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The Ethereum Blockchain is Congested by Cats
Even though Bitcoin is much larger than Ethereum it isn’t the only blockchain to suffer scaling issues: the ethereum network is presently experiencing a transaction backlog. The cause of the commotion? Cats. While the runaway success of Crypto Kitties has prompted widespread amusement, it highlights the vulnerabilities built into ethereum smart contracts. When one ERC20-based project goes viral, it risks taking the entire network down with it.
Cybersquatting Kitties Cause Carnage
As news.Bitcoin.com recently reported, Crypto Kitties – a sort of Beanie Babies for the blockchain generation – has proved an unexpected smash hit. Unfortunately, the project seems in danger of becoming a victim of its own success, having risen in a matter of days from just 4% of the total network traffic to 14%. This has resulted in a transaction backlog, with hundreds of kitty lovers waiting for their new pets to be issued on the blockchain, prompting Crypto Kitties to tweet:
Due to network congestion, we are increasing the birthing fee from 0.001 ETH to 0.002 ETH. This will ensure your kittens are born on time! The extra is needed to incentivize miners to add birthing txs to the chain. Long-term solution will be explored very soon!
For impatient virtual pet-owners waiting in line, Crypto Kitties has promised to absorb some of the costs for gas used to send transactions through the ethereum network. The number of unconfirmed transactions in the ethereum mempool soared to 15,000 today, with Crypto Kitties bearing the brunt of the blame.
Bad Kitties Bloat the Blockchain
<figure id="attachment_90270" style="width: 300px" class="wp-caption alignright">
<figcaption class="wp-caption-text">Crypto Kitties: cute but deadly.</figcaption>
This isn’t the first time the ethereum network has come under strain due to the success of ERC20-based projects. In June, for example, Bancor’s oversubscribed ICO caused the blockchain to crawl to a halt. This is the first time a live Dapp has had a similar effect though and it doesn’t bode well for the network’s scalability. While most ethereum-based projects are unlikely to attain the critical mass necessary to impact transaction times, Crypto Kitties shows that it only takes one viral hit to drag everyone’s projects down.
A casual endorsement from Vitalik Buterin earlier today probably hasn’t helped ease demand for the network’s newfound killer app.
While ethereum developers debate the best way to scale around the problem, bitcoin devs have been enjoying a moment of schadenfreude, having endured similar jibes for months. Both bitcoin and ethereum are still at the early adopter stage, when problems caused by virtual kitty birthing induce more laughs than groans. For blockchains to be relied on by major enterprises, however, solutions will need to be found that can overcome the threat posed by digital cats.
What do you think can be done to prevent blockchain bloat? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, and Crypto Kitties.
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