From the beginning, one of the main features of blockchain technology has been the capacity to use both the idle and active processing power of a blockchain’s nodes to create distributed supercomputers.
This power, which would make the likes of folding@home or seti@home seem primitive, has sadly not been fully used so far – with the vast majority of a blockchain’s processing power sadly going to meaningless “mining” activities that provide no service whatsoever other than wasted power and processing.
Over the last couple of years, however, several new projects have tried to take advantage of this, turning what used to be “mining” duties into essentially loaning your PC’s computing power in exchange for crypto. Golem is, as you probably expected, one of these.
How is it different from usual blockchains?
Most blockchains in today’s world award cryptocurrencies in exchange for processing power. However, the processing power in most blockchains goes for transaction authentication and, for older blockchains, mining.
The mining process is perhaps the most famous blockchain-related activity – it’s been repeatedly hailed as the way many crypto millionaires became millionaires to begin with. While the profitability of this task these days can be argued against, it’s still a relatively common activity, and one that uses huge amounts of processing power.
One would think this processing power would be used for huge, difficult tasks the blockchain requires. And one would be partly right – it is indeed used for huge, difficult tasks, that aren’t at all necessary. Mining basically consists of brute-forcing a complex mathematical problem in order to determine who’ll get the crypto. Said problem isn’t at all relevant, and essentially all that processing power goes to waste.
The actual amount of processing power spent in order to authenticate transactions is, in fact, very small. Small enough that most current-day blockchains have migrated to a staking model – which doesn’t require large amounts of processing power and you can technically do from your phone.
So Golem sells processing power… How? And to whom?
Let’s start with the basics: Yes, they sell processing power. Your processing power. And they pay you for it with their own cryptocurrency.
The “how” part is much more complex, but it can be resumed in a phrase by saying the Golem blockchain is a massive, distributed supercomputer made up of every single node connected to it. Yes, that can be difficult to understand, but no, there aren’t many simpler ways of saying it.
Let’s think of every leaf from a tree as a computer. Your computer is just a leaf, one that’s potent enough for what you need. The Golem blockchain? The Golem blockchain is the tree connecting all the leaves. In fact, the Golem blockchain could be even bigger – an orchard.
The whole point is, Golem would connect all the leaves in a tree (ie, the computers of those lending their power) so that they all together can work on a much larger task.
As for who is the customer? Well, not you or I. That’s for sure.
Most people obviously don’t need a supercomputer. We have more than enough with our pcs, or laptops, or phones. However, there are tasks that go well beyond what any single computer can do.
Large simulation tasks, for example, are extremely tasking and can eat up all available resources even in workstations specially built for it. The same goes for large rendering tasks for architecture or video projects. Some security systems can even be quite processing hungry – plus being distributed can help in those tasks.
The companies working in those areas are the customers. Maybe some projects are too big and they need a boost. Maybe they want to get something done faster than their hardware would allow. Maybe they’re just getting started, and hiring processing power is cheaper than buying a workstation, at least while the company finds its footing.
It doesn’t matter. The point is: There are customers out there who would love to pay for your processing power. Golem makes that a possibility.
How is Golem different from other blockchains that trade processing power?
There aren’t that many blockchains trading in processing power to begin with. Even then, the most common proposals for processing power trades using blockchain relate to inter-blockchain transactions and allowing users to exchange their cryptocurrency for another one without having to go through a middleman.
Other than that, most companies selling processing power do so on their own, without blockchains, and without getting you involved. In that regard, Golem is unique.
Will Golem change the blockchain world?
That’s still to be seen. It could be a great addition to the blockchain world – in fact, soon enough we might even see webservices that rely entirely, or almost entirely, on the Golem network, leading us closer to distributed internet.
The project might also fizzle, as many do.
The important part with Golem is that the project offers something new and not niche. Processing power is a commodity these days many companies need. There’s a client base out there for it. Making money out of our processing power is also something people like, as the millions of people mining cryptocurrencies show.
In Golem’s market, then, there’s both offer and demand. Golem is just trying to connect them together. This project is not creating a new market, just facilitating an existing one. Since the market is already there, then, Golem’s chances of success are quite good.