A (Short) Guide to Blockchain Consensus Protocols

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We hear plenty of talk of how public blockchains are going to change the world, but to function on a global scale, a shared public ledger needs a functional, efficient and secure consensus algorithm.

A consensus algorithm, like bitcoin’s proof of work (the one we hear about most often), does two things: it ensures that the next block in a blockchain is the one and only version of the truth, and it keeps powerful adversaries from derailing the system and successfully forking the chain.

In proof of work, miners compete to add the next block (a set of transactions) in the chain by racing to solve a extremely difficult cryptographic puzzle. The first to solve the puzzle, wins the lottery. As a reward for his or her efforts, the miner receives 12.5 newly minted bitcoins – and a small transaction fee.

Yet, although a masterpiece in its own right, bitcoin’s proof of work isn’t quite perfect.

Common criticisms include that it requires enormous amounts of computational energy, that it does not scale well (transaction confirmation takes about 10-60 minutes) and that the majority of mining is centralized in areas of the world where electricity is

Read more ... source: CoinDesk

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