Many in the media have been pushing the narrative that the “Blockstream” proposal to change the way blocks are created and added to the network is a danger to the decentralization of the network. The question that arises is: is this story true and if so, what is the truth about Blockstream’s plan?
Blockstream was formed by a team of developers called the Core developers. They are all prominent figures within the field of computer science and programming, and their goal was to provide a more efficient means of adding new blocks to the existing network. Their main contribution to the network has been the development of what is called a “chain relay”.
What is a chain relay, you ask? Simply put, it is a mechanism by which users can be able to download the blocks directly from the block chain, without having to wait on a hard drive full of unprocessed blocks. This is done with a simple process known as “subchains”. What is important to understand about this mechanism is that users need not trust any one company or group of companies. The chains are stored across a variety of servers, and the user only needs to trust those servers which are operating at the time they are downloading.
While this does mean that users do not have to trust any one company, many worry about central servers. There is currently no central server which stores and maintains the chain, meaning that the chain is distributed. This distribution is called decentralization and allows for widespread distribution. What many critics of the change claim to fear is centralized control over the system. By removing central servers, decentralization is undermined and users may see their transactions delayed and their transactions blocked, as a result of a single company controlling the distribution of blocks.
It has been argued by proponents of Blockstream that, because it is a technology, it will not pose any problems and will not require a change in how people use the system. In other words, they claim that Blockstream’s proposed solution will not introduce any issues. because it will simply be a technology that makes it easier to connect various computers together in order to achieve decentralization. However, critics of the plan point out that the technology will not be available at the time when a large scale change is required, but is only available after a large-scale change has been made.
Centralization can often be problematic. There are some companies which have become so powerful that they are capable of changing the protocol, which they are known for using, and even introducing new block chain technology that will be completely incompatible with the current network. In the case of Blockstream, they have already proven that their ability to do this.