Ethereum will probably go down as one of the most revolutionary technologies of all time. Vitalik Buterin’s brainchild gave inventors around the world a decentralized platform where they could create their applications. However, as has been pretty extensively documented, they suffer from scalability issues. Unfortunately, some of the architectural choices that they have made also compounds this problem and makes it even worse. In this article, we will see how the lack of scalability escalates Ethereum’s gas price and what FLETA is doing to mitigate these issues.
What is Ethereum gas and how does it work?
Gas is a unit that measures the amount of computational effort that it will take to execute certain operations. To understand how it works, consider this example.
Suppose you are going on a road trip. Before you do so, you go through these steps:
- You go to the gas station and specify how much gas you want to fill up in your car.
- You get that gas filled up in your car.
- You pay the gas station the amount of money you owe them for the gas.
Now, let’s draw parallels with Ethereum.
- The car is the operation that you want to execute, like a smart contract.
- The gas is Ethereum gas.
- The gas station is the miners.
- The money that you paid them is the miner fees.
All the operations that users want to execute in Ethereum must provide gas for the following:
- To cover its data aka intrinsic gas.
- To cover its entire computation.
In a nutshell, a gas limit must be specified before a smart contract is executed. The limit should be enough to cover the entire contract, otherwise, it reverts to its original state. The amount of gas consumed during the whole operation is paid as gas fees to the miners.
Scalability and escalating gas fees
Gas prices in Ethereum tend to fluctuate a lot. The following is a screenshot of the average gas price chart taken from Etherscan:
To know why this fluctuation happens, let’s understand how the transaction process in Ethereum works. Suppose Alice wants to send Bob 1 ETH. She will send the transaction details along with the gas price to Ethereum’s system, where it waits along with the other transactions in a mempool. Eventually, a miner will pick up these transactions, put them in a block that they are mining and pocket the gas fees.
However, what happens when the number of transactions waiting in the mempool goes out of hand? During situations like these, transaction senders will increase the gas fees that they are sending through. The idea is to incentivize the miners to pick their transaction first and pocket the extra fees in the process. If a lot of senders follow suit, and the minimum gas fees increases, the following happens:
- The numbers of transactions waiting in the mempool increases, since the miners won’t pick them up unless they satisfy the minimum gas fees requirement.
- The increasing amount of pending transactions bloats up the Ethereum blockchain, putting a strain on the entire network.
- Since fewer transactions are actually going through, DApp usage begins to suffer.
Another vital thing to remember here is that each Ethereum block is also limited by a gas limit.
Image Credit: Blockgeeks
What this means is that when miners start accepting these transactions with bloated gas fees, the number of transactions going inside the block decreases. Since the blocks are getting full faster, the waiting time for newer blocks (15–20 seconds per block) also factors into the overall network latency.
Instead of dealing with hypotheticals, let’s look at real-life examples of how a sudden spike in the number of transactions bloated up the Ethereum blockchain and shot up the minimum gas price.
The CryptoKitties Saga
Cryptokitties is an Ethereum based game in which users can collect, trade, and breed digital cats. The entire community soon got obsessed with the game and they started buying as many digital cats as they could. During its peak hype, the network transaction requests practically doubled overnight from around 622K to 1.07 Million. The miners were forced to alter their rig settings to only accept transactions with gas prices meeting a certain threshold, increasing the average gas price:
As expected, this caused the number of backlogged transactions in the mempool to grow exponentially.
Image Credit: Quartz
How does FLETA mitigate this?
The biggest problem with increasing gas prices is that it increases the number of transactions waiting in the mempool, which in turn bloats up the blockchain. A bloated blockchain puts a lot of strain on the network, which drives up the costs of node maintenance. This will drive away a lot of users, making the network highly centralized.
Scalability without compensating on centralization is our aim at FLETA, and the way we have achieved that is by adopting a multichain architecture and redesigning our blocks.
The independent multichain structure is one of our core design principles. The idea behind its mechanism is pretty simple. The main blockchain should be as light and devoid of activity as possible.
Each and every DApp built on FLETA gets its own dedicated subchain. On that subchain, they can define their unique in-app tokenomics and machinations, and it will have no impact whatsoever on the main FLETA chain. What this means is, that if a DApp gets popular, then all the transactions will be dealt with within its specific sub-chain. This will prevent the main chain from getting bloated with the increasing number of transactions.
Another exciting innovation that we have incorporated is our redesigned blocks. Our patented block structure (United States Patent Application Number: 62717703) has reduced the block size (by 43%) and the index volume needed for operation. These changes have increased our overall transaction processing speed by 1.8 times.
The ever increasing gas costs of Ethereum, which spike up during times of high-activity, is inhibiting the growth of the decentralized ecosystem. FLETA wants to provide an ecosystem, where the network doesn’t face any latency and performs even better during spikes in activity. We believe that the design principles we have incorporated will be ideal for creating DApps which have the potential of attracting a mainstream audience.