The Ascribe platform launched a year ago, offering a secure, public online ownership protocol called SPOOL. It was directed at the digital art community, allowing creators to claim authorship, and notarise their claim, via the Bitcoin blockchain.
“We started ascribe with the goal to serve creators,” Ascribes CEO and Founder, Bruce Pon, stated at the time. More than 20 marketplaces and services have since integrated the platform, and close to 4,000 artists are using the service.
“We saw that creators were getting a raw deal and that the blockchain could allow them to break the lock on content, distribution and licensing of the entrenched players.”
— – Bruce Pon, Ascribe CEO & Founder
In spite of the platforms original motivation, it isn’t restricted to the digital arts industry. It could also be used to register, transfer, loan, and consign property for any type of non-financial asset. “We continue to work with creators but we’ve also reframed the problem because of two fundamental challenges with blockchain technology,” Pon wrote in a recent post.
According to Pon, “the Bitcoin blockchain in its current form isn’t truly scalable. The current blockchain can handle about 150,000 entries a day. Respectable, but nowhere near enough capacity to handle the world’s transactions.”
By comparison, a recent World Payments Report shows that the top 10 payments markets, North America, the Eurozone, Brazil, China, Japan, Russia and Australia, are processed 800 million payments every day last year. Broken down to the second, that’s approximately 9,200 transactions, where as bitcoin’s blockchain processes less than 10 per second.
According to Pon, “there are proposals to scale [Bitcoin] 10x but that isn’t going to be enough to enable and capture the true growth potential of the technology.”
“We at ascribe wanted everyone on earth to have the ability to record their intellectual property contributions on a blockchain, but it won’t be possible until we have a blockchain that can handle millions of transactions per second.”
— – Pon
Scalability is not a new issue within the bitcoin community. Solutions have been heatedly discussed, such as increasing the block size limit. At present, Bitcoin has an artificial block size of one megabyte.
Leaving the limit as is could potentially drive up user costs, due to space limitations in each new block and a desire to ensure confirmed transactions in a timely manner. On the other hand, raising the block size limit may affect the decentralization of bitcoin, as it could prove difficult for users to run a full node.
Some of the other possible solutions being discussed include off chain solutions like the Bitcoin Lightning Network, which will open up payment channels and bundle together micropayment transactions into one. Centralised servers for off-chain transactions, such as Coinbase, may also prove advantageous.
Some companies have created their own blockchains to combat the issue. Setl is an institutional payment and settlement platform that claims to have the capacity to process over 1 billion entries per day.
"Setl is addressing one of the fundamental issues of legacy blockchains, which, unlike Setl, are not designed for financial markets and are unable to handle market volumes."
— – Setl
Despite companies solving scalability with their own interpretations of the cutting edge technology, Pon points out that blockchains also require a collaborative leadership that brings a bunch of diverse groups together for mutual benefit: “You need to overcome mutual distrust for everyone to agree on common standards for storing data, running business processes and to manage the network infrastructure that powers blockchains.”
Bitcoin industry leaders are of a similar mindset to Pon and the Ascribe team. From the 26th and 28th of this month, the invite only Satoshi Roundtable Private Retreat will take place in an undisclosed North American location, and Bitcoin’s scalability will be on the agenda.
Among the 60 attendees will be representation from the bitcoin mining and development sectors, including the CEO of MegaBigPower, Dave Carlson, and the CEO of KnC Miner, Sam Cole. Developers representing Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Classic will also be joining the event to discuss the issue at hand.
Last year’s retreat in the Dominican Republic was met with some criticism for an alleged lack of transparency, as a limited media presence was allowed at the gathering. At this years event the public won’t be allowed access to the presentations or discussions.
The Ascribe team are now focusing on turning these challenges into opportunities. “First, to support trust networks across industries — including art, so that those who do have the skills to bring together networks of collaborators, can have a partner in the journey to implement blockchain solutions,” states Pon.
Secondly, Pon announced a scalable blockchain database built by the Ascribe team, BigChainDB, and the release of its whitepaper.
BigChainDB begins with a big distributed database boosted by decentralized control, immutability and the transfer of digital assets, all characteristics of Bitcoin’s blockchain technology.
Ascribe have also applied linear scaling, the more nodes that are added the higher the throughput and the higher the storage capacity. The database is said to handle 1,000,000 writes per second, and will be able to provide petabytes of capacity.
“Our scalable blockchain database plays well with existing platforms and processing, such as Ethereum, Eris, Tendermint, Stratos, Enigma and the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), because it enables developers to cleanly separate processing, workflows, permissions, transactions and data so that programs can run efficiently and scale.”
— – Pon
Further announcements regarding the technology roadmap and partnerships will be made in due course. However, according to the whitepaper, a beta version will be in the hands of enterprise users by 31st March 2016.