It's been brought to my attention that Hydra will offer all the scaling necessary but will it also make the blockchain faster?
Is it likely Cardano will ever reach an under 10 second time which could be useful in some areas like gaming.
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The short answer is: no.
The longer answer is, Hydra is a layer-2 solution which means that by definition, it operates on top of the existing network and does not require, nor implies, changes to that base layer. It means that any improvements to the settlement time of transaction in the layer 1 won't come from Hydra.
Having said that, Hydra allows you to create parallel networks with smaller sets of participants. So it could be leveraged by a decentralized game to move all their traffic onto that parallel network, only to settle at the end of each day for instance. In that sense, they would be offloading traffic from the layer 1 to the layer 2.
As much as I understand, Hydra is the name of the sharding solution of Cardano. I see it as a form of parallel computation: it can handle separately some unrelated computations/transactions. Parallel computation improves the computation/time rate, but it does so without decreasing the amount of time taken by any elementary operation: ten people wash more dishes in one hour than one, but washing one individual dish still takes as much time with 10 people as with one person. It is probably the same for Hydra, so I guess the answer is no.
Hydra's state channels (layer-two solution) use the scripting language of the underlying blockchain. State channels allow off-chain parallel Tx and smart contracts processing. It is quite obvious that more Hydra's heads can be opened for improving the throughput and latency of the ledger. I am 100% sure that in the future in Cardano we can go below the 10-sec processing barrier.
Yes, Hydra will reduce tx times. When it's live, you'll be able to have payments that live in a hydra state channel, there you can receive Lovelaces as tips and have it happen instantly while paying low or no fees, that depends on the owner of the channel.
It does this by housing most small tx into hydra channels that will settle with the base layer at a later time.
All Plutus smart contracts will work automatically in hydra channels so no changes have to be made to any contracts existing today.