Thunder is an upcoming blockchain project that doubles as its own original blockchain while also providing an alternative scaling solution to Ethereum. Is the hype warranted for Thunder? Find out below.
Scalability is a bit of a chicken and egg problem in blockchain, and it can seem to some participants that all of these projects are looking to create something that no one is actually going to use – even platforms like Ethereum rarely get high throughput instances, and some chains that claim to have potentially millions of TPS on testnets have blocks with barely any transactions on them.
Of course, we do have amazingly fast chains such as Zilliqa that introduce things like sharding and other such innovations – we do ultimately need these scalability solutions to grow alongside usecases that are actually going to make use of this kind of throughput capability. A good example is CryptoKitties – possibly the most famous Ethereum Dapp, and it would have grown far bigger than it did if the network itself could actually handle the mass amounts of individuals trading and growing their virtual kittens.
So, we know that scalability is going to be pivotal moving toward the future – we also know that Ethereum is currently the most widely proliferated chain when it comes to real Dapps; competitors will likely have an uphill battle when it comes to dethroning them. So, how can we reconcile the scalability needs of the world with the existing infrastructure put in place by the Ethereum platform? Enter Thunder.
Thunderella was a research project with a whitepaper published in 2017 that went over several aspects of a quasi-novel consensus mechanism that split up traffic of transactions into two different groups – one for speedy and instant resolution, and another for slow ones. Essentially, the way Thunderella (and Thunder) work is that they use a base blockchain’s security capabilites for resolving transactions – fair enough, it’s just like any other chain. However, these secure networks often lack true scalability potential simply due to the slow nature of verifying the same transaction many many times (in addition to block difficulties and block times).
Thunderella basically builds a second layer on top of the existing slow chain to create a fast chain – one can consider this like a fast lane on a highway. The two lanes (slow and fast) are still part of the same overall piece of road, but they are built with different purposes in mind. The fast chain will be able to resolve transactions nearly instantly, while the “slow” base chain can be used to fall back on for security purposes during times where it’s believed there are bad actors in the chain.
The way this works is with an Accelerator system – a committee is chosen of nodes that have put up a certain amount of tokens as collateral, who then decide on a node that will function as the “Accelerator”. The Accelerator then is able to verify and sign transactions nearly instantly along with some help from the committee. This makes up the overall fast lane, which will be used for most transactions. The key point here is that all transactions are eventually handed off down to the main slow chain for full security; if ever there is a certain set period where the slow chain is not updating with transactions verified by the fast chain, the slow chain will then activate and the Accelerator will be ignored for a set time as the committee finds a new Accelerator node.
Our key idea is to combine a centralized approach with a decentralized approach, and thereby achieve the scalability and speed of centralized approaches, while maintaining the decentralized nature of the blockchain.
Following our Thunderella paradigm, the Thunder protocol combines any “standard” blockchain—which we will refer to as the slow chain—with an optimistic “fast-path”.
The fast path protocol is executed by a committee of stake-holders and coordinated by a central authority called the Accelerator. The Accelerator’s job is to linearize transactions and data (which is a task that is hard to do in a decentralized way, yet easy for a central authority).
Works With Ethereum
Thunder also has compatibility with Ethereum – in fact, it’s using Ethereum as its base “slow chain” to handle finality and secure transactions made on the second layer. In addition to this, Thunder supports solidity, which means if you have an app like CryptoKitties that you are afraid might not run well on Ethereum, you can simply port it to Thunder where you won’t have any kind of throughput bottlenecks.
This is something that is rather unique to Thunder and not really inherent to many other competitors for Ethereum or even blockchain scaling solutions – this built in adherence to the most successful smart contracts platform on the planet will mean that Thunder is going to have day one adoption and acceptance for all of the apps that currently can’t run on Ethereum (and these do exist, trust me – I’ve seen many of them.)
The problem that many of these competitors come across is that Ethereum simply has the best position in the world when it comes to smart contract and winning the platform wars – Thunder recognizes this and double benefits from Ethereum gaining in popularity even more. As the world’s greatest developers, companies, and individuals support Ethereum through things like the Ethereum Foundation and the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, you can make a sure bet that Thunder is absolutely going to be in board room talks for future distributed apps.
Consider touted “Ethereum killers” such as EOS, Dfinity, and others – ironically enough many of these simply wouldn’t exist without Ethereum and have catastrophic failures (in the case of EOS) that Ethereum has avoided for years now. Thunder presents a scalability play that gives exposure to fast throughput while maintaining pace with Ethereum itself.
Thunderella has the ability to be used in more than just Ethereum as well – their technology is blockchain-agnostic, meaning it can be used with just about any blockchain under the sun. If you’re on Bitcoin, for example, and you’re looking for a scaling solution (other than Lightning), you can create a Thunder implementation and have things running smoothly in no time. If your chain is having hiccups or other scalability problems, simply create a Thunder chain and the worries of bottlenecks simply melt away.
To put it succinctly, Thunder is basically like a Raiden Network of sorts – only much more secure than handling transactions off-chain, adding smart contract capability, and further securing the system against attack in the event of bad actors; all of this being available to any chain that opts to use Thunder’s infrastructure.
The Thunder project is a stroke of genius in its elegance, simplicity, and design. We feel it is one of the most promising projects due to the sheer potential of their solution in addition to removing the many complexities and confusions surrounding other similar scalability plays. Internal sale numbers are relatively high for Thunder, and so for that reason we are also knocking off some additional points for their high cap; that said, Thunder is a technological masterpiece and we are extremely bullish on the applications and integration power that this solution will offer.
Thunder grew from a research project (Thunderella) into a fully fledged project that challenges the top competitors in the space. Scalability is the game in town right now and Thunder looks to take the whole pie; make no mistake, this is the kind of project, that, if successful, will become the de facto standard for years to come.