Tangles don’t have the hype and adoption that blockchain has. On a purely technical standpoint however, they are superior. Let’s start at the beginning.
Tangles and “DAGs”
The release of bitcoin in 2008 was the beginning of a revolution.
Blockchain was seen as the way to address a plethora of problems and has countless applications by now.
Blockchains really are a very interesting concept. However, they have two big limitations and that is that they don’t scale well and are not nearly as efficient as people make them out to be.
One way to address these problems are tangles for DAGs.
DAG stands for Directed Acyclic Graph and is a storage system where each individual item is linked to one another. The “Directed” refers to the link between items. Each one always has a direction and acrylic meaning that you cannot create loops inside of this structure.
To simplify this, let’s compare the blockchain structure with the one of tangles:
Each box represents a transaction and contains all the details about the transaction such as: the sender, receiver and amount of coins.
In addition to that, as you can see in the graph, each one is also connected to at least 2 other boxes (transactions).
Near the end of a tangle are the unconfirmed transactions (boxes). Those don’t have two or more incoming edges (yet) and are called “tips of the tangle”.
New Transactions & Scalability
So how would we add a new transaction in the tangle system?
First, we attach our transaction to one of the tips of the tangle. An algorithm then selects two of them at random and makes sure that the transactions don’t conflict with one another. Should one of the tips turn out to be a fake transaction, it is ignored and a new tip is selected.
Once everything checks out, the transaction is added to the two tips. I.e. this adds our transaction to the tangle and verifies it with the two other transactions.
The transaction is now part of the tangle and becomes the new tip. This is what makes the tangle system so incredibly scalable. In simplified terms: for every new transaction, two others are confirmed. A lot of transactions mean that the network does not slow down but actually speed up!
In blockchains we use the number of confirmations to check a transactions legitimacy.
Tangles are similar. Each site (box/transaction) has a so-called weight. This is a number that signifies the amount of work that a node has done to make this transaction.
I.e. a higher number means the node spent more time doing the proof-of-work for that transaction and each transactions weight is cumulative. This basically means that the more transactions happen, the more are confirmed and the more secure the tangle becomes.
Blockchains biggest problems: Scalability, Efficiency and Storage
As we know by now, the more boxes (sites/transactions) a tangle has, the faster it becomes (and the more secure older transactions get). This means a tangle can handle a virtually unlimited amount of transactions per second while traditional blockchains can only handle a few.
Then there is the storage issue. In Blockchain, you need a full copy of the chain before you can start adding new ones. The current bitcoin blockchain is over 230GB in size and keeps growing. Storing all this data is not something every device can do and gets harder as time goes on.
A tangle system is far more lightweight.
You don’t need a full copy of the tangle to add transactions. You only need a small part of the tangle to create & verify and: there are no miners.
Usually miners create blocks, validate transactions and in exchange charge a fee from each transaction. But tangles don’t have any miners meaning no fees either. Sending money around in tangles is completely free.
About the author
Joey Bertschler balances multiple high-level roles across various tech companies, has reached audiences of millions on social media channels and is involved in a plethora of marketing campaigns in APAC, CE and the US.
Joey Bertschler is the Vice President of the Security Token Alliance, the world’s largest think tank for the Security Token industry with over 70 partners, Advisor to the World Data Science Forum, and Brand Manager at bitgrit and Cosmology Inc. He has reached audiences of over 1 million on social media channels and is involved in a plethora of marketing campaigns in APAC and CE.