Talking Universal Node Accessibility With Constellation Labs
Constellation Labs is a blockchain ecosystem project focused on working toward universal node accessibility. Constellation’s VP of Engineering, Ryle Goehausen, was kind enough to chat with Bitsonline and talk us through his team’s vantage point in the ongoing hashrate centralization debates.
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Goeshausen: Growing Pushback Against the Narrative of a ‘Necessary’ Decentralization/Scaling Tradeoff
William Peaster, Bitsonline: The flooding that wiped out many miners in China a few weeks ago has once again revved up the hashrate debates in the Bitcoin community. In your view, what are the main dangers posed by hash rate centralization? Do you think people are taking the issue seriously enough as things stand?
Ryle: The primary appeal of blockchain technology is its decentralization and the corresponding removal of middlemen from human-to-human transactions. If it is possible for a small number of stakeholders to change history or make undemocratic and drastic rule changes to a blockchain network, then the purpose of all of this technology is now called into question.
The crypto community should be furiously rallying against this trend toward centralization, not just within the Bitcoin network, but across the industry as a whole. Recently, it would seem that our industry has been co-opted by those willing to sacrifice decentralization at the altar of scalability in the hopes that it will increase the likelihood of enterprise adoption. The fact that so much of the community has begun accepting this trade off, usually in the form of Proof-of-Stake “upgrades” as a necessary evil is especially tragic because it simply doesn’t have to happen.
William: What do you think is the best way, or what do you think are the best ways, to combat such hash rate centralization?
Ryle: The consolidation of power within the Bitcoin network makes realistic reform highly unlikely. However, the rise of DAG-based protocols represent a chance to prevent runaway power grabs through their emphasis on the prevention of node collusion. Within such a network, even the least important nodes have the capacity to prevent malicious network takeovers.
William: “Universal node accessibility” – is this notion inherently incompatible with Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake? Does it necessarily point beyond these systems?
Ryle: As it stands, legacy networks that rely on Proof-of-Work consensus mechanisms have ridiculous barriers to entry for node operators, specifically in the form of high cost requirements for equipment and electricity. As a result, the average person can never be a Bitcoin miner.
Proof-of-Stake (PoS) reduces wasteful energy expenditure and removes prohibitive cost barriers, opening the door to the possibility that nodes can run on phones and other smart devices. However, the very nature of PoS is plutocratic, and such a system gives powerful stakeholders the opportunity to buy up large swaths of mining rights and hurt the decentralization of a blockchain network.
Universal node accessibility will require the use of new mechanisms, such as our very own “Proof-of-Meme” consensus mechanism. By rewarding node operators based on reputation and meritable behavior rather than pre-existing wealth, we can achieve transaction throughputs higher than ever before without sacrificing decentralization.
William: Why do you think universal node accessibility may be gaining more traction? Why now specifically?
Ryle: Within the crypto community, there is a growing pushback against the narrative of a “necessary” decentralization/scaling tradeoff. Those who understand the basic tenets of decentralized technology understand that there’s no appeal to building out a new transaction network that mimics the financial systems of the old world. Crypto thought leaders are beginning to recognize that in order to achieve widespread and global adoption of cryptocurrencies, we can’t simply push consumers to use our coins or ride the recent wave of speculative hype; we need them join our networks.
This idea informs the entire structure of the Constellation project. Our network does not congest as more participants participate — instead, its transaction throughput increases. The more people we have as node operators, running on smartphones and other mobile devices, the better.
William: Can you tell us briefly about Constellation, then? What it is, why it exists, what it hopes to accomplish going forward?
Ryle: Constellation is a platform protocol that was born out of necessity. After our team realized a DApp we were building on top of Ethereum would suffer from the network’s slow transaction throughput, we recognized that this was a problem likely plaguing other developers around the world. As such, we pivoted to create a DApp platform that provides the scalability needed for enterprise adoption without sacrificing the dream of decentralization.
We aim to offer DApp developers the most scaleable and decentralized solution on the market. Instead of relying on plutocratic Proof-of-Stake upgrades, we’re using a Directed Acyclic Graph to achieve horizontal scalability. At the same time, our unique merit-based consensus mechanisms means we can build out a highly resilient network of nodes by harnessing the passive computing power of smart devices found in the average home, like a cell phone or a smart TV.
A Little More on Constellation Labs
As mentioned above by Ryle, Constellation Labs’ Constellation network is DAG-based.
As the team explains more metaphorically on their site, their network scales “horizontally” as more users join it:
“In more traditional blockchains, the host provides the food/drinks (i.e resources) for this party. And when the guests arrive, the amount of resources can only accommodate so many people, the portions are small and then everything eventually runs out and the party ends. Think Constellation DAG like a potluck (a party where everyone brings food/drinks). With every added guest (node to the network), the more resources the party has to keep going. This is the nature of Constellation, a distributed system that scales horizontally.”
The crux here, then, is since the Constellation network allows for full nodes to be run from mobile devices, the barrier to entry is low, meaning the “party” can be attended by almost anyone. As Ryle previously noted, such a dynamic is a stark contrast from the ecosystem’s reigning, cost-prohibitive status quos — and it’s a dynamic that inherently lends itself toward adoption.
Whether Constellation Labs’ model takes off in the months and years ahead remains to be seen, of course. But the team is grappling with issues at the core of the cryptoverse, and it’ll be interesting to see how their mission and the wider centralization debates play out from here accordingly.
What’s your take? Do you think universal node accessibility is a good idea? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.
Images via LinkedIn, TPI News