The whole crypto world discusses how Ethereum will switch from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake now. This change can significantly affect the cryptocurrency market. What are the positive and negative sides of PoW and PoS?
Cryptocurrencies can be into two types: those that can be mined (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Monero) and pre-mined ones (Ripple, Stellar, Cardano, EOS, NEO).
What is the big difference?
Although they differ in the method of generation, the basis of both types of crypto is the same: verification. Every transaction processed by the network must be verified by someone to ensure that virtual money has not been spent twice. Here we are talking about the difference in the verification process. Transaction groups are combined into a block; after verification, the block joins other previously confirmed blocks, and create a chain of transactions, or blockchain.
PoW: Mined Crypto
Mining is a process in which individuals, groups, or companies solve complex mathematical equations to verify transaction blocks using powerful computers. These math problems are part of the encryption process that protects transactions from cybercriminals and third party access.
The first who solves the problem and signs a block of transactions receives a reward. The miner, who confirmed the block of transactions e.g. in the Bitcoin network, receives a reward in BTC.
Disadvantages of Mined Crypto
- Mining can be very expensive due to the large amounts of electricity consumed. In mined crypto with less capitalization, competition is usually lower than in BTC.
- BTC mining requires special , that are combined into huge farms. Electricity is one of the main expenses for these projects. That is why China, where electricity is relatively cheap, has become a home to four of the five largest Bitcoin mining companies in the world.
- Mining farms have to spend significant money funds on new equipment, which becomes out of date very fast.
- Large projects need additional cooling, as servers and graphics cards heat up to high temperatures during operations.
- The Proof-of-Work model is potentially vulnerable to a 51% attack (when a group of people with 51% of the computing power gains control of the network and its participants). For popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), and Monero (XMR) this is not a problem due to their large capitalization. However, minor cryptocurrencies with long block processing times and low daily volumes are risking a lot.
PoS: Non-Mined Crypto
At the other end of the spectrum are pre-mined cryptocurrencies such as Ripple (XRP), Stellar, Cardano, EOS, and NEO.
In the PoS model, super-powered computers are not needed, and participants do not compete for the right to sign the next block. Thus, the costs of this approach are significantly lower. Transaction verification is carried out by cryptocurrency owners. The more cryptocurrencies you have, the longer you own it, the higher the probability that you will be selected to check the transaction block.
Certain mechanisms are built into the system that prevents the dominance of large cryptocurrency holders over the verification process. There are many random ways to select owners who get the right to sign a transaction block. This ensures that small holders have a chance to participate in the process.
Disadvantages of Non-Mined Crypto
Despite the fact that the costs of the Proof-of-Stake method are lower, PoS has its drawbacks.
- Such cryptocurrencies are not threatened by an attack of 51%, however, another trouble replaces it — a person who posses 51% of all tokens in circulation can gain control of the network and its participants. Of course, in the case of cryptocurrencies with high capitalization, the possibility of this scenario is low, but small partners may suffer from this vulnerability.
- The Proof-of-Stake model also gives major owners additional votes in determining the future development of the network. Most belong to several founders, for instance. This helps increase transaction speed and reduces consensus-building time, but also makes cryptocurrency too centralized. In other words, in the PoS model, large players gain significant power, which is theoretically impossible with the PoW model.
Both methods have their pros and cons. Nevertheless, sooner or later, some of the largest mined currencies (e.g. BTC) will reach their token limit. At this point, they will have to switch to Proof-of-Stake. Since it significantly reduces power consumption and doesn’t require powerful computers, gradually all crypto including BTC will switch to a non-mined model just like Ether did.