According to the Blockchain Trilemma, decentralized networks can only offer two out of the three benefits of decentralization, security, and scalability at any given time. In this article, we discuss the novice’s handbook to blockchain trilemma.

1. What is the Blockchain Trilemma?

Novice's handbook to blockchain trilemma

While blockchain technology has proven to be extremely useful in industries ranging from finance to art, decentralized networks’ underlying structure presents unique challenges compared to centralized networks. Computer scientists developed the CAP theorem in the 1980s to articulate perhaps the most significant of these challenges. The CAP theorem states that decentralized data stores, of which blockchain is an example, can only provide two of three guarantees simultaneously: consistency, availability, and partition tolerance. This theorem has evolved in the context of modern distributed networks into the Blockchain Trilemma — the widely held belief that public blockchains must sacrifice either security, decentralization, or scalability.

2. Why the blockchain trilemma exists

The most evident and fundamental solution to the problem above is to decrease the number of participants who confirm and add to network data in exchange for greater scale and speed. However, doing so would weaken decentralization by giving control to a smaller number of participants. It would also weaken security because fewer players mean a higher chance of attack.

Novice's handbook to blockchain trilemma

So, the link between the desired aspects of security and decentralization and the basic structure of blockchain technology makes scaling difficult. When you strengthen one, you weaken another. How can scalability be pushed without jeopardizing decentralization, security, or both?

3. Solving the Blockchain Trilemma

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the trilemma. However, given the importance of resolving this issue, the community has taken various approaches with exciting results.


Using this method, more prominent blockchains (or other databases) are split into smaller, partitioned blockchains that control different data segments. This configuration relieves the strain on a single chain that handles all network transactions and interactions. Each partitioned blockchain is referred to as a shard and has its ledger. These shards can then process their transactions, but a beacon blockchain or main chain manages interactions between shards.

Different consensus mechanism

The way PoW works to ensure security is one of the reasons the trilemma exists in the Bitcoin network. The requirement for miners, crypto algorithms, and massive amounts of decentralized computing power results in a secure but slow system. One approach to resolving the trilemma is to find a new way to achieve consensus. This was one of the motivations behind Ethereum’s shift from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake.

Novice's handbook to blockchain trilemma

Layer-2 solutions

Layer-1 solutions include sharding as well as various consensus mechanisms. They intend to alter the underlying network’s fundamental design. Other developers attempting to solve the trilemma have focused on solutions built on an existing network structure. In other words, they believe the solution is in a second layer, or Layer 2. Sidechains and state channels are two examples of this.

A sidechain is a separate blockchain linked to the main chain. It is set up so that assets can freely flow between the two. Notably, the sidechain can operate according to different rules, enabling more incredible speed and scale. Similarly, state channels are yet another method for offloading transactions from the main chain and relieving pressure on Layer 1. A state channel, rather than a separate chain, allows users to interact with one another without publishing their transactions to the blockchain. The blockchain only records the channel’s beginning and end.


Although the Blockchain Trilemma poses significant barriers to blockchain technology adoption, emerging solutions may provide a solution. The goal is to achieve a good balance of network security, decentralization, and scalability. To solve problems, go to SmartOSC experts for advice.

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