Is the bitcoin community really so stubborn and divided that it would rather risk a hard fork than find a block size solution that everyone can live with? Although the blockchain hasn’t technically forked as yet, it looks like it’s only a matter of time, and that a hard fork is inevitable. For anyone actively involved in the bitcoin project, this is a pretty big deal however you look at it, with large amounts of money potentially at stake. Bitcoin Unlimited is the usurper at the centre of this storm, creating a trail of controversy and division in its wake. Is the best we can hope for a repeat of the recent saga over at Ethereum? Really, it depends on you.
Bitcoin Unlimited puts the community in control
Developed at the height of the block size debate, Bitcoin Unlimited (BU) is a very well thought out project with much to offer. Instead of imposing fixed block size limits, BU allows node operators to choose their own limits. This has been made possible by moving the block size limit from the protocol layer to the transport layer, excising bitcoin’s only point of centralised control in the process.
But that’s not all – and here’s where it gets really interesting: The default settings allow node operators to operate on the existing network with no changes to the existing blockchain. The 1Mb block size limit will only be raised if a user decides to create or accept a larger block, which hasn’t happened so far. And the really clever part is that BU allows users to accept blocks larger than their chosen max size provided they reach a certain number of blocks deep in the chain. In other words, you can operate according to your processing power, raising and lowering limits as you wish. The idea is that as the bitcoin project matures, and larger block sizes begin to appear, the community will respond by raising limits across the board to remain competitive. Essentially, it’s a majority-rule blocksize consensus.
The evolution of the Satoshi client?
Those of you who’ve been with bitcoin for some time will remember that the network originally operated with a soft limit of just 250kb. As demand, hardware and capacity increased, this was raised to 500kb, then again to 750kb, and finally to 1MB – where we are today. Considering this, it’s not a huge leap of the imagination to suggest that our friend Satoshi never intended the 1MB block size to be written in stone – he’s publicly said words to that effect.
In spite of bitcoin core purists – fundamentalists if you will – there’s a convincing argument that BU is the natural evolution of the Satoshi client, as opposed to a disruptive force. It operates within the ethical and ideological values of the project, and hands control of the network’s future exactly where it belongs: with its users.
Hard fork, hard times?
And the cracks are already starting to appear. BU has attracted a lot of support in a short space of time, most notably the network’s largest mining pool ViaBTC. Wielding a massive 7% of the total network hashrate, they’re in a strong position to influence other mining pools, a process which has already begun according to several sources. So it’s only a matter of time before a larger-than-1MB block appears, and the blockchain will separate into two irreconcilable versions. Then what?
An acrimonious split could be disastrous for some investors, and millions of dollars of value could potentially be wiped out in the event of such a divorce. Bitcoin has always enjoyed its status as the strongest, most robust and established of the cryptocurrencies, but this could really level the playing field. Will bitcoin retain its crypto crown, or are we about to witness high treason? Hard times and difficult choices are ahead, and the best advice I can offer is to buckle up. If we make it, I’ll see you on the other side.
This article represents the personal opinion of the author and is not a recommendation to buy or sell Bitcoins.