Some describe 2019 as the Waterloo of blockchain, which may be an exaggeration. Even though public chain is under the limelight of late, yet the achievement attained is nowhere comparable to Napoleon’s glory of almost conquering the entire Europe. Besides, public chain is still at a budding age, the first of which, Bitcoin, is only 11 years old. The road to growth seems far away, let alone submitting the peak or falling from the apex.
In truth, the public chain was not doing well in 2019 because telling the story of TPS-DApp stopped receiving attention from the crowd. A lot of public chains adopts this path: highlighting its high TPS in promotion, launching DApp, and growing the developer community. However good this strategy was, since too many people followed the same path and ended up crowding up the space, especially when there exists limited application scenarios for blockchain. Some public chains have launched the mainnet only to find out later that few people were using it. Another limitation lies in DApp: it is difficult to develop with few application scenarios like DeFi and gambling. No one is willing to invest the time and energy to develop a DApp having done a cost-benefit analysis.
Under such backdrop, is there any meaning to QuarkChain’s hosting the second TPS competition?
The second TPS competition concluded on December 22, 2019. The activity received tremendous support from community members and developers as well as many media, developer communities, and high school clubs in China. This competition requires participants to use the Go version of QuarkChain mainnet and continued to push the hurdle to receive the TPS award while the participants were leaping through each hurdle of 100,000, 200,000, 300,000 TPS one by one. At the end, after verification from our engineers, the highest peak TPS is the tremendous 318,052. When we compare this value against TPS of mainstream electronic payment system and that of Ethereum. Below is a diagram that illustrates the comparison. Not only does a TPS of over 310,000 surpass blockchain system of the last generation, it also surpasses TPS of Visa or the peak TPS of AliPay during Double 11 (think Black Friday for China).
Some remarks that based on the market performance of public chain projects, high TPS is not likely to be a killer function that attracts users but merely a marketing story; this is also where the Waterloo perspective stems from. Let’s not talk about the cause-and-effect question between the two, other than for marketing purpose, high TPS to mainstream blockchain system is as essential as CPU computing power to computer system, broad bandwidth for internet, and even speed to transportation system. Higher TPS has broadened the scope for application, such as Defi and allows application to fulfill more mainstream demands, and attracts a wider user base.
To broaden our perspective further, TPS bears a deeper meaning than merely a number. Higher TPS represents more possibilities and can possibly become the match to ignite the fire of innovation in public chain.
The Cave of Altamira in Spain where one can find the renowned prehistoric parietal cave art featuring charcoal paintings during the late Stone Age at least 12,000 years ago
CG animation Lion King that went on the big screen during 2019 summer
In the diagrams above, one depicts the animal that humans carved on stone 12000 years ago. The other one is an animal that was created by computer animation. From carving on the stone to oil painting, then to CG technology, the wish to depict the real object propels artists to develop and play with the latest techniques, which is one of the examples over the course of the history of human development. Imagination of humans stimulates them to look for new technological development and such in turn broadens the space for imagination for human beings. New perspectives with new development hand in hand bring our dreams into reality.
A high-performance blockchain system also works in the same way; it has a better chance to stimulate humans’ imagination and realize it. Reach a higher TPS will guarantee the functionality of the blockchain system can be implemented successfully and will provide a broader room of imagination for blockchain applications. This means that QuarkChain’s quest for a higher TPS bears a more profound meaning besides implementing its own mainnet functions.
Even though the result of the competition does not fully represent the actual performance of the mainnet, however this result achieved by the third party indirectly demonstrates the fact that QuarkChain mainnet has excellent processing power. We can say that based on this round of performance, TPS is no longer the bottleneck for blockchain system compared to other most pressing problems.
Breakthrough on top of TPS
On the other end of the TPS-DApp story, there exists the problem that DApp faces tremendous difficulty in landing. Its direct reason comes from the fact that there are too few application scenarios and only concentrated on DeFi and gambling, which is very limited. Another major reason is that the tokens that are produced by current DApps are not native tokens but contract coins with limited functions, such as Ethereum’s ERC 20 or TRON’s TRC20. Its biggest problem is that these tokens serve as a proof of assets with no values in application, since it cannot deploy smart contracts or pay transaction fees.
These limitations prompts some potential DApp developers to develop their own end-to-end blockchain system from ground user, such that their products can be more usable, can contain more functions, and can avoid losing its independence, such as cryptokitties. Development takes time which in turn slows down the speed for applications to land. Also, all these projects are highly fragmented with no sharing of data nor user. Each needs to reinvent the wheels to continue the project and in this era where everything is interconnected, such inefficient way of development is not sustainable.
Many public chain projects have noticed this problem as well and turn their focus towards compatibility and interoperability after chasing after TPS. There exists two mainstream solutions: one is heterogeneous sharding which is used by QuarkChain and launching a chain with one button like cross-chain projects like Cosmos and Polkadot.
Sharding is developed at the beginning to enhance the throughput of public chain system. But as mentioned above, with technological development, sharding brings about more possibilities for the public chain: it allows the entire mainnet network to maintain its heterogeneity instead of homogeneity, while the public chain can finally become a platform.
Heterogeneous sharding is a blockchain system that with heterogeneous network embedded. Shards on the network does not need to be the same rigidly. Different shards can have different characteristics and can interact with one another. As for adding new features or modifying the network function, one can just add the new function as a shard. Innovation on the application layer can be realized through adding function on a shard. With more shards with different functions continuously be added to the entire network, the network will gradually be enriched and perfected, attracting more functionalities to enter the network. Such influence becomes a virtuous cycle and add continues to add more values to the network.
In terms of actual implementation, QuarkChain has realized heterogeneous sharding that can support different shards to have different consensus mechanism, ledger model, transaction model, and token economics. Based on different needs, one can configure different shards with desired functionalities. Moreover, these shards are interconnected, which enhances compatibility and interoperability substantially to allow different projects to join the alliance.
Let’s revisit the idea of cross-chain. Seemingly, cross-chain is a solution for application and not for infrastructure. However, the mainstream cross-chain items like Polkadot adopts side-chain-relay solution, one that provides the platform function that public chains also possess. Interestingly, this solution bears many similarities with heterogeneous sharding technology like twin brothers.
Currently, cross-chain technology has already realized isomorphic cross-chain: across chains, the safety mechanism, consensus algorithm, network topology, and verification for formation of new block are more or less the same. When different transactions take place on each of these side chains, it is like what sharding processes transactions in parallel and use the relay chain to complete verification. Adding side chains would increasing processing power. In the same way, these slightly different side chains also allow the entire infrastructure to be compatible for different applications and improve the compatibility of the entire network. At the same time, this isomorphic cross-chain design lets the in-network data interact with each other.
The goal for the next stage for cross-chain of heterogeneous chain is rather complicated. For example, Bitcoin has PoW algorithm and alliance chain Fabric uses traditional confirmation consensus algorithm. The blocks formation and guarantee mechanism vary greatly between the two and directly crossing between these two chains will be difficult to design, and such is one of the goals for cross-chain to achieve.
Enhancement in TPS will broaden our imagination for application scenarios of blockchain. At the same time, easier upgrade, flexible structure, better interoperability, these characteristics complete and improve the public chain system besides performance. It is also the muse of new ideas. Even though there will be more problems waiting to be solved, even though the path for industry to flourish is winding and long, high TPS and new possibilities coming from flexible structure produces a powerful engine to push the development of the public chain forward.