The crypto space doesn’t just include one type of transaction: in fact, there are various types of transactions referred to as off-chain and on-chain.
Off-chain transactions are those that occur on a digital currency network but transfer value outside of the blockchain. Due to their zero/low cost, off-chain transactions are particularly popular among large participants. Off-chain transactions include the transfer of value or data, including transactions that occur outside of a specific blockchain network. These types of transactions can be contrasted with on-chain transactions.
Understanding off-chain transactions
Off-chain transactions refer to exchanges that do not occur on the blockchain network. These transactions are performed instantly, speeding up the transaction process and reducing latency compared to on-chain transactions, which are registered on the blockchain and require network confirmation before completion.
These transactions are later integrated into the main blockchain network. Off-chain transactions can be confirmed through an agreement between two parties. Participants can also agree to use a third party as a guarantor to verify the legitimacy of the transaction (layer 2 solutions like Lightning Network).
One of the main advantages of off-chain transactions is that they improve network scalability, increase transaction speed, and reduce network load.
Off-chain transactions can be better understood when compared to on-chain transactions. An on-chain transaction, also known as a transaction or on-chain, occurs when the blockchain is amended to reflect the transaction in the ledger and is considered valid. This involves verifying and identifying the transaction by a sufficient number of participants, registering transaction details in the appropriate block, and disseminating the necessary information to the entire blockchain network, making it irreversible.
This type of transaction is only reversible after the agreement of the majority of the network’s hashing power. Essentially, each step related to a transaction within the blockchain occurs in a block and the blockchain status is modified to reflect the occurrence and validity of the transaction.
In contrast, an off-chain transaction takes value outside of the blockchain. It can be executed using several methods. There may be a transfer contract between the parties to the transaction. The use of a third party such as a guarantor who guarantees the completion of the transaction. Today’s payment processors like PayPal work on these lines.
A participant buys coupons for encryption tokens and gives the code to another party who can redeem them. Depending on the coupon provider, redemption can be in a digital currency or in different currencies.
In the simplest way, two parties can even exchange their private keys, which include a fixed amount of cryptocurrency coins. In this way, the coins never leave the address/wallet, but a new owner receives the currency off-chain.
How do off-chain transactions work?
As we mentioned, Off-Chain transactions are not recorded in the main ledger, which is provided by a specific blockchain network. This has several consequences that are considered advantages for Off-Chain transaction users:
There is no cost or delay: Since there is no need to validate each transaction, there is no need for validation or miners, and there is no congestion in the blockchain.
They are even more anonymous than chain transactions. This may seem paradoxical, but supporters emphasize that some of the trader’s identity elements can be identified if they study transaction patterns and extract data from public data. When using Off-Chain transactions, individuals can maintain complete privacy.
On-Chain Transactions vs. Off-Chain Transactions
Unlike Off-chain transactions, on-chain transactions are performed on the main blockchain network and recorded in the public ledger of the blockchain network. Since all blockchain transactions must be verified by network participants through the consensus mechanism, it may slow down the network speed. The large volume of transactions may increase the network load and consume a considerable amount of computational energy.
It is said that blockchain transactions benefit from higher security in the network. Since there is no need for verification in Off-chain transactions, no transaction fees are involved.
Advantages of Off-chain transactions
- Off-chain transactions do not occur on the blockchain network and do not require validation.
- These transactions are executed instantly and have less delay time.
- Off-chain transactions provide more anonymity to users because transactions are executed outside the network.
- Layer 2 solutions are used on the main network to improve transaction speed and efficiency. They can be executed immediately. On the other hand, chain transactions can have a significant delay depending on the network load and the number of transactions waiting to be confirmed.
Off-chain transactions usually have no transaction fees because nothing happens on the blockchain. Since no miner or participant needs to confirm the transaction, there is no fee, which makes it an attractive option, especially if large amounts are involved. Chain transactions can sometimes be costly, leading to Bitcoin dust problems due to high transaction fees. This situation makes small amounts of Bitcoin untradeable.
Off-chain transactions provide more security and anonymity for participants because details are not publicly broadcasted. With chain transactions, to some extent, a participant’s identity can be determined by studying transaction patterns.
Problems with off-chain data
Off-chain transactions have some advantages compared to blockchain transactions: as mentioned, no fees and no delay are among the main benefits of this type of operation. However, they also have weaknesses. In fact, even when off-chain transactions rely on third-party intermediaries to ensure transactions, dispute resolution is much more difficult. When a dispute arises, there is no evidence of specific transactions recorded in a non-erasable ledger. This means that there is no tool to examine it publicly, as in blockchain transactions.
This is the main issue with off-chain transactions: this system is not transparent and lacks one of the main features of blockchain-based encryption technology (lack of trust). Like traditional financial systems, if a guarantor is necessary, you still rely on a system that requires fundamental trust, which is the same problem that the crypto space wanted to solve from the beginning.
That’s why anyone who wants to learn more about off-chain stakes should know that this type of service is provided by centralized platforms that require internal programs to allow you to receive rewards for assets transferred to off-chain accounts. In this regard, the procedure is very similar to what happens with central institutions that manage financial accounts.
Just as a reminder of Satoshi Nakamoto’s famous words, traditional financial systems still suffer from the inherent weaknesses of trust-based models. “The Bitcoin White Paper referred to all the disadvantages of a trust-based economic and financial system and provided a replacement for the people.”