There’s so much positive hype around blockchain that it’s often easy to overlook that it may have its cons. Yet, as with all technologies, this is not without its flaws.
While this isn’t a popular notion or topic to talk about, the reality is that we prefer to take a more objective perspective to the blockchain technology.
If this is going to play a big role in the future of technology, people and potential investors deserve to know what the possible drawbacks might be, so they can then make an informed decision about whether or not to invest in the technology.
In this article therefore, we’ll be looking at the key problems and limitations of blockchain in a bid to provide a more balanced approach. We already do a good job of touting the benefits and pros of blockchain.
This article highlighting its issues, while unpopular, is one that’s necessary for a more informed perspective. That said, let’s jump right in and dissect these limitations.
The 51 Percent Attack
This is a real issue and one that’s cause for alarm. Of course it hasn’t happened yet –at least, there’s no official record of one right now- the possibility of that is simply scary.
The 51 percent attack implies that if just 51 percent of the nodes agree that a transaction is fine, that’s it. While this doesn’t look scary at first, a deeper look will show how dangerous this can be.
With many bitcoin mining pools springing up all over the place, it makes sense that if one or more groups of people can work together to commandeer 51 percent of a blockchain network and approve an illegal transaction, the transaction will be considered approved.
Do you see how this can be used for the purposes of fraud or even swaying major global events? So, it doesn’t matter if the calculation is actually correct. All that’s needed is for 51 percent to agree that it is, and so it will be. This is partly why the bitcoin community is worried about China’s domination in the bitcoin mining space.
They know that all it takes is for a few bent elements with adequate manpower and financial resources to tilt entire blockchain networks in their favour. This is why bitcoin mining pools are highly scrutinized and monitored to prevent any mining pools from gaining unfair percentage of the network.
Speed Of Transaction Influenced By Incentives
Nodes are essential in keeping the blockchain running. Unfortunately, because blockchain is new, there’s a severe shortage of nodes across new networks and a widespread demand for the use of such nodes.
This means therefore, that the nodes can seek rewards for completing transactions assigned to them. So, courtesy of the demand and supply nature of this transaction, the entire purpose of low cost and speedy transactions becomes defeated.
Transactions on blockchain networks like bitcoin for instance, tend to be on a pay as you go basis. So, tasks with some attributed rewards are prioritized over those without.
So, even though the nodes will still complete the non-incentivized transactions, they will only do that after handling the incentivized ones.
This has resulted in slower transaction times and transaction backlogs. This combined with bitcoin network’s bloated blockchain has resulted in an even slower transaction time. Bitcoin currently only completes 7 transactions per second – a far cry from its initial transaction volume per second.
Soft And Hard Forks
Soft and hard forks are usually the result of direction issues in the blockchain community. The community and the blockchain itself is decentralized.
So no one person or group can have overarching influence over the others. Because of the network’s decentralized nature, there has to be agreement in the form of a consensus to determine how best to move forward.
Sometimes, blockchain networks might need a change in software to move on to the next growth phase or adapt to the changing space.
This change is known as a fork, which means nodes that decide to upgrade to the new software will be able to continue functioning, while those that don’t will continue using the old software.
As a result, transactions will be based on the types of software. The new fork will therefore be unable to take the same transactions as the old fork. This can pose some serious issues for the network and cryptocurrency involved as forks create a sense of uncertainty in the community.
Unless the fork is unilaterally agreed upon, chances are it can split the blockchain network’s power, resulting in a fractured community and the possibility of a blockchain that will not be future proof. There is much debate in the crypto community about forks (hard and soft) and whether they will be the doom of the entire ecosystem because of the fragmenting nature of forking blockchains and dividing coins/communities and consensus.
There was a recent report that said Bitcoin has forked 44 times already which has hurt the overall BTC price and momentum.
The rapidly increasing block size of each chain is bound to affect its consensus and immutability. Every node is required to maintain the chain to stay on the network. This process can result in a bloat of sorts, requiring increased computing resources to make keep the network running.
The problem with the increased block size is that there’s the tendency for the network to become centralized, thus defeating the true purpose of the blockchain. Nodes will gradually require higher entry barriers, resulting in players with more resources cornering the larger share of the network.
Bigger players in the network will be able to increasingly control significant network sizes, and will have more influence –a situation that’s the complete antithesis of blockchains decentralization property.
While block size plays a significant role in the maturation of a blockchain network’s potential, the reality is that it often requires a well distributed grid of participating nodes to do so. That, combined with the required data storage space demands can be a real problem.
This growing data volume, while a challenge, is one that can be adequately solved and will play a key role in the survival of blockchain.
Blockchain’s current limitations are an indication of its growing pains. The tech is really in its infancy, and will be so for a little while longer. Once these issues are resolved, we will see blockchain usher in a new era of the web known as the web 3.0, and a new phase of technological advancements.