Crypto Advanced

What are Merkle and Verkle trees in blockchain technology?

With the rise of crypto, the underlying blockchain technology has garnered interest, too. Many of us know that a blockchain is a digital ledger that stores transactions by borrowing resources from a network of computers. But not many of us truly understand all of the intricacies of blockchains. Do you know what Merkle and Verkle trees are and how they work? If you don’t, you’ve landed at the right place. So let’s catch you up.

Understanding Merkle and Verkle trees in blockchain technology

Merkle and Verkle trees are an integral part of many blockchain networks.

The former, or hash trees, are data structures employed in crypto. They help to encrypt blockchain data more securely and effectively.

Verkle trees are similar to Merkle trees but allow for smaller proof sizes. For instance, if a tree has a billion pieces of data, a Merkle tree may require about 1 kilobyte (Kb). But a Verkle tree proof is usually less than 150 bytes. Thus, it allows for scaling upgrades.

What are Merkle trees?

So, what exactly is a Merkle tree in blockchain? It’s a tree-like data structure comprising the hashes of different content blocks. Imagine summarizing each page of your book and condensing it into a sentence. Creating a hash to represent a block is just like that. Then two hashes are stitched together at a time, and you calculate the has for the pair. This continues until you reach a root hash or Merkle, which summarizes the entire ledger. So just like you look at the cover of a book to identify it, rather than leafing through each page, you use the root hash in the same way—to check the integrity of transactions all at once.

Overall, this structure verifies the content and encrypts the data effectively while reducing the memory requirements for verification.

What are Verkle trees?

Verkle trees are like Merkle trees, but they allow you to organize large amounts of data into smaller chunks. That is, you use “witnesses” of the original information. Verkle trees require less than 150 bytes to produce proof. In comparison, a typical binary Merkle tree proof is around 1 Kb.

The similarities and differences between Merkle and Verkle trees

Merkle and Verkle trees help organize a considerable quantity of data and create a brief “proof” of each data point. In addition, anyone who can access the tree’s root can verify the data in both cases.

However, there are many differences between them. All sister nodes of a Merkle tree contain evidence of a value. The proof should also include all tree nodes, where any parent node is in common with the node you’re trying to prove. With Verkle trees, however, you don’t need to add sister nodes. All you need to show is the path, along with a tiny bit extra as proof.

So, both Merkle and Verkle trees serve the same purpose, but their proof sizes differ.

Merkle trees in blockchain technology

Here, we look at how Merkle trees fit into the blockchain and their uses and impact on the same.

How Merkle trees are used in blockchain

Ralph Merkle developed Merkle trees in 1988 to create stronger digital signatures. The blockchain has thousands of blocks, and infinite transactions co-occur. Merkle trees begin to encrypt data by forming transaction pairs. They then calculate the hash for every pair separately. When the steps repeat, they calculate the hash for the parent node.

This keeps repeating until a single hash is left: the Merkle root.

The role of Merkle trees in blockchain security

As the tree narrows down to the Merkle root in the data block, you can compare it with the one stored in the header. So you can identify any manipulation quickly.

Additionally, the trees support simple payment verification, used to authenticate transactions without downloading a complete blockchain. Hence, this allows the use of crypto wallets to send and receive money.

Real-world examples of Merkle trees in blockchain

  • Programmers often use the distributed version control system of Git to handle projects.
  • The peer-to-peer distributed open-source protocol of the Interplanetary File System allows computers to join and use centralized file systems.
  • The no-SQL distributed databases of Apache Cassandra and Amazon DynamoDB use Merkle trees during the data replication process to control discrepancies.

Verkle tree in blockchain

Now let’s look at how Verkle trees feature in the blockchain network.

How Verkle trees are used in blockchain

John Kuszmaul introduced Verkle trees in 2018, so they’re relatively new. While they serve the same purpose as Merkle trees, they’re bandwidth-efficient alternatives. That means Verkle trees allow for significantly smaller proof sizes.

The role of Verkle trees in blockchain scalability

Verkle trees are set to address the scalability dilemma that blockchain continues to face. For one, they need only 150 bytes of storage for proof for 1 billion data storage points. Since the length of the proof is logarithmic, Verkle trees could greatly impact communication within the network. Unlike Merkle trees, these trees eliminate the need to present proof to each sister node at each entry point.

Real-world examples of Verkle trees in blockchain

Ethereum is attempting to revamp blockchain using the “Verge,” one of the six potential upgrades in a proposed scalability roadmap. It will address the scalability dilemma by replacing the current Merkle tree.

Merkle and Verkle trees: A comparison

There are, of course, a few differences between these two trees, so let’s look at some of them.

How do Merkle and Verkle trees compare in terms of security and scalability?

The Merkle root is especially crucial since it allows users to verify, receive, and send transactions on smartphones or personal computers with crypto wallets. Verkle trees are similar but allow for different scaling efficiencies. Both technologies store data on blockchain platforms with immutable security and scrutiny.

How to evaluate which one is best for a specific use case

While Verkle trees are a powerful upgrade to Merkle proofs, they’re still a new idea. Remember, they were introduced only in 2018, so they aren’t as widely known as Merkle trees and other crypto constructions. While they require more complex cryptography for implementation, they offer excellent opportunities for large gains to scalability, like Ethereum is doing.

The future of Merkle and Verkle trees in blockchain

Ethereum’s recent upgrades are some of the first instances of using Verkle trees. Companies aim to use Merkle and Verkle trees in the future to reduce the amount of historical data, making the blockchain validation process more efficient. They also aim to use them to minimize network congestion and enable the processing of more transactions.

Conclusion

The rise of quantum computing could further change the use of Merkle and Verkle trees. But for now, they both offer the same scaling gains, and we possess all the tools to implement them efficiently.

FAQs

What are Merkle trees in blockchain?

Merkle trees are a foundational component of blockchain technology, providing data integrity, security, and efficiency in verifying and storing information within the blockchain. They are a key part of what makes blockchains secure, scalable, and trustless.

What is the difference between the Merkle tree and Verkle tree?

Merkle Trees are a specific type of Merkle structure with a strict binary tree structure, while Merkle DAGs are a more general concept that allows for more complex data structures. The choice between them depends on the specific requirements of the decentralized or distributed system you are designing.

What is a Merkle tree?

A Merkle Tree, named after its inventor Ralph Merkle, is a binary tree structure used in computer science and cryptography to efficiently verify the integrity of data in a large dataset, particularly in distributed and decentralized systems. It’s a key component in various applications, including blockchain technology, peer-to-peer networks, and data verification systems.

What is the difference between Merkle Tree and Merkle Dag?

A Merkle tree is a binary tree structure where each leaf node represents a hash of a data block, and each non-leaf (internal) node represents a hash of its children nodes’ hashes. This hierarchical structure is commonly used in various applications, including cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and data verification systems.

Disclaimer: Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. The information provided in this post is not to be considered investment/financial advice from CoinSwitch. Any action taken upon the information shall be at the user’s risk.

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