Ethereum Seeks Bitcoin Cash Scaling Solution: Here Are The Other Contenders

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin recently proposed using Bitcoin Cash (BCH) as a short-term scaling solution while the wait for Ethereum 2.0 continues. Specifically in search of a blockchain data layer with low fees, and compatibility with Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash was apparently Buterin’s first choice (reasons below).

But Buterin’s flirtation with other well-known blockchains immediately triggered the emergence of cheerleaders from other major projects – all of whom say their own tech is best-placed to serve Ethereum’s needs.

Let’s take a look at some of the contenders who could fill the gap until the Ethereum finalizes work on its own data layer scaling solution.

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) – Vitalik’s First Choice

As per July 13th’s post by Vitalik Buterin on ethresear.ch titled ‘Bitcoin Cash: A Short Term Data Availability Layer for Ethereum?’, the BCH blockchain appears a prime candidate to help out Ethereum in the short-term.

According to the post, Bitcoin Cash benefits from a high data throughput, low fees, compatibility with Ethereum, and a community which welcomes innovation. Buterin’s summary of Bitcoin Cash’s advantages as a data layer can be seen below.

The one weakness as far as Buterin is concerned is the 10 minute block times on BCH (Ethereum’s blocks are confirmed every 15 seconds):

“The main weakness of the BCH chain is its 10 minute block time. This seems unlikely to change unfortunately. However, there is an active interest in the BCH community on strengthening zero-confirmation payments using techniques like Avalanche pre-consensus.”

As Buterin notes, there has been active discussion among Bitcoin Cash devs for some time regarding pre-consensus, or making secure zero-confirmation transactions. BCH already offers the choice of ‘zero-conf transactions’ – which is of particular benefit to merchants who can’t reasonably ask customers to wait 20 minutes until their crypto-for-coffee payment is confirmed. The Avalanche protocol referenced by Buterin seeks to make zero-confirmations even more secure (not simple, given the whole point of blockchain transactions is verification/confirmation).

DigiByte (DGB)

Josiah Spackman of the DigiByte Foundation responded to Buterin’s post with his own vision of why the DGB blockchain is better than BCH. His reasons, seen below, seem to show a clear advantage over BCH in terms of the numbers Buterin himself proposed as a standard.

But here lies the rub: those zero-confirmation transactions aren’t available on DigiByte, as according to Spackman:

“DigiByte does not actively endorse 0-conf payments (For well known reasons it is safer to have a Tx in a block)…”

But given that the DigiByte block time is only 15 seconds (the same as Ethereum), a transaction could be wrapped up after 45 seconds and still benefit from the security of being in 3 confirmed blocks.

Time moves fast in the blockchain world, but check out last year’s refresher on DigiByte for a closer look under the hood of the project.

Ethereum Classic (ETC)

The hardfork of Ethereum – Ethereum Classic (ETC) – was also suggested as a data scaling solution, with Buterin noting:

“Another natural alternative is the Ethereum Classic chain, as its has a much quicker 14 second block time; however, it has lower scalability (~8kb/sec) than BCH, and verifying ETC proof of work is much harder. There are changes that ETC could adopt to tip the balance…”

One of those changes would be implementing FlyClient – a protocol which has already been put forth for the Zcash blockchain, and one which Buterin says would make ETC fees low enough that it could be compatible with Ethereum.

Dash (DASH) and Steem (STEEM)

Buterin’s post also gained replies from proponents of Dash and Steemit. Of Dash, one ethresear.ch user said:

Dash has all the advantages you mention about BCH… Dash blocks are currently 2mb x 2.5 minutes but they are ready, willing and able to increase that at any time in response to demand. Dash is committed to sub cent transaction fees…[and] has none of the disadvantages of BCH like long block intervals. In fact with chainlocks and instant send by default dash transactions are secure in 1.3 seconds.”

Meanwhile, a member of the Steemit team, @andrarchy, suggested the Steem blockchain, which, as a social media app, has been hosting large amounts of data on its blockchain for years now. @andrarchy wrote:

“…we are open, eager even, to collaborate with other blockchain projects like Ethereum…”

Apparently changes are afoot on Steem which will make it easier to host the large data throughput that Ethereum would require:

“…it’s going to become even easier to store a lot more arbitrary code on the Steem blockchain which, in addition to Steem’s 3-second block times and fee-less transactions which I think makes it an extremely attractive layer 2 option for Ethereum.”

Long Term ETH

While Vitalik Buterin’s search for a short-term scaling solution triggered some hype and discussion among other blockchain communities, fans of Ethereum should be hopeful given the attention their project continues to receive.

And in around a year’s time we’ll perhaps see the long-term scaling solution that would make these current discussions pointless. According to Buterin:

“In the longer term (1+ year out) the scalable data layer is going to be ethereum 2.0, because its planned 10 MB/sec data throughput is much higher than that of any existing blockchain.”

Disclaimer: The author owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Author:
Greg Thomson is a freelance writer who contributes to leading cryptocurrency and blockchain publications like CCN, Hacked, and others.