Written by Metal Team

On September 12, 2019

Understanding Block Lattice

If you read our announcement about Nano (NANO) joining the Metal Pay Marketplace, you might have heard about its unique “block lattice” design. But what exactly is block lattice, how is it different from blockchain, and what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of this type of cryptocurrency? In this Metal Pay University lesson, we’ll explore everything there is to know about block lattice in simple, easy-to-digest language that will leave you feeling informed and ready to make decisions. Let’s get started.

What is block lattice?

Thankfully, most cryptocurrency terms use words that already have common definitions to signal what they might mean, and block lattice is no different. The first step to understanding block lattice begins with breaking it down into its two components: block and lattice.

One common definition of block is “a large quantity or allocation of things regarded as a unit.” For cryptocurrency, this makes sense: blocks are how we organize information about transactions, account balances, and price histories. When we talk about blockchain, we mean exactly that: a sequential chain of information separated into blocks or chunks.

You’ve probably seen a lattice structure in the real world; this is a design of interlaced strips or segments, often seen in chain-link fences, mesh nets, and even spider webs. In cryptocurrency, the word lattice is used to signal that something is a separate, self-contained network.

types_of_lattices

Putting these definitions together, we can see that a block lattice structure in cryptocurrency is a series of chunks of information about transactions and balances (blocks) organized into a separate, interwoven structure (lattice) independent of other accounts.

How is block lattice different from blockchain?

You’ve no doubt heard of blockchain; most cryptocurrencies are centered around this design, and the technology holds promise for a growing number of industries. An important distinction between blockchain and block lattice is that a blockchain contains information on every transaction that has ever happened with that particular cryptocurrency. However, a block lattice is only concerned with the account balance of one particular user; the transactions of other accounts are only recorded on someone else’s block lattice if they directly interact with each other and change the respective balances.

block_lattice_diagram

What are the advantages of block lattice?

One of the biggest advantages of block lattice is the smaller use of data and energy. Unlike blockchain, an individual account doesn’t have to record every transaction that takes place within an entire cryptocurrency alongside their own information. Therefore, they need only worry about storing their own account history, not anyone else’s, which requires far less energy and data storage compared to a traditional blockchain design. Another advantage of a block lattice design is transaction speed. Because users don’t have to update and add onto the collective blockchain every time they make a transaction, users in a block lattice system can send and receive value more quickly. Additionally, because making transactions requires less energy, data, and time, there are often substantially lower—or even no fees—for transactions that take place in block lattice network.

energy_efficiency

What are the disadvantages of block lattice?

Although there are significant advantages to having each user’s account history stored independently of each other, this has the potential to increase the risk of fraudulent and disputed transactions. To counteract this, block lattice cryptocurrencies typically implement a consensus technique known as Open Representative Voting (ORV), which we’ll cover in a different lesson. However, a quick explanation of ORV is that other accounts are called upon to vote to reach a consensus when a conflict arises between two disputed accounts balances. Sounds pretty democratic, right? Maybe but, this also leads to what some see as another disadvantage of block lattice design: the need for other accounts to voluntarily pitch in, despite ORV not offering rewards for doing so. This has been seen as an obstacle to its wide-scale adoption; however, many users may find this to be a very small price to pay for a significantly faster, cheaper, and more efficient cryptocurrency system.

What cryptocurrencies use block lattice?

The most commonly known cryptocurrencies that use a block lattice design are:

Of these cryptocurrencies, Nano is the most widely used and recognized, and is regarded as the inventor of this unique design.

The bottom line: block lattice is an entirely different approach to cryptocurrency than the traditional blockchain design. Cryptocurrencies based on block lattice often boast faster transaction times, less energy/data use, and lower transaction fees. However, due to the independent and highly decentralized nature of block lattice, verifying disputed transactions requires voluntary participation, and encouraging wide-scale adoption is harder without offering fee-based rewards as an incentive. Overall, block lattice is an exciting spin on cryptocurrency and is likely to be developed further, and used as a basis for future cryptocurrency projects.

Do you have other questions about block lattice, or cryptocurrency in general? Be sure to follow us on social media and ask us a question! We’d love to clear things up for you, and your questions just might find its way into our next Metal Pay University quick lesson.

You can find us at @metalpaysme on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and @metalpay on Steemit!

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