Call it bitcoin’s broken record.
First heating up in 2015, a debate about how best to scale the digital currency’s underlying blockchain remains the dominating disagreement. Despite the best efforts of developers to bring what they say is more nuance to the discussion, a single metric remains the biggest sticking point.
One year later, some miners are again calling for measures that would raise the bitcoin block size in an effort to support more transactions and (they say) grow its user base. Likewise, the developers behind Bitcoin Core (its primary software) remain focused on increasing capacity by way of top-level protocols, arguing that developers and academics believe this is the safest way forward for the still-experimental project.
So, what’s different this time around?
For one, a viable scaling solution that boosts the block size, but doesn’t focus on the metric (Segregated Witness or ‘SegWit’) has completed testing and has been released. Further, a new mining pool (ViaBTC) and a prominent bitcoin investor (Roger Ver) are currently running software that supports larger blocks.
The presence of a major miner means the big block movement has some leverage this time in threatening to block SegWit, or perhaps creating its own network through a process known as a ‘fork’.
Chairman of the board at the Factom Foundation, David A Johnston, argued that given these recent events a fork is inevitable. In a series of blog posts, he put forth the idea that both groups now have different goals, and that because of this, they may be better off working on two separate networks.
He told CoinDesk:
“After two-plus years of debate, it seems the few months of time a fork would cost is a small price to pay in order to get development back on track regardless of which side you agree with.”
Is a fork likely?
Not everyone agrees with Johnson’s view. Critics argue that past attempts by miners to bid for a bigger block size have largely failed, and that this one is no different.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen. There is a very-loud-micro-tiny-minority making arguments not based on reality or future resiliency,” said Coinkite CEO and founder Rodolfo Novak.
Novak noted that Bitcoin Unlimited follows similar proposals, including Bitcoin XT and Bitcoin Classic, both of which released code to increase the block size to 8 MB and 2 MB, respectively, up from 1 MB today.
But while these proposals generated discussion at first, neither succeeded at reaching the 75% hashrate support threshold to trigger an upgrade. This time, though, it’s the continued support of miners that has some observers taking this fork attempt seriously.
“If the hashrate continues to climb, and I see no reason why it won’t, it is a real concern,” said Steven McKie, product operations manager at Yours, a bitcoin-based social content platform.
But it’s hard to say with other scaling solutions on the way.
McKie pointed to the fact that recent announcements suggest SegWit and Lightning – scaling methods preferred by Core developers – are moving forward.
“With Lightning-like implementations coming online, it may dull the block size debate enough to keep things going business as usual. [It’s] hard to gauge at the moment until we see next moves,” McKie said.
Article Source: http://www.coindesk.com