IOTA has reportedly settled on a plan to end centralization within its network by eliminating its coordinator node. This part of the IOTA Tangle is currently responsible for ordering transactions, but it introduces a number of secondary problems.
IOTA has dubbed the process of removing the node ‘coordicide,’ and it is determined to eliminate the node next year. TangleBlog, an independent blog that has been in contact with IOTA developer Hans Moog, reports that IOTA has finalized its plans to remove the node:
It’s finally out. The #IOTA foundation has a specific solution for the coordicide. The centralization in IOTA will be gone pretty soon. Which then (if everything works as intended) makes IOTA the only and first project that fulfills Satoshis vision, but without mining, in 2019.
— Tangleblog.com (@tangleblog) December 9, 2018
The Coordinator Node
IOTA’s coordinator node was originally created to order transactions on the IOTA Tangle. This responsibility prevented attackers from dominating IOTA’s hash rate and performing a majority attack—or, in IOTA’s case, a 33% attack.
Unlike Bitcoin, IOTA is not mined. However, the platform still requires its users to perform a small amount of hashing, making a majority attack on IOTA theoretically possible. The coordinator node currently provides a safeguard against such an attack, but it also introduces a massive amount of centralization.
This means that quite a lot of power is concentrated in the coordinator node. For example, the node allows transactions to be prioritized and enables funds to be frozen. (However, it does not allow those funds to be taken away.)
The coordinator node also introduces a single point of failure: if the node stopped working or became the target of an attack, the entire IOTA network would cease to function.
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A Specific Solution
These issues led to complaints from members of the IOTA community, who criticized the platform’s level of centralization. The IOTA team was responsive, and they began working on a solution in late November. This process has been thoroughly outlined on the IOTA blog.
Three possible approaches were considered. First, a node accountability and reputation system was proposed. Next, an improved tip selection algorithm with random walks was suggested. Finally, a constellation-like “star” system with trusted transaction pathways was considered.
Any of these solutions would eliminate the need for a coordinator node. However, the Tangle Blog did not reveal which of the above approaches was selected by IOTA developers, only that one solution has indeed been selected. It is likely that the IOTA Foundation will make an official announcement in the near future.
The uncertainty surrounding the development is not unusual, as IOTA has always been highly experimental. For this reason, blockchain features that would otherwise be commonplace (such as reusable addresses and smart contracts) have taken some time to arrive on IOTA.
Decentralization is a fundamental value of many crypto and blockchain advocates. Now, at long last, the removal of IOTA’s coordinator node will bring a degree of decentralization that is expected by most of the crypto community.