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What Is The Blockchain Trilemma?

What Is The Blockchain Trilemma? The blockchain trilemma is the challenge developers face when trying to achieve decentralization, security, and scalability in a blockchain. Decentralized networks can only provide two of three benefits at any given time with respect to decentralization, security, and scalability.

Scaling blockchain networks is the most important issue of our time. Especially now that Ethereum users pay hundreds of dollars in transactions of all sizes.  Solving the blockchain trilemma is a hard job, but the endeavor is worthwhile given that it will lead to a sustainable and long-lasting crypto industry. We will discuss the importance of the blockchain trilemma for the development of the blockchain sector. Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of Ethereum, put forth the idea of the “blockchain trilemma.”, which suggests a set of three key features that are challenging to maintain simultaneously in a blockchain network. Scalability, decentralization, and security are some of these features.

The majority of the time, creators are compelled to give up one in favor of the other two, which causes issues for both users and developers. To better understand the significance of each aspect we will review them individually so let’s start with one feature that is the hardest to attain scalability.


Scalability is a metric for assessing how well blockchain networks handle transaction processing. Rather than binary feature scalability is a scale that can at any time reach both ends of the spectrum depending on the workload at hand. Certain crypto projects boast their amazing speed listing numbers comparable to that of leading payment processors like visa and MasterCard. However rarely any such blockchain is capable of supporting its claimed transaction when serving millions of users.

Truth be told we can’t talk about widespread global adoption until we solve the blockchain of scalability. With network congestion causing hundreds of dollars in fees rarely anyone is willing to use projects like bitcoin or Ethereum when they are highly inefficient.

Why is scalability advantageous?

So why is scalability advantageous well first of all it enables blockchains to support a higher workload compared to the current standard for public and decentralized networks. Ideally, the project should scale well even under extreme conditions and demand, but with the technology that we have developers must sacrifice security in order to scale networks. 

Enterprise blockchain solutions even go so far as to use permissioned networks, which lack decentralization but offer incredibly fast transaction speeds. In that sense, scalability is hard to implement without destroying the core ethos of decentralized technology. 


The most straightforward aspect of a blockchain network to implement is decentralization. After all, the only thing that developers need to do is make sure that the network is powered by an adequate number of nodes and that no central authority interferes.

Everyone enjoys equal status with other users thanks to decentralization.

No individual has special rights and privileges and unlike banks, there is no entity that can restrict your freedom or freeze your account. Given that the attribute has demonstrated to be a useful asset in this industry. Blockchain technology is continuously being pushed to the forefront of the new technological revolution, but despite the fact that decentralization is nice to have it does not make up for the fact that developers have to give it up for the sake of improving a blockchain’s transaction speed.

To achieve peak decentralization blockchain networks utilize the proof-of-work consensus model. The higher number of nodes the more decentralized the blockchain is. However, Proof-of-work disadvantages are that it consumes too much power and cannot scale well with a large number of users.


Last but not least we have a feature that is crucial for blockchain network security. Without security, malicious activities can disrupt blockchains by manipulating transactions or performing famous exploits like the 51% attack. If the data stored on a ledger can’t be immutable and foreign actors can disrupt a system so easily what is the point of decentralized technology?

As well as return to banks and other traditional financial institutions. On blockchain networks that feature smart contract functionality, the issue is far worse. Although hackers can’t affect the ledger. They are capable of committing fraud using features like flash loans and robbing investors of millions of dollars. In this context security is a vital aspect that we can’t leave out. Stability and functionality maintenance are the main objectives of a secure blockchain. Data is consequently decentralized and unaffected. Fortunately, scalability or decentralization doesn’t require sacrificing security as a feature.

Either speed or concentration of power is impacted by the scale of security which leaves developers with plenty of room to breathe when creating a blockchain. To sum up, security is a crucial component of contemporary blockchain systems because, without it, bad actors can interfere with networks and alter data that is stored on a ledger. Without it, blockchains would be completely unreliable and useless.

Ethereum 2.0

The blockchain trilemma is once again an important topic due to the launch of Ethereum 2.0. It appears that Vitalik Buterin not only coined the concept but created a way to solve it as well. Proof of stake, sharding, and side chains are all implemented in Ethereum 2.0, a new version of the smart contract ecosystem. Combined they can theoretically create a project that is decentralized, scalable, and secure all at the same time.

We still have to see how this will turn out in practice given that the full version of Ethereum 2.0 is going to be launched this month in September. It’s ready to be implemented and then users will be able to make any transactions. So when it will fully launch we will see if Ethereum victoriously solved the blockchain trilemma. All hopes are currently placed on the new network and its eventual success. Investors will have no choice but to spend hundreds of dollars in transaction fees if the Ethereum Foundation fails to realize its vision.

Related: What Is Blockchain and Why blockchain was created?

There are indeed alternative solutions that seek to scale the blockchain industry before Ethereum does, but their prospect of such success is not nearly as bullish. The blockchain trilemma is an important topic for all of the industry’s hardworking developers. Projects like bitcoin and Ethereum have already done so much for the world but in order to reach a level where millions of people all across the world can use blockchain networks the trilemma must be solved.

Related: Top Blockchain Use Cases

While we have cryptocurrency projects that already use pos and sharding none of them had the chance to prove their strength by serving a truly remarkable user base. For instance, Ethereum is the market’s second largest project by market cap. So if Vitalik Buterin can do it we will finally know once and for all that the blockchain trilemma is no longer an issue. 



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