A big disadvantage of Bitcoin is that it is not fast enough to become a real-world ledger. And while developers use a variety of fixes, Bitcoin and other decentralized blockchain protocols still have to solve the problem of speed. This is why the ambitious new Conflux protocol is fascinating.
A group of Professors led by Andrew Yao, a recipient of the Turing Award, known as China’s “Godfather of Computer Science just announced receipt of $35 million in funding by Sequoia China and Chinese Internet companies. The project claims to overcome a key limitation of existing blockchain technology. This limitation is rooted in the fact that protocols such as Bitcoin can add only one block at a time to the block chain that acts as the record ledger (aka the blockchain). The addition of more than one block simultaneously amounts to a fork which creates two competing chains.
Conflux claims, however, that it has overcome this with a system that allows parties to simultaneously work on blocks and put them in the chain. The protocol also maintains a decentralized consensus method, which prevents any entity from controlling the blockchain. The declared breakthrough is led by some notable names which also includes Fan Long, a professor at the University of Toronto.
Fan Long said “Conflux’s main idea is how to make the whole blockchain scalable. We’ve changed the structure of the blockchain so that it’s no longer a chain in the sense that it records each block based on what its parent block says.”
Long added that Conflux serves to fulfill Ethereum’s promise that users can create and execute “intelligent contracts” in a distributed blockchain library. While Ethereum is a proven and powerful technology, the same speed and scaling problems that have hampered Bitcoin have hampered it.
Although so-called private blockchains have overcome these scaling problems, they can do so by relying on a central authority -which beats the whole purpose of the Blockchain–. Conflux claims, however, to offer both worlds the best, namely speed and decentralization. In a press release, the company describes the technical features:
According to the press release “Contrary to popular belief, true decentralization isn’t sacrificed to increase throughput, highlighting Conflux as the first example that achieves the best of both worlds. By weaving a Directed Acylic Graph data structure into Conflux’s Proof of Work consensus algorithm, tests on its testnet have achieved a throughput of at least 6,500 Transactions Per Second (TPS), while supporting at least 20,000 nodes.”
Conflux also claims that China’s Internet giants support the new protocol by building “decentralized applications” on the company’s network. Long recognized that these applications, known as Dapps, have gained very little traction in the real world, but attributed this to the problems of scalability that Conflux intends to overcome. In consequence, Long says, intelligent contracts will go beyond their current uses–namely gambling and “initial coin offerings” –and become a force in the financial and insurance industries.