Investing in blockchain alternatives Pt III: Burst - the IOTA killer?

Andrew Gillick , 13 Jul 2018 - BlockchainCryptocurrencyIota

In Part II we saw how Nano has quietly made its way to becoming the fastest transacting currency without much hype. However, Burstcoin has thrown down the gauntlet to competitors from day one, saying it takes “the best traits of the original Burstcoin, IOTA, Monero, ZCash and the newest Bitcoin proposals to create a currency suitable for truly global use.”

Burst, dubbed the Linux of blockchain, is a triune technology: the first layer is a blockchain, IOTA-style tangles are built upon it and within those tangles it uses lightning network technology to create payment channels. Together, it calls this innovation Dymaxion Layers (a portmanteau of dynamic, maximum and tension).

Burst draws heavily on comparisons to IOTA and even uses a lot of IOTA terminology in its white paper to pronounce how its dymaxion layer is superior to the tangle, using a Proof of Capacity consensus.

IOTA’s white paper 1.0 was published in June 2017. Although Burst has been around since 2014 its Dymaxion whitepaper is also very fresh, published at the end of December 2017. The Burst paper attempts to take the tangle technology further and expounds on the protocol where the IOTA white paper left off: “The concrete implementation of the iota protocol is not discussed.” 

Interestingly, Burst and IOTA share the same family tree from the NXT developer known as Come from beyond, or better known as IOTA co-founder Sergey Ivanchelgo.

burst tree

It takes two to tangle: IOTA v Burst

Whereas IOTA is built on one tangle Burst states that it “will be able to have thousands of tangles running as payment channels simultaneously.” 

The Burst white paper is confident its dymaxion protocol is so great an evolution of IOTA’s tangle that it goes as far as saying that “A future IOTA could very well live within the Dymaxion, maybe even in its native form.”

BNC IOTA Tangle OverviewHowever, Burst draws explicitly on the IOTA tangle (DAG) for microtransactions in IoT (machine-to-machine transactions), unifying the roles of the tx issuer and verifier so a node performs both tasks - the cost for a tx sender is to verify two unconfirmed transactions before being allowed to send the transaction.

This secures the network and incentivises scaling as the more people sending transactions the faster the network becomes. The opposite is true in blockchains like bitcoin where tx issuers and verifiers are separate entities and thus transaction speed is limited by the amount of verifying nodes on the network, among other factors. 

Nodes can keep track of their peers' activity and "lazy nodes" that don't pull their weight verifying transactions will be dropped by their neighbors. 

Burst will be a first layer proof-of-capacity (PoC) protocol upon which anyone can open a payment channel and create their own form of payment (eg Starbucks dollars).

With the Dymaxion, the blockchain is mainly used to open and close tangles described as “tangle-based lightning networks” where the user can set up their own preferences for the network: anonymous or public transactions, network size, validation requirements, the duration of time network is open and even choose between consensus protocols - PoW, PoS are supported but PoC is preferred.

BNC Lightning Network Overview

Trading Burst coins

The Burst blockchain operates as a bookkeeping chain upon which users (issuers of a coin built on Burst) can open their own dymaxion-tangle network. The users of these payment channels can be individuals or corporations, banks etc.

When a coin is issued it is given a color to denote what class it is eg. utility token, stock, bond or even a security token representing real-world assets. Opening a network tangle is free, although the creator must put down a certain amount of Burst as collateral which is unspendable until the network is closed.

Burst also offers interoperability with coins of other blockchains using Atomic Cross-Chain Trading (ACCT).  Coins can be exchanged on the Burst Exchange as assets for a wide range of applications and Burst can tokenize anything with value. 

burst exchange

 The  Burst Exchange that lists tokens for mining pools, retirement funds, crypto mining rigs, crypto gambling sites etc.

Plotting and mining 

Burstcoin’s consensus protocol is proof-of-capacity otherwise known as proof-of-space for the memory it requires of a user's hardware, as opposed to proof-of-work which requires hardware power. Burst is designed to be used on a hard-drive and doesn’t require external rigs, ASIC or GPU chips so there a very low barrier to forging (mining) in the network.

Typical to DAGs, both protocols forgo the mining of coins though they do use an element of PoW - in IOTA to prevent spam, similar to Nano, and Burst uses the SHA256 hashing algorithm, also used in bitcoin’s PoW, that requires miners to “plot” (compute) and store solutions to a mining puzzle on their hard-drive before the mining begins instead of being computed in real-time like bitcoin.  

A plot is a file containing pre-computed hashes that can be used to forge blocks in the Burstcoin blockchain.

The miner who provides the hashing solution with shortest deadline to a block wins the block reward and creates the next block, so, with PoC, the more solutions (plots) saved on a hard-drive the higher the likelihood of being the fastest ‘miner’. Block intervals are 4 minutes compared to bitcoin’s 10 minutes. The required plot space for a node in the network will be in the order of 1-5GB and nodes can also validate transactions.

Generating plot files creates nonces - each nonce contains 256KB of data that can be used by miners to calculate transaction deadline - and one plot file can contain many nonces. Each nonce will contain 8,192 hashes and these hashes are grouped into pairs called scoops.

nonce

Therefore 4,095 scoops are created out of the nonces and their numbers will be used to calculate a unit of time called the deadline, which is the shortest time that can pass between block creations.

Security: 33% percent attacks

IOTA and Burst differ in the hashing algorithms they use to prevent collusive node attacks: the tangle uses Markov Chain Monte Carlo as its tip selection (unconfirmed transactions) algorithm and the dymaxion uses a Byzantine Consensus Algorithm, similar to that of hashgraph. While the security limits of either method in a network is theoretical, the upper boundary for the maximum tolerable portion of malevolent nodes in the dymaxion network is around 33% beyond which validating transactions will require extra security measures. IOTA has a similar attack vector of 34%.

The figure frequently quoted in classical blockchain such as bitcoin is 51% for an attack, however, because there is no mining involved in tangle networks the metric for overpowering the network is not an attacker’s hashing power (like a 51% attack in bitcoin), but how many nodes can be attacked at the same time. Because the direction of connections between nodes on a tangle are random (as opposed to sequential blockchain connections) it provides the extra security that an attack must be conducted from all angles on a global scale to overpower the entire network - an “omnipresent attacker”. Of course, the caveat is that the network must become big enough to deter an attack.

Fairness

Burst posits how PoC is fairer than PoS as when staking in PoS an actor can gain proportional control of the network (mining and voting) with the more tokens they hold. Even though PoC is space intensive, Burst states that more memory won’t provide any advantage as transaction validation is a “1st fit”, so a node with a 1GB plot space stands the same chance of finding the right hash as a node with 1TB - a moot point however if you can save more plots with bigger memory.  

Moreover, there is no gain for nodes to amass more PoC space for validation, as it will not give them more “validation power” so there is no advantage in having ASIC or GPU chips.

“The PoC validation is a minimum-threshold satisfiability problem, which is either met or not. Should a miner with several hundred TB of PoC2 plots decide to use these for on-tangle tx validation (which we assume will be more the rule than the exception), it will not give him any more power than a regular 1-5 GB node has, as the tx validation PoC2 search is a 1st fit.”

A truly global and scalable transaction network?

Similar to Hadera Hashgraph and the IOTA Foundation, Burstcoin has established the PoC Consortium to roll out its network worldwide extolling its benefits of energy efficiency, greater fairness and mining decentralization over PoW or PoS.

IOTA has announced dozens of partnerships with prominent corporations, not least Volkswagen and Porsche, and smart city projects but as yet there hasn’t been any proven use cases. Qora is one project built upon the Burst network but to all appearances its development has been abandoned and its price metrics are mostly unknown.

burstcoin

Burstcoin has a market cap of $25.5m and there are 1,962,757,331 BURST in circulation out of 2,158,812,800 total supply. 

Burst has a lot to prove as a self-claimed contender for a globally adopted form of currency that talks an even bigger game than IOTA, Hashgraph and Nano with fee less transactions and “infinitely scalable” transactions per second. 

According to its theory, a block is created every 4 minutes and can handle 225 transactions ie. create 225 tangles which could allow up to billions of transactions per day.