When new blockchain products are created, designers and developers seem to be faced with one very significant dilemma, do they remain fully decentralised, or do they give up some of that decentralisation, in the pursuit of innovation?
Now, this isn’t to say that decentralised products can’t be innovative, however I am suggesting that sometimes, decentralisation can get in the way of some aspects of innovation, depending on exactly what it is that the project aims to achieve. Therefore, this comes to a head within the eternal blockchain battle, decentralisation vs innovation.
What does Decentralisation mean?
In order to address this battle, developers must ask themselves exactly what sort of decentralisation they are tackling. In February 2017, Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum posted a blog on Medium that discusses the three main types of decentralisation. Buterin states the following:
“How many physical computers is a system made up of? How many of those computers can it tolerate breaking down at any single time?”
“How many individuals or organizations ultimately control the computers that the system is made up of?”
“Does the interface and data structures that the system presents and maintains look more like a single monolithic object, or an amorphous swarm? One simple heuristic is: if you cut the system in half, including both providers and users, will both halves continue to fully operate as independent units?”
Often, some aspects of this decentralisation have to be sacrificed in order to make a project more innovative. For example, let’s look at political decentralisation, a project is more decentralised if it requires decisions to be made by numerous entities and people. If there is no central control or no central system that runs the operation, it is more decentralised by nature.
However, some projects require a strong leadership (usually from a funding group) that have to be able to make decisions to ensure the project moves forward (so that you don’t get fallout, as we see within projects like Bitcoin Cash). Therefore, in this instance, some projects need to be politically centralised (by Buterins definition) in order to ensure growth and in order to ensure the right people are contributing to the project.
The same goes for architectural decentralisation and logical decentralisation too.
The other approach to take in this instance is to reduce that option for fast decision making and constant growth, by adding more entities to the upper level of control, thus improving decentralisation but also putting the project at risk of slowing down, whilst decisions are debated and fought about, rather than built upon.