What is Blockchain Bloat?

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts have always been concerned about the size of the Bitcoin blockchain. It now appears Ethereum is suffering from similar issues as well. A blockchain of several hundred gigabytes is not unlikely in the future for either currency. Most of these problems can be attributed to blockchain bloat, a very annoying side effect of maturing blockchain ecosystems.

Blockchain Bloat is A Real Problem

One has to understand blockchain bloat is both a good and a bad thing at the same time. It is a positive development, considering this means the number of transactions on that particular blockchain is increasing. More transactions means more people are using it, which is positive for long-term adoption of any currency. It is the main reason why Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains are quickly growing in size compared to nearly all other cryptocurrencies in existence.

More transactions also means more data is transmitted on the blockchain in question. Unfortunately, this also creates a lot of problems when it comes to actively storing all of this data. Using a large hard drive almost becomes a necessity, which can be quite problematic for people operating a network node. Considering how these blockchains continue to grow on a daily basis, it is a matter of years until we see terabyte-scale blockchains moving forward.

Blockchain bloat brings forth one serious problem, though. As blockchains get bloated, the block size needs to increase as well. Failure to do so will result in fewer transactions being broadcasted per block on the network. In the world of Bitcoin, this has already become a significant problem. This is why scaling solutions are being proposed to counter this problem. It is evident Ethereum will go through similar struggles moving forward, and sharding may alleviate some of the concerns.

Until any of these solutions in integrated, blockchain bloat will remain a key problem. Bloated blockchains also means it takes much longer to initially synchronize a desktop wallet client with said network. In the case of Bitcoin, this process can take several days, depending on how fast your computer is. Using a solid state drive helps to index blocks a bit faster, but it will not magically cut down the synchronization time for everyone either.

Additionally, blockchain bloat will have an impact on transaction fees on the network. With limited block size space to contend with, it is evident people need to increase transaction fees to see transfers picked up quickly by miners. In the Bitcoin world, transaction fees have exploded in recent months. On the Ethereum network, the gas price is also increasing steadily. It is evident a solution needs to be found sooner rather than later.

Solving blockchain bloat can best be done through a block size increase. An alternative solution is to take part of the transaction information off the main blockchain and use sidechain solutions. In the case of Segregated Witness, transaction hashes will be removed from the main blockchain, to reduce the amount of bloat generated by the process. Another solution comes in the form of using decentralized storage solutions for blockchains, such as the technology provided by Storj. The possibilities to reduce blockchain bloat are certainly present, although a lot of work still needs to be done.

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