What Is The Blockchain Trilemma?

The goal and objective of blockchain efforts are well-known, but their priorities and reputations might vary. Most initiatives focus on three major concepts: decentralization, scalability, and security.

Vitalik Buterin developed the term “Blockchain Trilemma” to describe the challenges developers face in creating a scalable, decentralized, and secure blockchain without compromising any component.

Blockchains are usually forced to make trade-offs in order to attain all three qualities:

Decentralized: This tries to create a blockchain system that is not controlled by a single entity.

Scalability: Scalability refers to the ability of a blockchain system to handle a rising number of transactions.

Secure: The ability of the blockchain system to work as expected and protect itself against attacks, faults, and other unanticipated problems is critical.

While some developers feel that the blockchain data format has inherent limitations that prevent it from growing, many architects believe that a blockchain project may be constructed that achieves all three of the above objectives.

Fundamental Elements of the Blockchain Trilemma


Blockchain is based on the decentralization notion. In conventional finance, the system is entirely centralized. Customers hand up total ownership of their assets, including personal documents, to banks.
Bitcoin and other early cryptocurrencies offered a decentralized network and transparent alternative to centralized banking, allowing money to be issued and stored without the need for a central authority.

Decentralized network solutions are beneficial because they enable anybody to use and develop on the platform without requiring authorization. Decisions are made via consensus, which means that a group of nodes rather than a single node accepts transactions.

After a consensus process has confirmed these transactions, they cannot be modified. As a result, the risk is spread among several businesses.

Pure decentralization, on the other hand, comes at a cost and takes time. The transaction will take longer if more confirmations are necessary before achieving a consensus than if only one participant can confirm the transaction. Bitcoin is known for being highly decentralized and independent of any central authority.



Scalability is the most challenging feature to implement in current blockchain networks. Despite the fact that several initiatives claim to have reached this phase, none can sustain a large user base. A transaction throughput (TPS) of 6,000 may be fine when a few hundred nodes confirm transactions for just 50,000 active users, but what happens when the same network must support millions of users at once?

It’s critical to understand that scalability isn’t a statistic that strives for X TPS for Y users. We have no idea what type of burden blockchains would have to handle if they were widely used. As a result, there is no ultimate aim. It’s more reasonable to conceive of it as a level or degree of efficacy that should always be present.

Consider how many users blockchains such as Bitcoin should be able to accommodate in this internet age! These figures change, and the systems must be able to handle the increased demand. According to reports, the Bitcoin blockchain has 20 million monthly active users as of December 2020.

We feel Bitcoin has hit its limit, especially with such a limited user base compared to Facebook and Twitter, with transaction prices of $25. As a reminder, during the previous bull run, Bitcoin’s network congestion peaked in 2017, charging users up to $60 per transaction.

As a result, scalability is a critical issue that must be addressed right now. If Bitcoin seeks to reach global adoption objectives as it did in 2017, it will be met with fierce opposition, prompting many to doubt if blockchain technology is the future.


Let us now turn our attention to the most critical factor: security. Without it, blockchains would be rendered completely worthless since anybody could disrupt and alter ledgers. This is not the case in the vast majority of blockchain networks, since almost every developer incorporates concepts that prohibit 51% of attacks.

Blockchains are less secure than centralized databases due to the fact that decentralized technology is open-source. As a result, any hacker may examine the code and spend countless hours figuring out what type of weakness he can exploit, among other things.

Exploits, especially in the Bitcoin network, are relatively rare. Because smart contracts are used on other blockchains, they are more susceptible. In 2021, flash loans, a type of collateral-free loan popular in the DeFi business, may have been the easiest way to hack any project.

In some sense, security and scalability are mutually exclusive. Security strives to maintain the network stable and effective at all times, while scalability attempts to grow the system even further.

Can’t the Blockchain Trilemma be solved?

The Blockchain Trilemma is, first and foremost, a paradigm for comprehending the multiple difficulties that blockchain technology confronts. There is no rule stating that the three aspects cannot be mixed. Teams, on the other hand, have tried a variety of approaches to optimize decentralization, scalability, and security.

All additional layers are created on top of the basic layer, which is security. Without it, decentralization might be tainted, and scalability could be short-lived. Security will lay the groundwork for both decentralization and scalability. Decentralization is a protracted process, and scalability should be increased on a regular basis.

The blockchain community has been waiting for established firms to fully adopt blockchain technology for a long time, with scalability being the main roadblock. While scalability may be a consideration, a lack of reliable security is clearly a key source of concern.

It is commonly understood that establishing decentralization, scalability, and security in a blockchain system is difficult, regardless of how the Trilemma is structured. Blockchain technology is still in its infancy, and new approaches to the technology are anticipated to emerge.