In the world of cryptography, Merkle Trees and Verkle Trees are useful tools for keeping data in sync and checking it for accuracy. For the purpose of encrypting data sent over the blockchain, Merkle trees are used in Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies. Verkle trees, on the other hand, are typically employed for more compact proofs. It is of paramount importance in Ethereum’s scalability enhancements. In this article, I’ll break down the differences between Merkle trees and Verkle trees, elucidating how each type of tree works and outlining the advantages of each.
A definition of Merkle Trees.
Merkle trees are also known as “Hash Trees” for the same reason. The cryptographic hash algorithms are implemented in a binary tree structure. An example of such a data structure is the tree, which is employed in the process of data validation. Each non-leaf node is a hash of its children, which is how the structure works. It is employed so that information remains coherent. The hash functions are used for this function.
When were Merkle Trees first used, and by whom?
Merkle trees, conceived by Ralph Merkle in 1988, allow for the creation of more robust and reliable digital signatures. Using Merkle trees reduces the amount of memory needed for encryption and verification. Merkle trees have many advantages over other data structures, one of the most notable being their small disk space requirements.
Can You Explain Hash Functions?
Merkle trees require familiarity with hashes and their operation before they can be grasped. It is the latter output—the “hash”—that is the focus of the hash function.
The primary application of hash is to discover information that is widely available.
What Does a Merkle Tree Look Like?
In the crypto world, thousands of blocks make up the blockchain, which is responsible for millions of simultaneous transactions. This makes it so that users have to worry about running out of storage space or processing speed. When encrypting data, less is more. Saving the CPU’s processing power and increasing data security go hand in hand with this strategy. What a Merkle Tree is primarily used for.
A Merkle tree is a pair-forming representation of the simultaneous transactions being processed. Then, it stores the results of the hash calculations for each pair in the parent node. After forming pairs for the parent nodes and computing the hash, the process is repeated for the child nodes. The hash value is computed and then saved in the parent node of the tree’s highest level. This procedure is repeated until the tree’s foundation is exposed.
On the Merkle tree, various types of nodes can be found. They are
The term “Merkle Root” can also be used to refer to the base of the Merkle tree. Merkle root information is added and encrypted in the block’s header.
The leaf nodes keep track of the hash values for all of the transactions that have taken place. Each transaction recorded in a blockchain block is hashed. The computed hash value is also known as the transaction ID. In this way, the leaf nodes can rest assured that their values are protected.
Node That Is Not a Leaf
The non-leaf nodes have the hash values of the specific children. Non-leaf nodes are referred to as intermediate nodes because they store the transaction’s intermediate hash values. A hash is calculated for each node in the tree until it reaches the root.
Bitcoin uses the SHA 256 hash function, which is then hashed repeatedly until the Merkle root is found. Due to its binary nature, a Merkle tree must have an even number of leaf nodes in order to properly be constructed. If there are an odd number of leaf nodes, the tree will duplicate the last remaining hash to make sure the resulting Merkle tree has an even number of leaf nodes.
The operation of a Merkle tree.
One can find a cryptographic hash of the data block containing the labeled leaf nodes in the Merkle tree. Further, it includes the data block’s non-leaf node children that have been identified as children.
Each node in the tree creates a digest whose contents are determined by the characteristics of the subtree to which it belongs. In some cases, extra traits are also ascribed to the leaves. The Merkle tree’s leaves perform the computation for the hash of the attributes. The parents, on the other hand, calculate the children’s digest clockwise from left to right.
The actual structure of a Merkle tree is a bottom-up one. Generally speaking, hash values are computed going from lowest to highest. Through examination of the data, it becomes clear that the Merkle tree is built backwards.
Could the Ethereum Blockchain be Compared to a Merkle Tree?
The Ethereum blockchain employs a cryptographically sound Merkle tree data structure called the “Merkle Patricia Trie” to store all the keys and values.
All Merkle trees on the Ethereum network use the Merkle Patricia Tree as their execution layer. Since there is only one global state tree, the state trie automatically refreshes over time. All the information related to the contracts is stored in a tree-like structure called a storage tree. The bindings, like value and key pairs, are kept in a transaction tree that is unique to each block in the blockchain. In this case, each pair has its own individual receipts tree. These trees of receipts are not kept up to date over time.
Merkle trees and their uses
- Merkle trees are helpful in distributed systems because they allow for data to be stored independently. They assist with securing the data in multiple locations.
- The blockchain network and Bitcoin employ Merkle trees.
- Anomaly and inconsistent behavior can be monitored with the help of Merkle trees.
- Similarly, Merkle trees are used to discover any ambiguous situation among the database’s duplicates.
The Role of the Merkle Tree in Blockchain and Its Importance
Merkle trees are used to encrypt and secure data on the blockchain, making them useful in digital currencies like Bitcoin and others. Locating the Merkle tree within the blockchain is the main challenge. The blockchain’s Merkle tree can be broken down into its three basic components, which can then be used to solve this problem. Leaf nodes, merkle roots, and twig nodes are the components in question.
The block explorer can be used to view the transaction IDs (TXIDs) or transaction hashes stored in the leaf nodes. Then, right next to the leaf nodes, you’ll find another layer of nodes that doesn’t contain any leaves and is hashed in tandem with the leaf nodes. Each of the two non-leaf nodes above the two leaf nodes contains the hash of the two leaf nodes.
The non-leaf nodes are continuously hashed together as pairs as the tree narrows toward the top. The number of nodes generated in each layer as a consequence is halved. The two vertices that will combine to form the Merkle root are located at the topmost level of the tree that is not a leaf. After the Merkle tree’s leaf nodes have been validated, the final hash operation takes place at the tree’s root.
It is possible to compare the Merkle root kept in the block’s data with the Merkle root kept in the header. If something illegal or dishonest has taken place, this can help to reveal it. The miners will be able to detect any attempts at manipulation. The Merkle proof combines the values to be proved with the hashing value that must be recovered in order to obtain the Merkle root.
The Merkle trees can also be used with the Simple Payment Verification System (SPV). This approach is practical and straightforward because it enables users to verify and encrypt any transaction without downloading the entire blockchain. Any lightweight node or cryptocurrency wallet will do for processing the transactions.
In other words, what exactly are Verkle Trees?
As an added bonus, Verkle trees can be used to encrypt and organize a large amount of data. One way it does this is by introducing the concept of a “spectator,” who, if asked, can provide evidence of the existence of certain data elements and other blockchain-based data. Because of the necessity of this witness having direct access to the tree’s roots, he or she will be called upon to testify about data products.
Verkle Trees: Who Thought Them Up?
When compared to Merkle Trees, Verkle Trees clearly show their age. In 2018, John Kuszmaul created the first Verkle trees. However, unlike many other cryptographic structures, Verkle trees are still not widely used or even known about by the general public. Verkle trees, like Ethereum’s Merkle Patricia trees, are a type of directed acyclic graph.
The Verkle tree node is distinguished by one of the characteristics listed below.
- A leaf node with both a value and a key is possible.
- Nothing is here.
- It may be a node in the middle of the tree, with the number of its children specified.
Verkle Tree Characteristics
One of the most prominent characteristics of a Verkle tree is its ability to scale efficiently. Less than 150 bytes are needed to construct a Verkle tree proof, despite the fact that the tree itself may contain more than a billion data points. However, the same work could be done with a normal Merkle tree in just 1 kilobyte. A Verkle tree needs to use a proof system known as the “Polynomial Commitments” to define the data. The polynomial functions are essential to this system’s operation.
I’m Trying to Understand the Verkle Tree, How Does It Work?
In essence, there are only two nodes in the Verkle tree.
Node of Expansion
As a result of its design, the extension node can simultaneously represent several values. A total of 256 possible values with the same stem but different suffixes can be stored in the extension node, according to the cited works.
Anatomy of the Central Nervous System:
There are multiple branches that branch off from the inner node as well. Each of its 256 offspring can be either another extension node or a different node.
It takes the hash value of the nodes’ offspring and applies it to the intermediate node to determine its hash value. The higher price compared to Merkle Patricia trees is one of the major drawbacks of Verkle trees. Because of this, there is a notable distinction between the two trees’ framework.
The only real limitation of Verkle tree structure is that producing proofs takes more time if the width is kept very large. This will cause the proofs to get shorter, and this trend will continue as the width grows.
Methods to Use a Verkle Tree
- Verkle trees can reduce the size of the proof, which in turn lowers the required bandwidth.
- Verkle trees have applications in both consensus protocols and public key registries.
- Verkle trees have a use in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
- Information security using Verkle trees is possible. They can be used in encrypted web applications and safe file storage systems for this purpose.
The aforementioned programs currently use Merkle trees, but Verkle trees can be used in all of the aforementioned frameworks as well.
What Role Do Verkle Trees Play in Blockchain Technology?
Verkle trees enable the smaller data sizes for a very large amount of data.
The length of the proof, which is typically algorithmic in size, can have an impact on the quality and efficiency of the underlying communication and networking infrastructure.
The Verkle proof is the evidence of the vast quantities of data.
Everyone with access to the tree’s root can compare and decrypt this information.
The data must be proven by presenting at least one piece of evidence that demonstrates the connections between children and their parents, branching out to the tree’s leaf nodes and eventually returning to its root. Reduced by a factor of six to eight, the Verkle tree proof is significantly smaller than the Merkle tree proof. The size could be reduced by as much as twenty or thirty times when compared to the Ethereum Patricia tree.
Comparison of Merkle and Verkle Trees
When comparing the features and capabilities of Merkle trees and Verkle trees, it is clear that there are significant distinctions. Among the most notable is the distinction between the Merkle proof and the Verkle proof.
The group of sister nodes, which may or may not include Merkle Patricia trees, testifies to the value in a Merkle tree. All of the tree’s leaves and branches need to be included in the proof. The node being proved must share at least one parent with the node being proved. However, in the Verkle tree, the sister nodes are optional. It’s not hard to provide the proof; all that’s needed is a little bit more.
The Merkle tree serves the same purpose and is used in the same way as the Verkle tree. By exchanging the vector commitments usually needed for cryptographic hash functions, the Verkle tree construction method allows for the creation of a Merkle tree. However, the Verkle trees are more effective and easier to use because they take up fewer bytes.
Since the Merkle trees look like regular trees and are simpler to analyze, they can be updated in manageable chunks. However, Verkle trees are more difficult to work with because they include complex polynomial commitments that necessitate changing the entire curve at once. Summing up all the evidence could be a time-consuming process.
The Merkle tree is the basis for the global ease with which money can be sent and received by anyone, anywhere in the world using cryptographic wallets accessible from any computer, smartphone, or other electronic device. This has facilitated business dealings all over the world. However, in the Verkle tree, the vector commitments are interchangeable between the hashes, whereas this is not possible in the Merkle tree. As a result, the effectiveness of the branch’s wider factors is enhanced.
Previously discovered Merkle trees have been put to good use in the crypto world, both for encryption and verification. However, miners have found Verkle trees to be more useful and effective for smaller data sizes.