Dag vs. Blockchains vs. Hashgraphs: A Deep Technical Comparison

Written by
Shivam Srivastava
March 4, 2024
min. read

Let’s take a dive into the world of distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), as understanding the differences between Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAGs), Blockchains, and Hashgraphs is critical for both developers and investors while deciding on the Ledger Technology to use based on design. 

This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive technical comparison of these technologies, delving into their structures, operational mechanisms, and potential applications.

Introduction to Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs)

Before comparing the specific technologies, it's important to understand the overarching concept of DLTs. DLTs are systems that enable the secure recording of transactions across multiple computers in a decentralized manner. This decentralization is key to their resilience against tampering and fraud.

Core Principles of DLTs

  1. Decentralization: Unlike traditional ledgers managed by a central authority, DLTs distribute control across a network of nodes (computers). Each node possesses a copy of the ledger, ensuring no single point of control or failure.
  1. Transparency and Immutability: Transactions on DLTs are transparent and, once recorded, cannot be altered retroactively. This immutability is crucial for trust and security, as it prevents tampering and revisionism.
  1. Consensus Mechanisms: DLTs rely on consensus algorithms to validate transactions and synchronize the ledger across all nodes. Mechanisms like Proof of Work (PoW), Proof of Stake (PoS), and Delegated Byzantine Fault Tolerance (dBFT) are employed to achieve agreement among nodes.

Architectural Elements of DLTs

  1. Nodes: Individual computers that maintain copies of the ledger and participate in the consensus process. Nodes can be either full (storing the entire ledger) or lightweight (storing only essential information).
  1. Ledger: The distributed database where transaction records are stored. The ledger's structure can vary, ranging from a chain of blocks (blockchain) to more complex arrangements like graphs (DAGs) or hash-linked structures (Hashgraphs).
  1. Smart Contracts: Programmable scripts or codes that automatically execute predefined conditions on DLTs. They enable complex functionalities like automated agreements and decentralized applications (DApps).
  1. Cryptography: DLTs heavily rely on cryptographic techniques for securing data and authenticating transactions. Public key infrastructure (PKI) is commonly used, where each user has a pair of cryptographic keys (a public and a private key) to conduct secure transactions.

Operational Mechanisms

  1. Transaction Verification: When a transaction is initiated, it is broadcasted to the network. Nodes then validate the transaction based on predefined rules and the ledger’s history.
  1. Ledger Synchronization: Once a transaction is validated, it is added to the ledger. The updated ledger is then propagated across the network to ensure all nodes have the same, up-to-date version.
  1. Conflict Resolution: In case of discrepancies (e.g., two nodes report different versions of the ledger), consensus mechanisms come into play to agree on one version of the truth. This process ensures consistency and integrity of the ledger.

Types of DLTs

  1. Public DLTs: Open to anyone, where participants can anonymously join and leave the network. Bitcoin and Ethereum are examples of public blockchains, a subset of DLTs.
  1. Private DLTs: Restricted to specific members, often used by organizations for internal processes. They offer greater control and faster transaction speeds but at the cost of decentralization.
  1. Consortium DLTs: Managed by a group of organizations, combining aspects of both public and private DLTs. They strike a balance between control and decentralization.

Understanding Blockchains

Blockchains are the most well-known form of DLTs, with Bitcoin and Ethereum being prime examples.

Structure and Operation

Chain of Blocks:

 A blockchain is essentially a chain of blocks, each containing transaction data.

Consensus Mechanism: 

Blockchains rely on consensus mechanisms like Proof of Work (PoW) or Proof of Stake (PoS) to validate transactions.

Immutability and Security: 

Once data is recorded on a blockchain, it is challenging to alter, providing robust security.

Exploring Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAGs)

DAGs represent a different approach to distributed ledgers, with IOTA being a notable example.

Structure and Operation

Graph-Based Structure: 

Unlike blockchains, DAGs do not organize data in blocks but in a graph structure where various types of transactions directly reference one another.

No Need for Blocks or Miners: 

This structure eliminates the need for blocks and miners, potentially increasing transaction speeds and reducing costs.

Security Concerns: 

The security of DAGs, especially in the face of fewer nodes, can be a concern.

Delving into Hashgraphs

Hashgraph is a relatively new DLT that promises to address some of the limitations of blockchains and DAGs.

Structure and Operation

Gossip about Gossip Protocol: 

Hashgraph uses a novel consensus approach known as the "gossip about gossip" protocol. One good example is from Hedera - This means that a member such as Alice will choose another member at random, such as Bob, and then Alice will tell Bob all of the information she knows so far. Alice then repeats with a different random member. Read more here.

Virtual Voting Mechanism: 

It employs a virtual voting mechanism to achieve consensus without the need for a PoW or PoS system.

High Throughput and Efficiency: 

Hashgraph claims to offer higher throughput and efficiency compared to blockchains.

Patented Technology: 

Unlike the open-source nature of many blockchains and DAGs, Hashgraph is patented, which might limit its adoption and modification.

Comparative Analysis

Scalability and Speed

Blockchains: Limited scalability and slower transaction speeds due to PoW or PoS mechanisms. Though with newer technologies like rollups & zk, blockchains aim & are closer to scale to a level at least where they cover most practical scenarios

DAGs: Offer improved scalability and faster transaction processing by eliminating the need for block creation and miners.

Hashgraphs: Claim to have superior scalability and speed due to the efficient gossip about gossip protocol and virtual voting.

Security and Decentralization

Blockchains: Generally offer high security and decentralization, but this can vary based on the consensus mechanism used.

DAGs: Face challenges in maintaining security, especially with a lower number of nodes, and their degree of decentralization can be variable.

Hashgraphs: Boast strong security features, but the patented nature raises questions about decentralization and openness.

Adoption and Ecosystem

Blockchains: Have a vast and established ecosystem with widespread adoption in various sectors.

DAGs: Gaining traction in specific applications, especially where high throughput and scalability are essential.

Hashgraphs: Limited adoption so far, partly due to the patented nature of the technology.

Potential Applications and Future Outlook


Cryptocurrencies: The most common application, with Bitcoin and Ethereum being the most notable.

Smart Contracts and Decentralized Applications (DApps): Ethereum and similar blockchains enable complex applications.


Microtransactions and IoT: DAGs like IOTA are well-suited for environments requiring quick and numerous transactions, such as IoT.


Enterprise Solutions: Due to their efficiency and throughput, hashgraphs are poised for adoption in enterprise solutions requiring high performance.


In conclusion, while blockchains, DAGs, and hashgraphs each have their unique structures, strengths, and limitations, the choice between them depends on the specific requirements of the use case. Blockchains offer robust security and an established ecosystem, DAGs provide scalability and speed, and hashgraphs bring efficiency and high throughput. The future of DLTs lies in leveraging the best of these technologies, possibly through interoperable solutions that combine their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses.