuss is Polkadot. Polkadot is an interoperable ecosystem that makes several types of chains collaborate. The TLDR explanation is as follows: Polkadot was created to support multiple chains on a single network. It uses bridges, parachains, and relay chains as its three operating modes.
- Parachains: independent chains that connect to Polkadot.
- Relay Chains: combine bridge chains and parachains into a single system.
- Bridges: connect Polkadot and other chains, for example, Cosmos or Ethereum.
Instead of competing with other blockchain networks, Polkadot is made to coexist and cooperate with them. The primary goal is to ensure that each chain governs itself independently, allowing the network to expand while remaining united overall for added security.
The Bottom Line
Even though most people may not be aware of the blockchain trilemma, they are aware of the issues it raises. Bitcoin traders have certainly had a bitter taste of its effects due to slow transaction times – a result of the blockchain trilemma. Blockchain adoption may reach unprecedented heights if efforts are successful in resolving this major issue.
The blockchain trilemma, which underlines the trade-offs between scalability, security, and decentralisation, is a crucial concept in the field of blockchain technology. In order to create blockchain networks that cover all three parameters, developers will need to strike a balance between these characteristics as blockchain technology continues to develop and mature.
What does the future look like for the trilemma? Suppose a solution is found, and there is a successful way to check the “decentralised” box without worrying about privacy and the inconvenience of a lack of scalability. In that case, we could be looking at a promising future. The property, legal and financial industries are only a few places where we could see significant development. Fundamentally, blockchain provides a more level playing field for people to prosper rather than relying on a conventional, centralised, and restricted system.
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