Zilliqa one-ups Ethereum by implementing sharding


In my post yesterday bemoaning the slow progress of Ethereum’s scaling solution, Pete Abilla tweeted this response at me:

Sharding is a way to divide up a large database – such as a public blockchain – into smaller chunks, a.k.a. “shards.” The reason it’s important is that (provided the technology works) it’ll enable a blockchain project to process thousands of transactions per second; similar to Visa’s centralized databases.

Curious about Pete’s claim, I clicked through to check out Singapore-based Zilliqa.

Its Twitter account describes Zilliqa as a “next generation, high throughput blockchain platform. designed to scale.” And sure enough, it looks like it has just implemented sharding on its testnet. In a project update this week, the company claimed that its testnet “is the first public, permissionless blockchain to implement the technology of sharding.”

In comparison, Ethereum hasn’t yet reached the testnet stage with its sharding solution. On the Ethereum research forum, the latest documentation is a “phase 1 spec.” The most recent media report I could find was this one by Trustnodes in February, which concluded that “we still don’t expect implementation before 2019.”

On the CryptoNinjas site, Zilliqa CEO Xinshu Dong described his company’s sharding solution as a “breakthrough” for the industry:

This is a tremendous milestone for Zilliqa but also for blockchain technology as a whole. It is incredibly challenging to create a high transaction rate blockchain while maintaining the security and decentralization of the system, but we feel we have made a breakthrough with what we have achieved.

According to its documentation, the transaction speeds are designed to increase the more shards it has. In private internal tests last November, Zilliqa managed speeds of 2,488 transactions per second.

Zilliqa scaling

Like Ethereum, Zilliqa aims to be a platform for DApps (decentralized apps). Here are some of its app plans:

Zilliqa dapps

Zilliqa hopes to release its sharding solution as a main net in Q3, 2018.

Currently, Zilliqa is ranked 45th on CoinMarketCap with a US$285 million valuation. Its coin, ZIL, is about 4c right now.

A recent code review of Zilliqa was done by Andre Cronje. He concluded that it’s “good code, it’s well organized, it’s neatly written, and it shows an above average skillset.” Cronje’s only cause for concern was that Ethereum’s sharding solution may reach “a potential of 10k TPS,” so he wonders “where does that leave Zilliqa?” It seems an odd thing to say given that we have no proof Ethereum will even reach Zilliqa’s current best of 2,000+ TPS, let alone 10,000 TPS.

I’m not getting too carried away, since Zilliqa is still in a test environment. But it seems to be well ahead of Ethereum in its development of a sharding solution. Whether Zilliqa can prove its high transaction scaling in a live network remains to be seen, but Zilliqa has at least shown itself to be one to watch.

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