One of the co-authors of the Lightning Network whitepaper, Tadge Dryja, released another Bitcoin scaling solution concept this week via social media – Utreexo. Similarly to the Lightning Network, the project is open-source and seeks to alleviate Bitcoin scalability by off-loading the amount of data the blockchain handles directly.
The protocol is called Utreexo and it could revolutionize Bitcoin’s structure forever. The strategy is simple, reduce the amount of data sent by nodes through the use of cryptographic proofs. Cryptographic proofs are protocols that enable one party to prove to another party that they know a certain value, without conveying any relevant information pertaining to said value.
How it Works
What Dryja proposes is ingenious. Basically, every full node holds a data set known as the UTXO set. The UTXO is also called the “state”. Its purpose is to verify if a Bitcoin is spent or if it remains in a wallet. As you could imagine, this data is crucial in preventing double spending. Consequently, reducing the UTXO set makes it easier for people to run full nodes.
The More Nodes the Better
The more full nodes in operation, the safer the entire network is. Reducing the technical barriers associated with running a full node is crucial when you discuss furthering Bitcoin adoption.
Utreexo – Nodes for All
How much easier is it to set up a full node using the Utreexo protocol? According to one article published in January of this year, you could, in theory, run a full node on a smartphone, or any CPU. The device would need at least 500 megabytes of RAM. This is far cry from today’s requirements which include a minimum of 145 gigabytes of disk space, 2 gigabytes of RAM, and an internet connection with a speed of at least 50 Kbps.
A Concept as Old as Bitcoin
Using cryptographic proofs to reduce data storage without reducing network security is an old concept that dates back to Bitcoin’s first days. At that time, scalability issues were not as large a concern for most Bitcoin users. However, Bitcoin heavyweights always considered this an important concept to expand upon.
The Concept Gains Steam
Today, Dryja isn’t alone in his aspirations. He is accompanied by some of the most respected names in the sector including Dan Boneh, Ben Fisch, and Benedikt Bünz. Also, a growing number of Ethereum developers plan to further test the concept.
There are some negatives to consider as well. Primarily, Utreexo increases Bitcoin’s network bandwidth by 25%. Basically, this protocol enables full nodes to operate on less RAM, but they must download the cryptographic proof files in order to do so.
The Community Weighs In
The Utreexo protocol tons of potential when you consider that the majority of Bitcoin users today operate some form of a lite client. Enabling these users to run full nodes strengthens Bitcoin’s blockchain and enables a more robust UX for all.