The IOTA project unveiled on Feb. 3 a series of upgrades dubbed Chrysalis, an intermediate stage between now and the removal of the Coordinator. The upgrade introduces several important features, some of which change long-standing IOTA principles.

Chrysalis, or IOTA 1.5, takes its name from the second stage in a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly. It is specifically designed as an intermediate step before the “Coordicide,” a long-planned initiative to remove the Coordinator from the IOTA network. The Coordinator is, in essence, a centralized server managed by IOTA developers that creates checkpoints in its transaction history. This is a necessity due to the unique blockchain-less structure used by the project.

Similar to Ethereum’s Serenity, Coordicide is a long-term initiative that requires ample academic support to be completed. Cointelegraph reached out to IOTA Co-founder Dominik Schiener to find out how Chrysalis fits into these plans. He explained:

“Chrysalis is the intermediate stage before unleashing the full potential of IOTA through Coordicide. Many of the features have been long in discussion and we have finally come to an agreement internally on which strategy we will be taking with the IOTA core protocol. Some of the changes are more radical,but they pose great opportunity for IOTA as they have been consistently requested from our community and corporate partners.”

Features of Chrysalis

The team will integrate a new cryptographic signature scheme called Ed25519, in parallel with the existing WOTS scheme. The new method sacrifices the resistance to quantum computers in the name of practicality, as it allows users to reuse the same address. Transactions will also become much smaller, which consequently increases the Transactions Per Second (TPS) rate of IOTA.

Schiener noted that this is one of the features that was often requested by IOTA’s community and corporate partners.

The team is also planning to make IOTA a platform for issuing tokens. Two key changes make this possible: atomic transactions and the switch to the UTXO model. As Schiener explained:

“UTXO allows for a safer, faster and clearer representation of a ledger. By combining UTXO with Atomic Transactions we will also get rid of bundle constructs, which in turn makes the development of core software much easier (and safer) and significantly increases the performance of IOTA. The biggest advantage of UTXO is an obvious one: colored coins.”

“Colored coins” is a term generally used to describe Bitcoin-based tokens, such as the initial version of Tether.

Though Ethereum is often associated with being the primary token platform, Schiener sees great potential for IOTA-based tokens:

“This opens up an exciting new future of IOTA where tokens such as digital and physical assets, stocks, Central Bank Currencies, etc. can benefit from the IOTA ledger and have a secure environment for their tokens to be transferred.”

The last major Chrysalis change touches fundamental IOTA architecture. Transactions are currently encoded as trytes, a portmanteau of “ternary bytes.” As the name suggests, trytes use base-3 arithmetic instead of the binary structure adopted by virtually all computers.

Schiener explained that this was initially implemented in preparation for the future:

“Over the last few years the entire hardware industry understood that Moore's Law is ending [...] which is why we have to explore new ways of computation and chip architectures. Ternary and Ternary-based hardware is a great attempt at that, that is now already being further explored by other semiconductors.”

Until the world catches on, however, using ternary representations on binary computers is a source of major inefficiency, due to the many conversion steps.

IOTA decided to return to a standard binary representation for Chrysalis, which Schiener motivated as a practical decision:

“We at IOTA have simply come to a tough decision to now instead focus on the next 3 - 5 years which are crucial to the adoption of IOTA as we intend to work more closely with conventional hardware.”

“When the time arises with Ternary / other hardware, we will be able to adapt to it,” he concluded.

Other features are relatively minor, adding some performance and security enhancements. The coordinator itself will also see some improvements before its eventual demise.

Chrysalis roadmap

Schiener emphasized that Chrysalis is not a delay of IOTA’s Coordicide roadmap, as it mostly focuses on improving the transactional performance of the project’s mainnet. “Obviously all of this is with the objective of making IOTA enterprise-ready,” he added.

The current roadmap shows that Chrysalis will be completed by the end of Q3, though Schiener said that late Q2 is also possible.

He also revealed some information on a possible time table for Coordicide:

“Coordicide is well under way, with the first Alphanet of Coordicide having launched yesterday. We are currently working with more than 3 universities on Coordicide and they are assisting us in speeding up the optimization of certain aspects of Coordicide and the validation of all the work itself.”

Though no specific dates are available yet, the launch of the incentivized testnet in the summer will help define a concrete timeline, he added.