One of the many constants when it comes to the world of technology is that the best is never absolute. When a lot of technology experts were thinking about the awesomeness of blockchain and the possibilities, there came a possibility for a backless blockchain. Since it is made up of vertices and arrows that could be intertwined in any fashion, it was aptly named ‘Tangle’. It would take quite some time for this term to come out from its Disney connotation to one of the most advanced technologies when it comes to facilitating transactions.
‘Tangle’ is more of a moniker used to describe IOTA’s directed acyclic graph (DAG) based transaction settlement and data integrity layer. A much-needed digress would be to introduce IOTA – IOTA is a blockchain created exclusively for IoT devices and has been embraced even by the likes of Bosch and Volkswagen. The Tangle, in essence, is a string of individual transactions that are connected with each other, and are stored through a decentralized network of node participants.
The Key Advantage of Tangle:
One of the greatest advantages with the Tangle is that it does not have an exclusive set of miners. The miners themselves are constantly performing small computational Proofs Of Work (PoW) for every transaction by verifying the previous transactions that have happened on the network. As opposed to the transactions of users being incorporated in blocks created by miners on the blockchain, the users function both as miners and creators of transactions.
The absence of distinct ‘miners’ would mean that the ‘participants’ in the transaction are also the ‘approvers’ of other transactions – which is not true with Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies. With this concept of the approvers being miners, Tagle has the potential to scale globally, and it can be used to create a global micropayment network. As an extension, the ‘scalability’ makes Tangle a congenial platform for securing data transmitted to and from IoT devices – the reason why it came into existence in the first place.
How Does Tangle Do This?
Tangle makes it possible because it comprises of a DAG and not a blockchain to store its ledger. Theoretically, the scalability of the DAG is directly proportional to the number of transactions being submitted to the network. Tangle is designed to eradicate one of the greatest disadvantages plaguing cryptocurrency and blockchain – scalability. The new technology can facilitate a vast growth of a network of interconnected devices and can be the global solution to micropayments and IoT data.
Tangle creates a plot-twist by mandating that any creator of the transaction must verify the previous two transactions within the network. This requires a small computational PoW on behalf of the user, and there are no transaction fees to use Tangle, as the network is not heterogeneous.
The Way Tangle Works:
The secret to Tangle’s awesomeness is in the DAG – the directed acyclic graphs are finite directed graphs similar to vectors, that have a collection of vertices connected by arrows. The ‘vertex’ represents a transaction and the ‘arrow’ represents the approval-connection between two transactions. The first transaction or the ‘0 transactions’ in the case of IOTA contained all the IOTA coin (MIOTA) that has been and will ever be created. The last transaction in the line of approval is called the transaction tip. The arrows, akin to vectors, represent the ‘direction’ of the flow of approval. Just like how the longest chain is considered the PoW in blockchain and bitcoin, the heaviest chain is considered the PoW in Tangle.
The DAG is not evenly spread – it’s quite chaotic from an outsider’s perspective. There is an intentional delay to make it reflect the real-world latency. The randomness of the transaction-spread is accomplished through the Poisson Point Process, a probability-method used to map random points in a mathematical space.
Each incoming Tangle, as a ‘fee’, needs to approve two previous transactions. The transaction tips to be approved among the many that await approval are chosen using a method called ‘Random Walk’. The ‘Walk’ is essentially a selection process that starts from the Genesis transaction and progresses towards the tips.
Random Walks – Not so Random After All:
There are two types of random walks.
The Unweighted random walk uses the classic ‘equal probability’ method to determine the tip that needs to be approved. The Weighted random walk is a complicated process that factors in a cumulative weight on each jump of a tip. The cumulative weight is proportional to the number of transactions that a tip has been approving both directly and indirectly. This will ensure that there are no ‘lazy tips’ that count on the equally distributed probability to have their transaction approved without doing much work themselves.
Now a question arises on whether or not genuine transactions will be approved. While it can only be left to chance, Tangle has assigned a probability-score called the confirmation-confidence and is represented in percentage. While there are chances that this quantity can be maliciously manipulated, the chances are quite low.
Tangle has also introduced a ‘centralizing’ factor that acts to mitigate the chances of malicious attacks. The ‘Coordinator’ – as the centralized, voluntary and temporary alternative consensus mechanism is called – issues a milestone transaction every two minutes and all the transactions approved by the Coordinator immediately, in effect, have confirmation confidence of 100%!
The ‘Centralization’ raises questions, but eventually, when the network scales and the number of transactions increase, the Coordinator will be rendered obsolete, and Tangle will function as a completely decentralized network.
If blockchain is classical mechanics, then Tangle represents Quantum Physics. It might be complicated, and it might lay a lot of importance on probabilities. However, anything said, with its scalability and security, the Tangle is all set to be the next generation blockchain, and the IoT is expected to give Tangle a major fillip.