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A Flaw With Crypto Currencies – A Look At Blockchains

The entire purpose behind crypto currencies, the decentralization of currency, is also one of its biggest flaws. This is, of course, dealing with the blockchain (I will deal with the fear of coin loss later, but for now I want to deal with this subject). If you are just getting in to cryptos you may not completely understand what this is, but do not worry; we will go in to that. And if you are used to them already, you might not have hit their limitation yet.

Blockchain Downloads

In order to use a coin's wallet, you need to download their blockchain. There are some services that offer up a sort of proxy service, where the service downloads the entire blockchain so that you do not have to, but these are few and far between, and they generally only work with certain coins (such as Bitcoin). On top of this, you also have to deal with the fear of loss, being that you have no idea what is going to happen with your coins. Instead, the safest solution is to simply keep your coins in your own control, a hundred percent. And this means running a full wallet node on your computer for whichever currency it is that you are interested in.

Now, where the problem with this comes in is when you are dealing with multiple coins. Especially if they already have large blockchains. For example, Bitcoin alone is past the 4 GB mark. If you are trying to keep up with and trade many different coin types, this downloading starts to add up quickly. Even more so if you have to download the blockchain again due to some type of error or crash on your computer. Excluding the bandwidth limitations that most Internet providers are now pushing, there are still other problems with RAM usage and such. The more clients you have running on a computer, the more beefed up it has to be in order to keep up with all of them. This is easily shown by simply looking at exchanges, which are notorious for having problems with the wallet software (and this is partially because they are dealing with a lot more data reading and writing, but regardless it can still become an issue).

The only real fix I can think of for this, and something that should really be done sooner rather than later, is some system to help prune data that is no longer needed. While the blockchain, as a whole, is designed to keep up with the entire history of transactions, I am sure that someone can come up with a great method for allowing us to cut down on the size of it while still maintaining the more important data (such as that that shows what our current balances are). This would help out with a couple things: it means there is a much smaller download required in order to get caught up, which also leads to less drive space being needed for backups and storage, and it would also help by lowering the amount of system memory the wallets are using since it would not be trying to load up so much data. All of this would be very beneficial to even a single coin, but more so a grouping of coins. Considering we want crypto currencies to go main stream, this is important; anything that is seen as a wall can cause problems.

Updating Wallets

When a crypto currency goes through a change of how it works, wallets need to be updated. This is because a lot of times they will go through “hard forks,” which require a software update or else you will not be getting the proper block information or will not even be able to sync the wallet at all. I can not count how many times I have had to deal with this now, and it can cause problems when you are running a lot of different clients. After all, if you are late to doing a switch it can mean you are running on the wrong blockchain and the funds you thought you were getting or paid out were not being done properly. This can really complicate things. The only real way around it is to keep updated on each coin's site, status, etc. and update as needed in order to ensure you are always using the most up to date software for that coin.

When dealing with one coin, this is not so bad. For example, if you only deal with Bitcoin and you keep up with its news, it is pretty hard to miss the changes because everyone will be talking about them. Even for the next version that is being worked on at any given time, people are discussing what is coming with it and how they feel about those changes (being that any big change requires a majority vote by exchanges, pools and miners in order to successfully make the switch). When you drop off and start going to other, smaller coins, though, this information can be much harder to find. This is especially true with the coins that are not well known within the crypto atmosphere, and those that are not on any exchanges yet.

There is an awesome fix I came up with for this problem. Being that all coins are based on, in some way or another, Bitcoin, there could be a p2p database of the different coins and their wallet versions or something. When you load up any wallet, it would then ping that database to see if you are using the proper version (or, rather, the latest one). If you are not, it would notify you so you can go look for the latest one. If you are, it would continue as normal and let you know in some way (like a green check). This would help ensure that any time you are running a client, you are always on the latest and greatest version. Even for coins where finding the latest version is more difficult, this method would at least give a hint that there is one you should be looking out for. And, when it comes down to currencies, this is a safety net that I think we are really lacking right now but need.

The Problem With Centralized Blockchains

Some people have come up with the idea of using some sort of centralized blockchain. The idea behind it is that you load up your client, it pings that server, and you get your balance and transactions back. The problem with this is that it goes against everything that the crypto currencies stand for. It would be no different than going back to dealing with a bank; it removes all of the power from the people who are using it and puts that power in to the hands of a few.

To help better explain this, it is important to remember what the blockchain even is. Essentially it is a ledger of all transactions that are going in to and out of all the different addresses for a specific coin. Through your wallet tracking these transactions, it is able to keep up with the current balances all the way back to when the coin was originally created. Now, if a single group of people were to get full access to this blockchain, they could make any edits they want and nobody would be able to fight it, being that we would be relying on their information to show what is right. This becomes problematic, and is why so many people run nodes and wallet software to help do verification of transactions. The more people there are involved, the less chance there is of someone altering data (or at least less chance of being able to get away with it).

Conclusion

Blockchains are a pretty central part of what crypto currencies are designed to do, but they still have their flaws. At this point in time the crypto scene is still pretty new (although some have been out for a few years) and we are learning as we go. This will hopefully lead to some much needed changes in how things work, as well as possibly complete changes that will fix the problems we are currently facing. The hard part is ensuring that the new changes are tested well enough to be sure that there are no bugs and that the people agree to said changes. Without this, nothing will happen and we will continue down the currently flawed path and things will continue to get worse. While there are some alternate crypto currencies that work to help resolve some of these problems, Bitcoin is still the most well known currency and has the most promise in terms of becoming a main stream one. As such, we can not lose focus on enhancing it and working to make it better. Its success will have a direct impact on not only itself, but also the other crypto currencies, being that they are all based on it in some way or another!

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