How do you secure a blockchain without harming the environment? It’s a question developers have grappled with since the Bitcoin genesis block was mined in 2009, and over the years a slew of alternative consensus mechanisms have come to the fore touting their sustainable credentials.
From Proof-of-Stake and Proof-of-Authority to Proof-of-Reputation and Nominated Proof-of-Stake, models that promise to usher in a new era of environmentally-sound networks have achieved mixed results. Despite their best efforts, many second-generation blockchains have struggled to gain traction largely owing to the overriding success of Bitcoin, a network that continues to rely on the much-maligned Proof-of-Work algorithm. While Bitcoin hogs most of the spotlight (and attracts the lion’s share of criticism), ingenious developers are busy creating and refining projects that are notable for their decentralisation, high-level security, and scalability.
Gather Network is one of the latest ventures with environmental concerns at its heart. Recently named Startup of the Year at the Dubai Blockchain Summit, the multi-layered protocol has an aim that differs from that of many contemporaries. Namely, to disrupt the digital advertising and cloud computing industries. How? By leveraging the computational power of everyday website visitors to secure the Gather blockchain and reward publishers for eschewing spammy ads.
A Multi-Layered Protocol
While cryptocurrency mining on most blockchain networks requires enormous computing power and expensive data-processing centres, Gather flips the script by collecting processing power from publishers and redistributing it to both enterprises and blockchain developers. Rather than building up a vast community of energy-intensive miners, blockchains can thus secure their networks via Gather’s application layer, Gather Cloud.
Gather’s proposition benefits all participants: web users get a browsing experience free from irksome ads, since publishers can generate revenue in another way – by providing idle processing power to the hardware layer (Gather Online); enterprises and blockchains, meanwhile, get access to processing power at lower costs.
The Gather Network runs on a hybrid Proof-of-Stake and Proof-of-Work blockchain whose native $GTH token is used to incentivise all stakeholders. Layer 1 is secured by visitors via publishers, layer 2 will be secured by masternodes, the more energy-efficient PoS model serves to reduce operational costs, provide fast transactions and heavy compute as needed for Gather’s public cloud.
Leveraging web browsers’ processing power for the purpose of securing blockchains is a bold strategy, but it’s not the only one advanced by Gather. The venture also supports merged mining via auxiliary chains. Ostensibly, this means that smaller external blockchain projects can fork off Gather while tapping into the hashing power of the larger parent chain. The environmental benefits of such a feature are clear, since miners don’t have to purchase extra hardware or modify their machines to mine the extra coins.
Is Blockchain Becoming Greener?
In the wider blockchain industry, admirable efforts to bolster blockchain’s environmental credentials are ongoing. Ethereum’s much-vaunted transition from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake, for example, could see it reduce its energy use by up to 99.95%.
Even Bitcoin is cultivating a greener reputation. According to the most recent report from the Bitcoin Mining Council, there have been “dramatic improvements to bitcoin mining energy efficiency and sustainability due to advances in semiconductor technology, the rapid expansion of North American mining, the China Exodus, and worldwide rotation toward sustainable energy and modern mining techniques.” Interestingly, the same report claims the percentage of renewable-powered bitcoin mining in Q4 of 2021 was an all-time high 58.5%.
Overall then, it’s worth pulling back the curtain on a mainstream narrative that consistently portrays blockchain as a reckless polluter. Through its hybrid consensus model, merged mining capacity, and ambitious digital monetisation model, Gather Network is but one project striving to challenge that narrative in a meaningful way.