By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
Given the current media frenzy of "everything Bitcoin" (BC) you probably would've had to have been living under a rock to not have heard about it.
Along with this attention there's been no shortage of proponents as well as detractors. Many detractors have pointed to some of the weaknesses or flaws they see or have purportedly been found in Bitcoin.
While there are certainly many things to be sorted out regarding Bitcoin it always seems that whenever something new comes about there are immediate detractors telling you that this or that is the new shiny thing's "achilles heel" and with Bitcoin it is no different.
Specifically, I'm referring to Bitcoin: What You're Not Being Told which suggests that the blockchain is BC's achille's heel.
As usual, this type of doom and gloom usually never comes to pass as the world is dripping with intelligence and ingenuity. We've seen this with the Y2K situation and numerous others. This isn't to say that detractors aren't valuable, because they are. And very often it is only because of their efforts and concerns that issue or problems come to light and are addressed.
So for that we are very thankful.
But back to the BC's blockchain and the doom and gloom surrounding it. Once upon a time, there were any number of people telling us that the internet was doomed because of the perceived lack of bandwidth (remember those silly "conserve bandwidth" sig lines?) -- that the internet would collapse upon itself. Yet technology and the market place rode to the rescue and we now can download huge video files at the click of a mouse button or watch streaming media on our smart phones very minimal, if any, latency and all for peanuts.
More analogous to the BC blockchain concerns is the limited addressable space provided by IPv4 with IPv4 being 32 bits in length and providing approximately 4.3 billion IP addresses. I first heard concerns about this back around 1995 in tech circles and perhaps in the late 1990's it began to hit the mainstream or at least business press.
And yet this hasn't stopped the internet from growing even though we have more and more devices connected by the minute -- just off the top of my head, we have about 10 devices connected. Perhaps more.
So what gives?
Well, as a short term solution, the NAT protocol was developed and introduced as well as dynamically assigned (recycled) IP addresses. And eventually, we've come to see IPv6 being implemented as more robust solution (of course, IPv6 offers many other benefits, the massively enlarged address space being just one and perhaps the most obvious).
IPv6 implementation has been slow as it's had to contend with both cost and compatibility issues (i.e., you may need something like NAT64, as IPv4 / v6 are not compatible). But it works (as far as I know -- techies, correct me if I'm wrong).
Most importantly, though, IPv6 is 128 bits in length which yields about 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses.
Not bad - that'll support a lot of devices and objects to be sure.
So what can be done about the current and projected length and subsequent weight of blockchains? One possibility is Blockchain pruning but as there are some extremely smart people out there, certainly other solutions will arise to fill this and other needs and issues as they arise.
And given other uncertainties about BC, surely this issue of "blockchain weight and length" will be seen to have been a trivial bump in the road for BC.
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