CryptoKitties is a type of game played over Ethereum in which players collect and breed digital avatars of cats. Although the game is barely two weeks old, it has already managed to cause quite a buzz in the community.
The sheer amount of Ethereum activity related to the buying and selling of CryptoKitties has contributed to a backlog of pending transactions in the tens of thousands. This digital logjam is a recurring issue for Ethereum, as we saw with some of the larger token offerings that took place on the decentralized platform earlier this year. The proverbial hairballs clogging Ethereum's pipes are just the latest reminder of what Ethereum's leadership has said from the beginning – we need to scale the public chain.
Speaking from Taipei late last month, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin elaborated on this notion while describing what he called "Ethereum 2.0." Referring to privacy, safety, and scalability Buterin stated, "There's generally three major categories of problems that I keep talking about every year. The reason why I keep talking about them every year is because they are big problems and very important problems. These problems are problems that take a long time to solve. Until they get solved they continue being the most important problems that we have." Buterin has often evangelized sharding as a possible solution to the scalability issue.
Indeed, part of Ethereum 2.0 will address scalability, which is a fundamental problem not just for Ethereum, but for all blockchain architectures. Achieving the greater throughput needed to run a universe of decentralized applications will need to balance major technical breakthroughs with the tenets of decentralization that make Ethereum compelling. These attributes of decentralized technology are why Axiom Zen created CryptoKitties in the first place.
"We wanted to appeal to everyone, not just technology experts and industry insiders," Bryce Bladon director of communications at Axiom Zen told ETHNews. "We think widespread adoption and understanding is a crucial step towards realizing blockchain's potential. A lot of blockchain projects are as accessible as a bunch of ones and zeros, and they have the personality to match. To reach the masses, we decided we needed to create something accessible, appealing, and most of all fun."
If mainstream adoption is to occur, it appears scalability will be key. The Ethereum platform has been consistently reaching all-time transaction highs at almost monthly intervals since April of this year. It's clear that the ecosystem is ready and willing to support continued use of this powerful emerging technology, even if initial applications like CryptoKitties confuse the suits on Wall Street.
Although the technicalities of scaling a blockchain will require significant advancements in decentralized systems computing, the Ethereum Foundation has already done much of the theoretical leg work to solve these problems. Casper, Sharding, and Plasma are all novel approaches for addressing the slow propagation of blocks on a blockchain.