IOTA’s Coordicide: Setting the tangle free and decentralizing the IOTA blockchain.
Internet of things blockchain technology project IOTA, have been making serious breakthroughs in the crypto space, working with a number of notable brands and pushing global adoption. In the list of cryptocurrency project which has achieved mainstream recognition, IOTA unarguably comes top, or, at least amongst the top.
In an ambitious move to bridge the gap between humans and machines and enable the exchange of value between humans and machines, the IOTA network has built a platform set to power an enhanced Human-machine and lead the next internet and blockchain revolution.
Built on the Direct Acyclic Graph (DAG) blockchain design, IOTA’s distributed ledger technology enables a fee-less and secured exchange of data and value between humans and machines and between machines as well. With a very unique design, the IOTA blockchain introduced a fixed token supply blockchain with each user being a validator of transaction, hence overriding the need for miners, or independent node validators.
The IOTA blockchain design has since it’s inception in 2015 gained the attention of the cryptocurrency community, as well as the world outside it, having partnered and also working with various firms to make its concept a mainstream utility.
Being a very popular project in the crypto space, you probably know a lot about IOTA, bought a couple of IOTA token or have at least came across it during your researches. One caveat about the IOTA blockchain remains the fact that ‘It is centralized’. Decentralization is in fact a central word in the crypto space, a centralized blockchain is major turn off for cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
The IOTA project itself have been a subject of many unfortunate events, being a victim a couple of scam attacks and phishing attacks and controversial partnerships. The project has come under fire for each of these.
Developers of IOTA admits to the fact that their blockchain is centralized citing possible solutions while many other claims the IOTA blockchain can never be decentralized and as a matter of fact, its technology is infeasible.
Explaining IOTA’s centralization
The IOTA’s ‘Tangle’ is the core of the IOTA blockchain and presents an immutable store of data exchange transactions on the IOTA blockchain. However, in its early phase, the Tangle was prone to phase attacks, to protect the Tangle from possible Phase attacks, the IOTA developers introduced a special guardian node — ‘The Coordinator’.
The Coordinator is a special node operated by the IOTA foundation which periodically pings the tangle by executing zero-value transactions known as ‘milestones’ which performs a checkpoint function on the Tangle to determine the state of the tangle and as well validating transactions in the process.
The coordinator hence becomes a super node and the chief validator of transactions on the IOTA blockchain, transactions are only valid if validated by the Coordinator, transactions missed by the coordinator stays unvalidated, hence creating an awful centralization and the coordinator becoming the principal guardian of the Tangle, an attack on the coordinator will cripple the tangle and as well, the IOTA blockchain. In an attempt to secure the Tangle, the IOTA blockchain was plunged into a ‘True centralization’ and a different sort of security risk.
Having admitted the risks of running a centralized blockchain, IOTA developers have since been in search of a working solution and as a matter of fact, the Coordinator was a temporal solution to the Tangle’s security issues.
Setting the Tangle free: Coordicide.
The Coordinator node was a brilliant solution to phase attacks on the Tangle, is served its main purpose, however, it created an even bigger problem. The Coordicide is a term coined for the several efforts and possible geared towards solving the centralization created by the Coordinator node. Most coordicide proposals are based on removing the coordinator node.
IOTA developers have created a zero-value testnet (Znet), to experiment blockchain operations without the Coordinator node. The zero-value testnet experiments the feasibility of a running a blockchain without the need for a ledger validation of transactions. The Coordinator is basically a transaction validator and a guardian of the Tangle. Removing the need for transaction validation takes away one of the biggest roles of the Coordinator and draws the IOTA blockchain closer to surviving without the coordinator. With the removal of the coordinator and its ledger validation, transactions on the Znet are automatically validated, every transaction which meets certain proof of work requirements are automatically validated.
Getting rid of the coordinator is however more complicated than it seems, apart from transaction validation and protection of the Tangle from phase attacks, the Coordinator is a major role player in a number of vital IOTA blockchain operations such as node synchronization, ledger state calculation and selection of the starting point in a random walk.
By removing ledger validation, and automatically validating all satisfactory transactions, the Znet also solves the ledger state calculation constraint. However, developing an algorithm to optimize node synchronization and as well efficiently select a starting point for random walks are also issues which needs to be sorted on the testnet before introducing a coordinator-free tangle on the IOTA mainnet.
While the journey to a free tangle still seems a bit far, tangible progress has been made as regards this, a truly decentralized IOTA. Getting rid of the coordicide successfully not only creates a decentralized IOTA blockchain and adds more security; it also makes the IOTA blockchain more scalable, permissionless and even more efficient and as well, a good platform for creating smart contracts. The coordicide could be a win for DAG blockchains in general and not only the IOTA blockchain.