If you hold IOTA tokens and are a firm believer in the project, you might’ve seen over the course of last few days that company’s Tangle technology that underpins the project is looking to be in a tangle itself. The transactions over the network have nosedived, as according to community someone is creating parallel tangles (called parasite chains) thus making the nodes unable to select any transactions that they can validate. (For a detailed explanation of what IOTA and Tangle are read this article.)
The issue came to limelight about 2-3 days ago as Sarah Jamie Lewis, the Executive Director of Open Privacy, posted about it on her Twitter account. She said:
“Currently the confirmed transaction ratio in iota is practically 0 because someone is stitching the side tangle to the main tangle and this apparently breaks regular nodes ability to select tips. Let’s just enjoy this moment.”
Sarah also posted two screenshots with her tweet:
Adding further she said:
“Going further this seems to have taken every single iota peer offline… As seen by this screenshot of an IOTA peer manager someone left open to the internet (thanks shodan)”
Though Raff Rottman, a member of IOTA Board of Directors, said in a quick response to Sarah’s tweet that “everything is fine”, the pressure was mounting on IOTA Foundation to come out with a detailed explanation of what’s going on. And today that explanation has come from IOTA Foundation Head Lewis Freiberg.
Writing about the issue in a blog post Freiberg stressed that the network was performing just as it was designed to perform – inline with its original whitepaper. Since he is psychology major, his post was half counseling and half technical analysis. He said:
“Our desire to see the Tangle “outperform” other networks leads us to spam the mainnet in order to push the TPS as high as it can go. Without fail this results in ‘Wow, the tangle is flying today,’ and then ‘Why did the TPS suddenly drop’ after someone turns off a spammer.”
Moving further he argued that instead of following on transactions per second (TPS) the community should focus on adoption of IOTA and confirmed transactions per second (CTPS). He said:
“Even though adoption cannot be measured with one simple metric, it is nonetheless a much more important metric that one must gauge when considering whether or not the tangle ‘works.’”
Now, the CTPS on IOTA are much lower than TPS. In an ideal world they should be almost on par, but that’s not the case. To this thing Mr. Freiberg refers as a ‘misunderstanding’. He said:
“When someone starts sending bad transactions which outweigh the honest transactions by 5x the confirmation rate will drop to 20%. In reality the confirmation rate didn’t drop, the amount of invalid or poorly referenced TXs just increased. The honest throughput of the network remained the same.”
Mr. Freiberg surprisingly described side tangles as “well-known phenomenon” since original Tangle whitepaper. Therefore, he said, “the Tangle is performing as theorized”:
“Side tangles, as they have come to be known, are actually a well-known phenomenon since the Tangle white paper, which refers to them as parasite chains. Parasite chains, like this one, are the result of a spammer using a modified software to select tips that only reference themselves. This results in a tangle of transactions being built up that is distinct from the main tangle.
The effect of this is functionally equivalent to choosing a bad strategy for tip selection: transactions in the parasite chain are less likely to be confirmed, and that is exactly what has happened in this most recent case. The Tangle is performing as theorized in the white paper!”
Now, whatever the case… whether Tangle is performing as designed or not, the fact is that there’s a lot of money at stake and IOTA Foundation can’t let these things remain as they’re. If they’re not improved in time and transactions continue to be delayed like this, IOTA may fail to serve its purpose of revolutionizing the Internet of Things (IoT). Recently it has also been selected as part of a 30 million euro consortium to develop smart cities in 7 urban environments, so it must get the things in order.