Did you ever have to deal with delays in confirmation of your bitcoin transactions? Delays in confirmation of bitcoin transactions can range from a few hours to 2-4 days in some uncommon cases. Can using a locality based protocol improve the propagation delay of transactions across the blockchain’s nodes and prevent delay of confirmation of transactions?
What is Bitcoin’s Scalability?
Scalability of bitcoin is one of the main reasons underlying the considerable lag in the confirmation of transactions in some instances. A full bitcoin node can handle higher transactions rates if it was running on a high end server rather than on a desktop machine or even a small miner, but the bitcoin protocol was initially designed to promote lightweight machines that only handle small portions of the block(s).
Let’s compare the rate of transactions along bitcoin’s blockchain with that of other payment options. Visa can handle around 56,000 transaction per second (tps), but usually Visa’s network handles no more than 4,000 tps. On the other hand, Paypal transacts around 200 tps which values around 8,000 USD on average. on December 2nd, 2016, the blockchain recorded the highest number of confirmed transactions per day with a total of 318,263 (as shown on the below chart from Blockchain.info) ; this is equal to approximately 3.68 transaction per second, which is far less than the rate of transactions across Visa’s or Paypal’s networks. This illustrates how the scalability of bitcoin is hurdling mass adoption of the world’s first decentralized currency.
A Locality Based Approach To Improve Bitcoin’s Scalability:
A research paper proposed an innovative approach to enhance transactional propagation delay along bitcoin’s blockchain via formulating clusters that define the membership of the nodes across the network. The approach enhances the local connectivity of nodes across the bitcoin network via grouping them according to their gelocations. The researchers have concluded that optimization of the transactional propagation delay can be achieved via using geolocation as a means for defining node clusters.
The authors of the paper proposed a new protocol called “Location Based Clustering” LBC which solves the problem of transactional propagation delay. LBC is designed to enhance local connections across the bitcoin network via promoting connections to nearby nodes, in terms of distance. The LBC protocol is based upon the principle of distributed algorithm as each and every node will run the protocol in an independent fashion using data from nodes discovered in the local neighborhood. During this phase, nodes all over the network are categorized into clusters so that each cluster comprises nodes that belong to the same geolocation, this can be achievable by adding an extra function to each node across the bitcoin network. If this function is added, it will be the responsibility of each node to recommend nearby nodes to other nodes in its neighborhood.
The LBC protocol defines proximity in terms of the exact physical geolocation using latitude and longitude. To better explain this, the proximity between nodes is dependent on a certain distance threshold that outlines the number and size of each cluster. Practically speaking, when a node detects other bitcoin nodes, it calculates the distance separating it from the discovered node and the two nodes are considered within proximity, if the distance between them is equal to or lower than the distance threshold. Afterwards, the node will send the discovered node to other nodes in the same location cluster to connect with. After receiving info about the recommended node, a node will connect to it in an attempt to discover whether or not the recommended node is also within proximity to its geolocation.
The paper also proposed a protocol for maintenance of LBC. When a node X asks to join the bitcoin network, it receives info about local bitcoin nodes from a list of DNS services. If node Y is found, node X will then measure the distance separating it from the discovered node to see whether or not it is compliant with the distance threshold. Once node X connects to node Y, it will receive a list with all the IP addresses of nodes that belong to the same cluster as node Y so that it can also connect to them.
The scalability of bitcoin is one of the main factors hindering mass adoption of bitcoin, mainly due to delay in confirmation of transactions. Using a locality based approach can improve the transactional propagation delay which can lead to marked improvement in the lag time between execution of a transaction and its confirmation.