Progress Scaling Ethereum
In the blockchain technology world, scaling debates are pretty much the centre of everything. It is one thing to create a solution that works on a micro-level, but no one knows how things will look once it is expanded to the global level.
Many people spend time talking about the scaling of Bitcoin, but the efforts to scale Ethereum have been far more interesting. Between sharding and the switch to proof-of-stake, there have been countless solutions provided, and Vitalik Buterin seems to think his hard work is about to pay off.
Ethereum’s End Goal
Everyone knows this, but it is important to restate it: Ethereum wants to become a world computer of sorts. The end goal is to build a giant, decentralized network of computers that are both able to record transactions (using blockchain technology) and produce smart contracts (using artificial intelligence technology).
The combination of these features allows for the development of decentralized applications (DApps), which piggyback off the underlying technology and create a market for Ethereum’s token, Ether.
Tokens classified as ERC-20 are designed and used on the Ethereum platform, and follow a list of standards that allow for a simpler method of sharing, exchanging, and transferring tokens between users.
DApps use the ERC-20 token standard to represent shares in companies, proof of ownership, or coins of a currency. These tokens have essentially become the building block of any DApps that developers seek to develop on Ethereum. It is important not to confuse ERC-20 tokens with Ether, as Ether is what is used to compensate a user for their computing power, whereas the ERC-20 tokens are endemic to the actual DApps.
This high level of simplicity comes with a cost though. Some vulnerabilities have been found that allow attackers to gain access to a large quantity of tokens. Additionally, tokens may be destroyed by accident with the use of some smart contracts. A new standard, ERC-223, is now being developed to solve this problem.
The Best Alternative
Companies like Golem, which saw the release of its token delayed 3 years, are finding there to be some difficulties integrating with Ethereum. Most of these issues stem from current scaling problems, as was evidenced when Cryptokitties (a popular game building on top of Ethereum) created massive congestion within the system.
The technological barriers become more important once you process the fact you are dealing with other people’s money. There can be no room for error, and this is where much of the delays came from. For example, the verification of basic cryptocurrency transactions is fairly simple, but once you are verifying the results of a smart contract, the system begins to fail.
That being said, Golem’s CEO, Julian Zawistowski, still believes that Ethereum is “by far the most promising blockchain platform”. There aren’t many competitors in the space, and it seems like all the current problems will be solved, or on their way to being solved, soon.
Why Scaling Matters
The critical difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin is the fact that Ethereum acts like a company, whereas Bitcoin is a scarce commodity that is generally unmanaged and has no new offerings. As a result, this puts pressure on the Ethereum foundation to continually improve the capabilities of their platform so it is able to handle the required amount of transactions and tokens.
Not every company wants to build a whole new framework for the operation of their own protocol. The same way that WordPress has made it unnecessary for every company to learn how to code their own website on a deep level, Ethereum hopes to do this for all blockchain companies. Its ability to enable the development of DApps makes it a unique player in the space, and the fact that scaling issues are beginning to be solved (as is evidenced by ERC-20 problems being solved and projects like Golem finally being released) is a great sign for its future.
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