Focus Fire: DigiByte (part 1)
The Twittersphere has spoken! After an intensely competitive poll that involved a tight race between excellent candidates, our Twitter community has selected DigiByte as the first project we will examine in our “Focus Fire” series.
In this series, we take time to really get to know a project and focus on different elements of what makes the project great. We hope it provides a better understanding of the technology and its vision to the larger cryptocurrency and blockchain community.
And that’s really what this is about: community — particularly in the case of DigiByte. This is a project whose community is passionately dedicated to its furtherance — a project that has deep roots, having been established way back in 2014 (that’s a long time in this realm) as a fork of the Litecoin codebase.
At the time of the fork — and since then — DigiByte’s founder, Jared Tate, and the DigiByte developing community have sought one goal over all others; decentralisation. This is a technology whose raison d’etre resides in its existence as a decentralised currency and protocol that can not be usurped or controlled by any individual, or for that matter, any small group of powerful individuals. For that reason, today’s article in this series will focus on what unique and innovative features make the DigiByte blockchain as decentralised as possible.
Many modern cryptocurrencies have attempted to skirt around the problems of classic Proof-of-Work consensus systems employed by the likes of Bitcoin, Litecoin, and of course, DigiByte, but when it comes down to it, there is not yet any other form of consensus that lends to a more secure and decentralised blockchain environment as good old PoW. Having said that, there are a few problems with it. In fact, we went into great detail with this issue in a recent series presented here at CryptoMurmur called “Two sides to every story”, where we delved into the problem of ASICs versus GPU mining.
Probably the greatest problem of any kind of dedicated mining solution, such as ASICs, is that it greatly contributes to the problem of centralisation. If any one individual or small group of individuals manages to gather up enough hashing power via mechanisms such as ASIC farms or the rental of hashing power through services like Nicehash, a blockchain can become centralised and ultimately controlled by that small entity, resulting in 51% attack vulnerabilities and double-spending (if you’d like to learn more about 51% attacks, you can read more about the problem in part 3 of the ASIC versus GPU article series).
DigiByte created an elegant solution to this problem — and it should be noted, DigiByte has often been on the blockchain forefront, pioneering new solutions to many problems in this space, but let’s look at this one for now — with what they dubbed MultiShield. MultiShield is a multi-algorithm Proof-of-Work mining solution that splits the mining of DigiByte over five different algorithms. This means that even if someone managed to gain control of 51% or more of any one of DigiByte’s mining algorithms, they still would only control one-fifth of the required algorithms to achieve control of the DGB blockchain.
Not only that, each algorithm is constantly and individually adjusted for difficulty based on hashing power to retain balance and maintain security through what is called DigiShield technology. DigiShield was an earlier innovation created by DigiByte — adopted by dozens of other blockchains including Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, ZCash, Monacoin, and Ubiq — that has since been refined to incorporate MultiShield technology. Instead of only adjusting hashing difficulty every couple weeks like Bitcoin does (that is, every 2016 blocks, to be more precise), DigiShield adjusts difficulty in real time on each of the five algorithms. It becomes readily apparent, then, that it would require an enormous and extremely costly undertaking to seize control of the DGB blockchain via all five required algorithms.
Each algorithm was selected to serve a slightly different mining specialisation. For example, SHA256 — the OG mining algorithm of Bitcoin itself — is one-fifth of DigiByte’s mining distribution, and is generally mined via ASIC equipment. The same can be said for Scrypt, a mining algorithm that is a refinement of SHA256, best known for its use in ASIC mining of Litecoin. This is weighted against algorithms that were mined primarily by GPUs, including Groestl and Skein, along with Qubit, which was originally designed to be mineable via CPU or GPU. Recently, Groestl and Qubit have become dominated by ASICs as well, but DigiByte remains the dominant chain for hashing power of these algorithms, lending additional security. Digibyte developers plan to swap some of these now ASIC-dominated algorithms out for more GPU-centric solutions to ensure decentralised mining continues to thrive on the DigiByte blockchain.
It’s a pretty brilliant solution to the problem of hashing power centralisation. Security is maintained and centralisation is averted in real time through this cleverly designed mining mechanism, essentially killing two birds with one stone. In addition to this solution, it should be noted that DigiByte is mined via more than 200,000 nodes around the world. To put this in perspective, Bitcoin, the big kahuna, is only running about 7,400 full nodes at any given time. This is the power of multi-algorithm mining and extensive decentralisation.
There is much more to be learned about DigiByte. In future articles in this series, we will take some time to learn about Jared Tate, the developers behind DigiByte’s progress, the utility of DigiByte beyond just being a fast and affordable currency, and more.
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