Launching Terab

Lokad is launching the Terab initiative to support terabyte blocks on the Bitcoin Cash blockchain. We intend to release an open source micro-service dedicated to the persistence of the blockchain. Ultimately, we are looking for an architecture that will be scaling up to blocks of 1 terabyte.

In the following, Bitcoin always refers to Bitcoin Cash.

On-chain scaling is feasible

Bitcoin is a tour de force, something that intuitively appeared as impossible, until a paper and an early implementation demonstrated that a P2P currency was possible.

For the sake of clarity and concision the original paper did not delve into the details on how to make the blockchain cope with massive blocks. Similarly, the early Bitcoin implementation wasn’t geared toward massive blocks.

However, absence of proof should not be confused for proof of absence. It’s not because Bitcoin has not been proven yet to be capable of scaling up to massive blocks that it can’t. Back-of-the-envelop calculations clearly indicates that massive on-chain scaling is feasible.

Terab, production-grade scaling

Terab intends to be the living proof that scaling the blockchain is feasible by doing it. Through a micro-service architecture, it will also be possible to stress-test Terab with massive blocks, long before those blocks become part of the Bitcoin blockchain.

Materials - both the source code and the hardware recipe - will be released under a quasi open source license, merely restricting Terab to the Bitcoin (BCH) blockchain. For all intents and purposes, Terab is open source as far Bitcoin is concerned.

Protocol agnostic

Scaling Bitcoin on-chain does not require protocol changes. While further changes are probably desirable - eg. increasing the numerical precision of the time value to avoid facing a problem in 2106 - no protocol change appears to be a hard requirement for scaling. Some minor changes, such as loosening the transaction ordering within a block, might facilitate scaling though. Those changes would possibly be nice to have, but they are not roadblocks.

Then, Bitcoin may require change for plenty of other reasons.

The ambition of Terab is not to drive those changes, but merely to make sure that we don’t stand in the way when the need arises.

Thus, we will strive to keep Terab as agnostic as possible to the fine-print of the Bitcoin protocol. For example, as Terab is not concerned with OpCodes - it’s just raw blockchain data for Terab - we have no reason to enforce any restriction on those.

Decoupling the parts of Bitcoin will facilitate its own evolution.

A final note on decentralization

Using an analogy, Satoshi, back in 2008, demonstrated the viability of a revolutionary concept named “bridge” by building a bridge over a small stream, using no more than a few planks. The concept proved to be useful. As the concept of “bridge” spread, people everywhere started to build more bridges over streams.

Fast forward 2018, streams are bridged, but people are still struggling with rivers. Unlike a stream, bridging a river cannot be done with the resources of a middle-class individual. Thus, people pool their resources and start building bridges over rivers. As a single bridge can serve the need of many, a collective effort works fine.

Replace “bridge” by “mining nodes” and you an accurate perspective on the state of Bitcoin.

Some argue that mining nodes inaccessible to middle-class individuals pose an existential threat to Bitcoin. It’s like arguing that, because bridges are expensive, only the wealthy will ever use them. The opposite is true, and even poor countries enjoy the benefit of bridges.