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This article was published on September 24, 2018

Devs worry Ethereum is clogged with crappy apps, but Vitalik has a fix

He wants to use privacy tech to scale Ethereum

Devs worry Ethereum is clogged with crappy apps, but Vitalik has a fix
David Canellis
Story by

David Canellis

David is a tech journalist who loves old-school adventure games, techno and the Beastie Boys. He's currently on the finance beat. David is a tech journalist who loves old-school adventure games, techno and the Beastie Boys. He's currently on the finance beat.

There’s growing concern that Ethereum cannot handle anymore dApps – but founder Vitalik Buterin says he’s close to fixing the scalability issues.

Afri Schoedon, part of the Parity wallet development team, recently urged new decentralized app (dApp) projects away from Ethereum.

“Please stop deploying [dApps] to Ethereum,” Schoedon wrote. “We are running at capacity.”

Schoedon then declared a need to “meta-decentralize” Ethereum. The approach would involve deploying critical parts of dApps on Ethereum’s mainnet, and running the rest of the necessary processes on a compatible blockchain platform – like Ethereum Classic.

Ethereum founder and Russian boy-wonder, Vitalik Buterin, has disagreed, claiming that Ethereum is not at capacity (technologically) – because it might soon be able to “mass validate” 500 transactions per second.

For the record, Ethereum is currently handling of up to 15 to 20 transactions per second.

“Disagree. Most dApps have lots of room to gas-optimize, and even if you don’t, [having] your dApp running raises gas fees and pressures others to gas-optimize,” Buterin explained. “[Transaction] mass-validation via ZK-SNARKs can reduce costs to less than 1,000 gas per transaction, if done well.”

“That’s around 500 transactions per second, on-chain, with all the security guarantees of on-chain.” he declared.

Buterin is keen on using Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge – also known as ZK-SNARKs, a kind of mathematical proof.

Blockchain developers have discovered that when using ZK-SNARKs, transactions become anonymous, as they remove the need for either party to share information (such as traceable private keys).

In fact, the privacy provided by ZK-SNARKs is so great that developers built popular altcoin Zcash with the related theory as its bedrock.

But – instead of using them for the privacy functions, Buterin believes he can use ZK-SNARKs to properly scale Ethereum’s network.

Buterin says ZK-SNARKs could represent a 24-fold increase in the efficiency of ETH transactions, and up to 50-fold increase in the efficiency of ERC-20 transactions.

While an Ethereum ZK-SNARK implementation would see those transactions processed on-chain, Buterin has previously declared one million transactions per second completely possible on Ethereum – but only through the use of second layer protocols such as Plasma.

OK – but is Ethereum clogged?

As it stands, Buterin thinks that most of the network is being actually clogged with useless dApps, and that shitty projects need to either become more efficient, or make way for better use-cases.

“All blockchains that are sufficiently mature will be at capacity,” Buterin wrote. “There are plenty of low-value uses, [like FOMO3D, for instance.]”

“So, it’s a fallacy to claim that gas usage [being 100 percent] is equivalent to having no more room [for dApps],” he continued. “Good dApps can kick bad ones out.”

What it would take, though, for a mass exodus of the toxic and an influx of well-oiled, useful dApps – nobody knows. We do know that other blockchains are having similar respectability problems.

It should also be made clear that Ethereum has been at capacity before – and it’s caused major problems. In fact, when CryptoKitties launched in December, its sudden popularity almost brought the blockchain to its knees, revealing undiscovered scalability problems still being addressed today.

If you’re interested in everything blockchain, chances are you’ll love Hard Fork Decentralized. Our blockchain and cryptocurrency event is coming up soon – join us to hear from experts about the industry’s future. Check it out!

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