Everything You Need to Know about the size of the blockchain

Everything You Need to Know about the size of the blockchain

By bit.team

Blockchain is sometimes called a technology that will revolutionize the world around us. In a sense, it has changed the paradigm of how information is processed, stored and protected in a network controlled by the nodes that are part of it.

Blockchains, according to the data by Coinmarketrate.com, provide unprecedented immutability, transparency and security that no or few other technologies have been able to offer until now.

But there is one problem with blockchain, and quite a big one – their size. To understand this, we need to first understand how blockchains work.

In the blockchain, in the network they form, there is no central authority. The parties interact with each other in a decentralized manner.

Each agent in this network creates its own copy of the blockchain (where all transactions are stored) and adds new information when conducting new transactions. This unique solution allows cryptocurrencies and businesses to create a decentralized network capable of solving problems that were previously impossible.

Problems of a large scale

However, blockchain is not without its problems. At the very beginning of their existence, the size of the blockchain was not a problem, since there were few nodes connected to each other in the network, and the information that needed to be stored was small.

For example, the Bitcoin blockchain in 2012 had a size of only 614 MB. But today this number has grown to several hundred GB, almost 400 GB.

This amount of information is what each node has to store redundantly to be part of the network, unless it uses a truncated node. That’s where their problem begins to manifest itself.

Other blockchains also suffer from the same problem. In particular, the volume of the Ethereum blockchain has already exceeded 500 GB.

Is there a limit to the size of the blockchain?

The size of the blockchain is not limited, but there is a limit on the resources of nodes to run it. As the size of the blockchain increases, if nodes don’t have enough storage, they won’t be able to run this important part of the network.

Over the past 4 years, the Bitcoin blockchain has grown from less than 100 GB to almost 400 GB, that is, by more than 400%. It is expected that by 2030 it can easily overcome the terabyte barrier.

However, not all nodes need to load the entire blockchain to become fully operational. Some participants may simply join the network to make transactions, but not confirm them.

Nodes that contain the entire history of the blockchain are called full nodes. They are required to participate in the verification of new transactions. This means they have to download almost 400 GB of information where the Bitcoin block headers and transactions are located.

Currently, the block size limit is 1 MB. However, not all of this space is always used, in addition, there are some modifications due to which the size can theoretically increase a little more.

The case with Ethereum looks worse because, despite the fact that it is a newer blockchain, its size is larger. We can even see on the graph that it has significantly surpassed terabytes.

But the reality is that Ethereum has a pruning system that allows to some extent solve the problem of the excessive size of the blockchain. This means that nodes can work without having to download all the information.

Does size matter for the blockchain?

This question is important for the blockchain. This is a relatively modern technology, and it will only develop in the coming years.

Bitcoin is the first generation of such solutions, and we already know that it is not without problems. It’s not just about size, it’s also about scalability.

With the constant growth of the blockchain, scalability has also become a problem. This was one of the most important problems that needed to be solved in Bitcoin.

Fortunately, temporary improvements have been implemented, such as SegWit, which has made blocks a little easier, allowing more transactions to be integrated into them due to the fact that they now weigh less. The type of Bitcoin transaction also plays an important role in this scenario.

Another solution that aims to become permanent is the Lightning Network, which allows transactions to be carried out offline, thereby reducing congestion. But also the size of the blocks, because there will be fewer transactions in them, and this will make the blockchain grow not so fast.

In any case, there is something very important, and that is Moore’s law, which tells us that the price of data storage will fall over time, allowing us to buy the gigabytes and terabytes needed for a node cheaper.

One can only guess whether the growth of the use of blockchain in various solutions will grow to a level that will be lower than this law or higher – that’s the question.

Otherwise, it will be difficult for those who decide to help the network when they have to spend large amounts of money to launch a full-fledged node.

Could this be a problem?

We live in a world where the number of transactions is growing exponentially. Daily transactions amount to billions. However, with cryptocurrencies, we not only observe this phenomenon, but also see that transactions occur through channels that are not similar to traditional ones.

Currently, Bitcoin does not generate such a large number of transactions compared to Visa or Mastercard. But if that were to happen, each Bitcoin block would have to grow to 2.4GB, which would need to be added to the chain every 10 minutes.

This means 350 GB of data per day and 127 TB per year. Considering that the largest disk currently available has a capacity of 20 TB and costs 500 GB, few people can afford to store such a large amount of data. Not to mention that this will require very fast disks.

Each blockchain looks for a solution to this problem in different ways. Some prefer to change the consensus mechanism in order to confirm transactions in a different way and thus process more of them, others are looking for a solution in sidechains, such as the aforementioned Lightning Network.

In any case, this will be a problem depending on the needs of each blockchain. Although Bitcoin cannot process more than a few transactions per second, it does not intend to increase this number initially.

Its purpose is to function not so much as the money we all know, but as a store of value. Therefore, the growth of its blockchain is limited, which allows the technology to keep up with it and even surpass it.