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IOTA Foundation Head, Lewis Freiberg, attempted to explain alleged scalability and transaction issues at the project. The world’s number 9 cryptocurrency by market capitalization is under some pressure to clarify why its answer to traditional blockchain technology, the Tangle, is increasingly having to deal with spammers who create parasite chains or ‘Side Tangles.’   

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IOTA’s Tangle Seems to Have Transaction Issues

What’s up with the Tangle? is a recent post by Lewis Freiberg, Head of Ecosystem at IOTA Foundation. The former psychology major’s explanation is part counseling, essentially teaching enthusiasts how to emotionally view the project’s success and issues, and part technical analysis.

Describing the essay’s title as “a common question,” Mr. Freiberg stresses how such queries “about the state of the Tangle usually stem from the way it is represented in a visualiser or due to a high/low confirmation rate.” To reassure those presumably worried or alarmed, he notes whenever “these questions are asked in the community, we are asking them ourselves. We are all as intrigued as everyone, if not we’d be doing something else. These events present learning opportunities for those working on IRI and other aspects of the network.”

IOTA Tangle Transactions Nosedive as Spammers Create Parasite Chains

He was hired by the Foundation a year ago this Fall. The IOTA Foundation itself is described as “not-for-profit foundation with the mission is to support the development and standardization of new open-source distributed ledger technologies (DLT).” His role is to “ educate governments, corporates and the public about the research & development activities within the Foundation while also working with ecosystems and IOTA’s community of developers to promote co-innovation around IOTA’s open-source technologies.”

The Tangle is IOTA’s answer, of sorts, to what project participants believe are problems with traditional blockchain technology. Tangle is, essentially, a directed graph data structure underneath IOTA. In one variation of this scheme, transactions choose two earlier on the network to approve. Transaction C, then, would approve transactions B and A, chronologically. Each new, unapproved transaction chooses two previous at random.

IOTA Tangle Transactions Nosedive as Spammers Create Parasite Chains
The Tangle: transaction number 5 approves transactions numbers 2 and 3, for example.

Adoption Versus Transactions Per Second

Mr. Freiberg believes questioners are too focused upon transactions per second (TPS), as opposed to adoption by new users and confirmed transaction per second (CTPS) metrics. This is due to “Our desire to see the Tangle ‘outperform’ other networks,” he urges, leading “us to spam the mainnet in order to push the TPS as high as it can go. Without fail this results in ‘Wow, the tangle is flying today,’ and then ‘Why did the TPS suddenly drop’ after someone turns off a spammer.” For him, “Even though adoption cannot be measured with one simple metric, it is nonetheless a much more important metric that one must gauge when considering whether or not the tangle ‘works.’”

CTPS on the Tangle are much lower than TPSs. Intuitively, most believe both should be parallel, at about par, when compared to one another. Mr. Freiberg refers to this intuition as a “misunderstanding.” He details, “When someone starts sending bad transactions which outweigh the honest transactions by 5x the confirmation rate will drop to 20%. In reality the confirmation rate didn’t drop, the amount of invalid or poorly referenced TXs just increased. The honest throughput of the network remained the same.” 

IOTA Tangle Transactions Nosedive as Spammers Create Parasite Chains
Lewis Freiberg, Head of Ecosystem at IOTA Foundation

Candidly, the Ecosystem Head reveals “this post was brought about by the recent occurrence of a ‘Side Tangle’ appearing in visualisers.” Side Tangles, which he describes as “a well-known phenomenon since the Tangle white paper,” are parasite chains: spammers select unconfirmed transactions that “only reference themselves,” resulting in “a tangle of transactions being built up that is distinct from the main tangle.” Enthusiastically, he insists the Tangle “is performing as theorized” in its original design.

“The protocol has been designed to be resilient to funny things happening,” he warns, and when “someone started spamming transactions with a low likelihood of confirmation,” the metrics “took a nosedive. To speculate, reasons could include: attempts at price manipulation, testing network response to different things, or just to get attention.” Whatever the actual case, there is a lot of money now riding on the IOTA project, including a very recent announcement the it was picked as part of a 30 million euro consortium to develop smart cities in seven urban environments. Only “constant learning and incremental improvement can push the IOTA project forward,” Mr. Freiberg concludes.

What are your thoughts on Tangle? Let us know in the comments section below. 

Images via Pixabay, IOTA Foundation.

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