There are often concerns regarding miners generating empty blocks on a cryptocurrency network. While those blocks may seem useless to novice onlookers, they certainly contain some data crucial to the network.
Empty Blocks in a Nutshell
When someone spots an empty block on the blockchain, it usually contains no transaction data. While such empty blocks can occur on any network, bitcoin’s get the most attention.
For a network with rather limited scaling opportunities, mining blocks without transaction data seems wasteful.
Most people do not realize these blocks aren’t empty at all. There is always some digital breadcrumbs of data to be found. This data usually pertains to the coin generation transaction.
Other than that, these blocks are generated in the same manner as blocks containing other transactional data.
This also means these empty blocks aren’t useless at all. Its included coinbase transaction is crucial to the network. Without it, the miner – or pool – finding the block would not be eligible for a block reward.
Moreover, the block contains block headers and all other fields not related to bitcoin network transactions.
Empty blocks generated on the network add more “work” to the existing chain. More work equals to a higher degree of network security.
Combined with their block subsidy being added to the supply, an empty block serves a certain purpose.
Why are they Created?
Several instances can result in generating an empty block. If no one would send a transaction during the 10-minute window to generate the block, the network still needs to move along.
As such, these empty blocks will show up every now and then, without anyone doing it on purpose.
Even if transactions are pending on the network, an empty block can be generated. It simply means that the outstanding transfers are not picked up by miners. Until this happens, the transaction is unconfirmed and not finalized.
Some enthusiasts speculate empty blocks are generated on purpose. This has never been proven, yet it is a possibility.
An empty block only requires 1 merkle-tree calculation. With normal blocks, this process has to be repeated multiple times.
It is unclear if this can be “gamed” in an advantageous way for miners. Until proven impossible, all options need to be kept on the table.