The Ethereum blockchain has recently become the center of heated discussion due to its rapidly growing size, with many industry observers noting that increasing bloat may cause issues such as difficulties in archiving or synchronizing. Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has struck out against criticisms of Ethereum’s “exponentially growing blocksize,” addressing concerns as “severely uninformed.”
The debate stems from an analysis published on Hackernoon on May 24 that highlighted the runaway data directory size of the Ethereum blockchain. The exponentially growing block size of the Ethereum blockchain, posits the analysis, will result in a shrunken, centralized network that will increasingly exceed the hardware and bandwidth capacity of the average network participant.
Is Ethereum Growing Too Fast?
The rapid growth of the Ethereum blockchain, driven by the development and release of dApps, smart contracts, and thousands of ERC-20-based initial coin offerings, has led many observers to hypothesize that a ‘crash” of the network may occur if a new solution to network propagation is not found.
The Hackernoon analysis hypothesizes that Ethereum will implement a blocksize cap in order to prevent such an eventuality, with will cause the network to “race BCash to both of their deaths.”
Referencing the recent flood of unregulated dApps and the negative impact they have on the Ethereum blockchain, the analysis predicts that the implementation of a blocksize cap will increase fees, thereby preventing dApps from functioning — which will invalidate the existence of the Ethereum network:
“Ethereum is dying and BCash is trying to be exactly like it while ignoring all the warning signs we’ve been trying to bring to everyone’s attention. They wanted bigger blocks and ICOs, they got it now. Both chains will become the same thing: Centrally controlled blockchains that will slowly die”
Vitalik Strikes Back
Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin was quick to point out the flaws in the argument presented, taking to Medium to label the analysis as “severely uninformed.”
Yeah no, you're being disingenuous.https://t.co/tHfi4QPaT2
— Vitalik "Not giving away ETH" Buterin (@VitalikButerin) May 24, 2018
Ethereum already has as block size limit, states Buterin, in the form of its gas limit — which has been present for the last six months. Buterin’s refutation continues by stating that the arguments presented within the Hackernoon analysis are “highly fallacious,” pointing out that focusing on the archive node size is relevant, as lower data-dir size can be achieved by either resyncing once annually, or simply running a self-pruning Parity node.
While concerns regarding the network congestion present on the Ethereum blockchain are valid, the argument presented within the Hackernoon analysis betray a lack of understanding of the implementation of the upcoming sharding solution, stating that the sharding process causes the network to lose a full-node every time one downgrades — working with the assumption that sharding causes nodes to “downgrade” to a shard-node — an error that Buterin was quick to point out:
“The whole point of sharding is that the network can theoretically survive with ZERO of what you call “full nodes”. And if there are five full nodes, those five full nodes don’t have any extra special power to decide consensus; they just verify more stuff and so will find their way to the correct chain more quickly, that’s all. Consensus-forming nodes need only be shard nodes.”
Ultimately, the Ethereum network may suffer from occasional bottlenecks until scalability issues are solved, but the technology that drives the blockchain is highly unlikely to suffer from catastrophic failure at any point.
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