Updated on 9/10/2015 at 12:59 EST: The bitcoin network has begun to show signs of stress as CoinWallet conducts its promised “major stress test” with a twist. Instead of generating all the transactions itself, the UK-based exchange released the private keys to hundreds of addresses containing small amounts of bitcoin. Thousands of transactions have flooded the network as users seek to send the bitcoin held by these addresses to their own wallets. CoinWallet has indicated that it intends to give away $48,000 in free bitcoin using this method. At the time of writing, there were over 70,000 unconfirmed transactions waiting to be processed by the network. Bitcoin Magazine will keep you updated as the effects of this “stress test” become clear.
Updated on 9/2/2015 at 11:43 EST: As of September 2, transaction rates indicate that the stress test by CoinWallet has likely begun. At time of writing, over 23,000 transactions were waiting to be confirmed by the network. Bitcoin Magazine will continue to monitor the network status and provide updates.
CoinWallet, the U.K.-based Bitcoin mining and wallet business has said it will be running another “stress test” in early September to test the Bitcoin network, according to International Business Times.
The company told the international journal that this round of “test” or “spam” attacks “will likely render most standard wallet software worthless and create nearly a 30-day backlog” in the system.
Bitcoin Magazine reached out to CoinWallet to learn more about the company’s plans but received no response by time of publication.
Stress Test will hammer the Bitcoin network
Much like its previous stress test in early July of this year, CoinWallet’s so-called “dust attack” will flood the network with thousands of small, spam-like bitcoin transactions that are large in data but small in value.
A backlog of thousands of transactions with almost no value (such as 0.0001 bitcoin) waiting to be confirmed can potentially tie up the network for hours.
Making it clear which side of the ongoing blocksize debate it’s on, CoinWallet said that it needs to demonstrate that the current Bitcoin blocksize is inadequate and does not meet the demands of a growing bitcoin market.
Bitcoin companies take steps to prepare
As reported previously, exchanges and wallet companies are developing strategies including BitGo’s “surge pricing” to deal with these nuisance attacks and may even at some level appreciate that testing may show the strength of the network.
Mycelium Community Manager Dmitry Murashchik told Bitcoin Magazine:
“Mycelium was hit pretty hard by the last stress test, but we have implemented changes to deal with it. On our back-end we moved to a faster database and linked our nodes so they communicate transactions directly to each other to stay in sync.
“We changed our wallet to automatically connect to another node if the current one fails, added the option to rebroadcast unconfirmed transactions in case some nodes didn’t hear them, and added dynamic fees calculated based on how clogged up the network is to make sure your transaction still gets included in the next block,” Murashchik added.
Alena Vranova, CEO of SatoshiLabs, says that they are fully prepared for the tests and are also gearing up for an increased blocksize noting, “Some companies attempt to cast fear, uncertainty or doubt on their competitor’s products. Let’s wait for the stress test in practice to judge its impact.”
Vranova sees this exercise as just as much about a political statement as about testing the network:
“We strongly feel that the bitcoin community deserves a free and fair debate on the subject: there should be zero censorship around BIP 101 discussions in any forum, including online discussion boards such as BitcoinTalk, /r/Bitcoin, or anywhere else. We stand against any sort of information censorship. A genuinely open approach, with full public access to all available information, is the best way for Bitcoin to proceed.”
QuadrigaCX CEO Gerald Cotten is not really bothered by the upcoming test.
“We use BitGo for our hot wallet, a third-party multi-signature wallet solution,” he told Bitcoin Magazine. One of the ways that we handle this type of thing is that we use a dynamic fee structure which changes based on the network load. Usually, the fee we pay on outgoing transaction is about $0.03. However, when ‘spam attacks’ are taking place we often increase it automatically to as much as $1 per transaction. Basically, we pay whatever is needed to ensure that the transaction will be confirmed within the next few blocks.”
Mycelium’s Murashchik is taking a positive view of all this saying:
“[A]lthough the first stress test was painful, it has shown us whatever weaknesses we may have had, which we have since patched, and we are looking forward to the next stress test to see how well those things we implemented will work. We believe we’re ready for it.”
BitPay also released an updated version of their Copay wallet that includes dynamic transaction fees to ensure that transactions are confirmed quickly, even during transaction backlogs. “Now Copay users can count on their wallet to scale fee levels based on the bitcoin network load, ensuring their transactions aren’t delayed,” the company said in a statement.
Jessie Willms is a planet earth based former government and political researcher and communications officer helping to document the FinTech revolution and its impact on traditional institutions and governments. You can follow Jessie on Twitter at @WILLMS_.