IJCH - Inside JaiChai's Head (meaning: My warped, personal opinions and musings)
From the Author:
I am JaiChai.
And if I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you before, I'm delighted to make your acquaintance now.
The main goal of the "Improving Proof of Work WITHOUT Off-Chain Solutions" Trilogy is to explain as simply as possible various On-Chain protocols that improve/enhance PoW.
This article provides a truncated exposition of the "So what? Who Cares? And Then?" of the SPECTRE protocol.
As usual, I will NOT get into the deep, technical details of the protocol. That's what its Academic and White Papers are for.
Rather, I will submit to you the reason SPECTRE was created (i.e., the problem or condition to be solved) and what benefits the PoW blockchain can get from using it.
A Brief Review of Proof-of-Work (PoW)Revolutionary - During Its Time
The Original, Old Guy Consensus Mechanism is the good ole' Proof-of-Work (PoW).
It's used in Bitcoin, Ethereum (until final Casper implementation), Litecoin, Dogecoin, and the bulk of the rest of the cryptocurrencies in the space.
Because we know it works - a big plus among the many other consensus algorithms that haven't been fully battle-tested or released in the wild.
"But Alas, Poor PoW, I knew him well."
At this stage, it’s still revered as the groundbreaking "Grandfather" protocol. But most will agree, PoW is too slow to meet current and future needs.
Additionally, PoW's HUGE carbon footprint doesn't sit well with a lot of people. It requires massive mining operations that result in a form of centralization.
The power consumption of PoW rivals most third world countries. That's one reason why Ethereum is migrating away from PoW towards Proof of Stake (PoS). PoS is much more energy efficient and economically beneficial.
But in spite of its drawbacks, many users recommend and even current creators stubbornly cling to PoW.
Why do people have this love/hate relationship with PoW?
It works predictably. It works securely. It can be a modified PoW clone (a cut-n-paste, copycat PoW protocol) and still work fine.
IT JUST PLAIN WORKS. Period.
And with the longest track record of any protocol for successful, real world operations, it has a huge base of loyal advocates and technical pundits (including Cardano's Charles Hoskinson).
Now let's segue toward this article's PoW Off-Chain Scalability solution...
It's Not the Box, it's the Bandwidth!
I love the movie "Antitrust".
It is a dark movie that foreshadowed many of the tech problems that we face today.
Antitrust is a 2001 thriller film about a promising computer programmer who stumbles across the terrible truth of his employer's company.
Directed by Peter Howitt. Written by Howard Franklin.
The takeaway, one-liner from this film is very germane to our topic today.
[The Bilionaire Tech Mogul in "Antitrust"] Larry Banks
He said, uh, "The answer's not in the box, it's in the band [bandwidth]."
We Don't Need No Stinking bandwidth!
Just give me some more cool hardware to fondle!
In the old days, and I mean OLD (like Commodore, LISA, command line DOS, 386SX chip old!), we didn't think so much about bandwidth as much as we - me and my fellow tech toy maniacs - thought about hardware.
We were geeky fanatics about it.
I distinctly remember the almost sexual experience of unboxing my first Pentium chip and ceremoniously plugging it in (well, actually, it was more like "sensually inserting it in").
Modern Day "Unboxing Ceremony"
And let's face it.
Back then, internet access sucked.
If you were lucky, you could tweak your modem enough to hear that great, loud screeching sound of the handshake; meaning: "Sweet. I just might get a fuckin' connection this time!"
Nowadays, the power of your computer and the size of your bandwidth is only limited by your wallet.
So why doesn't everyone enjoy thousands upon thousands of TPS?
Answer: Protocol Based Scalability Limitations.
It's like there's a super highway, but you can't drive your Lambo on it!
SPECTRE - Which One?
There is Spectre (together with Meltdown), the CPU chip vulnerability.
There is Spectre the brokerless trading platform.
And then there's Spectrecoin (a privacy-centric cryptocurrency).
I'm not talking about any of those here!
The "SPECTRE" we'll be discussing is SPECTRE, the protocol.
SPECTRE Stands For: Serialization of Proof-of-Work Events, Confirming Transactions via Recursive Elections
Created by Yoad Lewenberg, Yonatan Sompolinsky, and Aviv Zohar, SPECTRE is an On-Chain, fast, and Scalable Distributed Ledger Protocol.
It is not a Layer 2, Off-Chain solution (e.g., Lightning and Raiden Networks), meaning that it does its magic without creating semi-autonomous Off-Chain communities (branches off the main chain).
This pleases critics of Off-Chain Solutions who argue that it may be easier for a user to become an oligarch (powerful, centralized player) in a smaller place where the only requirement is to broadcast the beginning and end of transactions to the main chain - in essence, invisible the majority of the time.
SPECTRE is a BlockDAG
SPECTRE addresses Bitcoin's (and all PoW based cryptocurrencies) weakness of diminished security when block sizes are increased or block creation rates are sped up.
Basically, it's a DAG-based protocol for permissionless distributed ledgers that can scale (up to several blocks per second) with no loss of security.
Here's a 38:09 minute video that explains that nuts and bolts of SPECTRE:
SPECTRE guarantees VERY FAST transaction confirmation from honest users (meaning immutability - it cannot be reversed).
Malicious users (those who attempt a double-spend) are caught in an indefinite loop (basically, "terminal ignore").
SPECTRE cuts confirmation time from an hour or more to a mere 3-10 seconds!
Unlike in Bitcoin's "Winner Take All" Pow, in SPECTRE all valid blocks receive the same block reward.
Difficulty adjustments are similar to Bitcoin.
Now we come to SPECTRE's WOW factors, its"Claim to Fame" capabilities:
Unlike Bitcoin's PoW, in SPECTRE, the bottleneck is not the miners or the protocol.
Rather, ultimate scalability/performance is solely dependent upon a node's ability to utilize its maximum bandwidth.
Given that performance and scalability has heretofore been dependent on hardware and protocols, SPECTRE is revolutionary.
The SPECTRE protocol enables every node's scalability/performance to skyrocket - commensurate to their ability to exploit whatever maximum bandwidth they have access to.
The SPECTRE Protocol was created to address protocol based limitations.
With SPECTRE, bottlenecks can no longer be blamed on implementing PoW.
SPECTRE enables fast transactions, security AND scalability limited ONLY by bandwidth!
As always, in order to ensure you have a balanced perspective, I must provide you with these caveats about the SPECTRE Protocol.
And I also must stress that there is no perfect protocol for every use-case and environment.
There is always a trade-off between security, performance, and scalability.
In fact, for every advocate of this or that protocol, there will be many others who will find a reason (legitimate or otherwise) NOT to advocate or use it.
So, here goes...
In the spirit of full disclosure, the creators of SPECTRE acknowledge the following:
1. In order to achieve SPECTRE's performance, speed, scalability, the ability to maintain the order of transactions were not emphasized.
2. Consequently, for transactions that are "order dependent", SPECTRE is not the best option.
Operations that are clearly "order dependent" include:
- buy/sell orders on an exchange.
- high-speed, high stakes gaming.
- AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: SMART CONTRACTS!
Nevertheless, the SPECTRE Protocol is another important, forward step in the development of On-Chain Scalability and Security Solutions.
Thanks for stopping by.
About the Author
Believing that school was too boring, he dropped out of High School early; only to earn an AA, BS and MBA in less than 4 years much later in life – while working full-time as a Navy/Marine Corps Medic.
In spite of a fear of heights and deep water, he performed high altitude, free-fall parachute jumps and hazardous diving ops in deep, open ocean water.
After 24 years of active duty, he retired in Asia.
Since then, he's been a full-time, single papa and actively pursuing his varied passions (Writing, Disruptive Technology, Computer Science and Cryptocurrency - plus more hobbies too boring or bizarre for most folk).
He lives on an island paradise with his teenage daughter, longtime girlfriend and three dogs.