January 18, 2018
The Ethereum blockchain has proven essential for a variety of industries and applications. From global supply chains to land rights, medical information, energy data management and secure legal contracts, it’s unique smart contract system and general security has made it the world’s second largest blockchain behind Bitcoin. But recently Ethereum has not been in the news for any of the the above reasons. Instead, it has been discussed in the context of cartoon cats.
CryptoKitties is an app utilising smart contracts that has risen to prominence on the Ethereum blockchain in record time. Created as a game, the app allows people to own and trade virtual cartoon cats. These cats can then be bred with others to create an egg, which hatches into a new ‘CryptoKitty which inherits some of the traits of the ‘parents’. As it relies on blockchain development, each CryptoKitty can be verified as unique, can’t be forged and is owned wholly by the person who buys or breeds it.
The creators of CryptoKitties — Axiom Zen, who premiered the CryptoKitties alpha at ETHWaterloo -began the project as a way to introduce blockchain development to the masses in a fun and accessible way. Only a few weeks old, (not even 6 months in cat years), it has really taken off, but the Ethereum network has become a victim of its success.
As of the time of writing, there are a reported 350,000+ CryptoKitties owned by around 40,000 users. Players of the game that wish to breed or trade their cats need to do so using smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. This might be an accessible way of introducing blockchain development to the average person, but the flipside is that Ethereum is struggling to cope with the increased demand for transaction validation. Since its launch on the 28th of November, CryptoKitties rapidly rose to account for a reported 15%+ of the transactions that were taking place. The total number of daily transactions before the game was released was approximately 600,000; this peaked at well over 1 million in the last few days, with a pending transaction queue rising in response. This means that the whole network is slowing down, having a knock-on effect for apps that may be deemed more useful, which are suffering due to the games success.
This outcome has highlighted an issue that has been at the forefront of many blockchain development discussions since they first began to be used: scalability.
Blockchain technology can bring huge benefits, but so far it isn’t clear whether it will be able to keep up with the volume of transactions that it will eventually be required to undertake. This is an especially important issue for blockchains, such as Ethereum, which use smart contracts to provide functionality beyond financial transactions. If one fad game this early on in development can have such a large impact on Ethereum, are blockchains the viable solution that they are purported to be?
The answer is affirmative but, but the technology needs to mature. There are a number of blockchains working on scalability solutions, of which Ethereum is one, but it should be noted that back when the Internet was still new, speeds were incredibly slow, and it was not fit for the purposes which we use it for today. Improvements were rapidly developed to address the issue. Blockchain will likely experience the same: rising to meet demand as more interest is garnered.
With that in mind, the CryptoKitties may be both a curse and a blessing; impacting the Ethereum blockchain in the short term may force the scalability issue to be addressed sooner, paying off in the long run. After all, what would be the point of developing apps on a blockchain that can’t scale to provide its services to a worldwide audience?
Another point in favour of the launch of CryptoKitties is the blockchain development behind it. The team has worked to create a non-fungible token, allowing for unique CryptoKitties to be traded. It also had to develop a method of auctioning on Ethereum to sell the cats. The methods, described in its white paper (white pa-purr), allows different cats to be sold for different values. Despite being for what many would describe as a frivolous game, the methods developed may be of use to other app creators.
The game itself actually showcases a key ability of the blockchain — the ability to create ‘collectibles’. It has shown that it is possible to create unique digital objects that are able to be traded and are both verifiably unique and unforgeable. Although it has been used for cartoon cats, it the idea is applicable to any unique digital item — such as artwork or literature.
Lastly, the fact that CryptoKitties has generated such media interest and introduced many people, both those who play the game and those who read about it, to blockchain technology might be enough to consider it a resounding success. After all… there is no such thing as bad publicity!
By Matthew Warner, Blockpass Researcher
Infinity Blockchain Labs is the leading blockchain R&D company with numerous labs aimed at creating solutions for different sectors and partners with the goal of promoting blockchain adoption. They aim to create products and services that meet the expanding needs of blockchain enthusiasts.
Blockpass is a blockchain identity protocol for the internet of everything developed by IBL and Hong Kong based Chain of Things. The production ready Regtech platform offers shared regulatory and compliance services for humans, companies, objects and devices. Blockpass enables the development of new applications that rely on a trusted connection between human and device identities.
As a pioneer in the technology, Infinity Blockchain Labs (IBL) hopes to help blockchain development impact as many diverse fields and technologies as possible to nurture global development. To do so, IBL relies on a wide range of expert partners share blockchain development news. Blockpass as experts in the industry are great sources of the wisdom that will inform blockchain development growth. Through articles such as this one about cryptoKitties, we can inspire Vietnam’s regulators, developers and entrepreneurs to adopt the technology and fuel the country into becoming a global blockchain development hub.
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