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The cryptosphere is growing exponentially as enthusiasts across the world are hard at work on improvements and new technologies. Let’s take a look at a few of these techs, and what they could mean for the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain in 2018.

1. Off-chain channels

A concept that first saw light in 2015, off-blockchain payment channels make it possible to operate without the blockchain itself. Most associate it with Bitcoin’s Lightning Network, but others are also developing similar technologies. Essentially, off-blockchain payment channels permit two people using any one cryptocurrency to send small payments back and forth, connecting to the blockchain — with its oft high fees and slow transaction times — only when absolutely necessary.

The developers behind the Lightning Network report that the technology is almost ready, and implementation is already underway. And Ethereum developers, while they often don’t see eye-to-eye with their Bitcoin peers, are at work on a similar solution, recently unveiling successful tests for their version of the concept, Raiden Network — with a more ambitious version, Plasma, around the corner.

2. Real-live staking

As cryptocurrencies grow, so do mining efforts — and this is requiring an ever-increasing amount of energy. Proof-of-work, the consensus protocol that underlies Bitcoin mining, is certainly an energy-intensive process. As such, there are concerns about its energy use and related environmental effects.

This leads us to a concept called proof-of-stake, or consensus by vote, which is beginning to be implemented by Ethereum developers: The long-awaited Casper is likely to be under significant scrutiny this coming year, as early versions are beginning to see the light already. In a test released on New Year’s Eve, a variation of Casper was deemed to be functional. Karl Floersch, a leading developer behind the technology, told CoinDesk at the time that the code is working with “no hiccups.”

Work remains to adopt this early version of Casper across the different Ethereum clients, but Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin has said he expects that Casper will be tested alongside

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