Switzerland Scientists Discovered A New Way to Solve Bitcoin’s Scalability Problem

Nicholas Otieno   Oct 27, 2019 15:12 3 Min Read (6).jpg

Blockchain technology began as the innovation which powered the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

However, in recent years, leaders in banking, finance, and several more organizations have given this innovation more attention than ever before. They seek new technology to replace their systems that are often costly and inefficient to operate.

But, blockchain is not immune to limitations. Low speed and limited scalability still affect the performance of the technology.

Furthermore, cryptocurrencies have gained a lot of attention due to the rise in price.  This attention has increased the number of people investing and trading in different cryptocurrencies that have resulted in an increased number of transactions flowing through different networks.

Too many transactions within seconds on crypto platforms have led to scalability issues in some of them, particularly in the most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.

Several people are working on solutions to this problem.

What is the new approach proposed?

The Swiss scientists say to have cracked Bitcoin’s scalability problem. They do it by eliminating the need for consensus among systems to confirm a transaction. The researchers propose a very different approach to validating a transaction in digital currencies like Bitcoin.

Up to now, the consensus within systems has been regarded as essential to resolve Bitcoin’s double-spending problem. Most methods to address this problem comprise of reaching a quorum (i.e., agreement within all systems constituting a blockchain).

However, quorum has many limitations. It is expensive and consumes huge amounts of energy. Also, it can be time-consuming, if transactions accumulate within a blockchain network or if it depends on consensus within systems spread across multiple geographical regions.  

But the new study suggests that a quorum is not necessary to validate a transaction. Rather it aims for an agreement about the transaction from a random sampling of systems within a network.

What kind of cryptocurrency fork is this? 

The algorithm proposed in this study (the Contagion algorithm) is not a variant of existing consensus algorithms like proof of stake or proof of work.

While proof of work is normally used to decide the consensus value, the Contagion algorithm does not run nodes to elect leaders. Rather, the Contagion algorithm uses a gossip protocol (the same one which is used to communicate headers or nonces of different blocks in Bitcoin) to spread information about a transaction.

To accomplish this task, the Contagion algorithm is made up of three sub-protocols – Threshold, Sieve, and Murmur. The role of the three protocols is to ensure consistency, totality, and validity of a transaction and for sending the original sampled process to a set of randomly picked systems within the network.

The size of the sampled randomly systems confirms whether or not the transaction is valid. The size should be large enough to ensure that hackers are not able to penetrate the system. Also, the size should be smaller than that of a quorum to ensure that it is not more than that of a representation of the entire network.

The Contagion algorithm not only reduces the amount of time and resources needed to confirm a transaction but also uses minimal energy. The energy used to validate and propagate a transaction is that of sending messages on the internet.

These Swiss researchers plan to open source the protocol with the assistance of EU funding to disseminate the study’s findings. Then people can use the protocol to tackle the scalability problem and develop cryptocurrencies, which are “cheap” to run.


The new study indicates that the Contagion algorithm can tackle the scalability problem in cryptocurrencies.

But just like many other blockchain scaling solutions like lightning network, consensus algorithms, and others have their own pros and cons, the Contagion algorithm is no exception. However, the new study is looking promising as it suggests a suitable scaling solution to enable efficient use of cryptocurrencies.


Image via Shutterstock




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