In May, Bitcoin Magazine reported that lead Bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen is persuaded that the best solution to the limited Bitcoin transactions rate – the Bitcoin network can currently process only a few transactions per second — is to increase the maximum block size.
Andresen argued that if the proposed solution is not urgently implemented the Bitcoin network will become oversaturated, and developed code for a proposed Bitcoin hard fork that would allow any block with a timestamp on or after March 1, 2016 to be up to 20 megabytes.
However, not everyone agrees that Andresen’s proposal is the best path forward. The MIT Technology Review published a review, titled “Leaderless Bitcoin Struggles to Make Its Most Crucial Decision,” of the pros and cons of the proposed hard fork.
Recently several of the larger mining pools, amounting to around 60 percent of the total mining capacity, have agreed to a compromise: The maximum block size would be increased to 8 megabytes instead of 20. NewsBTC reported that, even though the 8 megabyte block size is smaller than the initially 20 megabyte block size proposed, Andresen is happy about the proposal and there seems to be a consensus.
Now BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen has weighed in on the debate. In a Medium post titled “Bitcoin’s Ironic Crisis,” Cohen criticizes the proposals to increase the block size and warns, in very blunt terms, that Bitcoin is heading toward an unexpected crisis “of being undermined by a developer who’s gone rogue, using his political influence to convince vendors that an upcoming minor problem will be a major crisis, getting them to accept his own extraordinarily bad pet solution to that problem, and as a result hurtling the whole ecosystem towards potential disaster.”
The rogue developer is, according to Cohen, Gavin Andresen.“Gavin didn’t invent Bitcoin,” says Cohen. ”He isn’t even a Bitcoin developer anymore. He resigned his position as lead developer a year ago, and has been largely inactive since. Using a voting process, or even a system of rough consensus among core developers would cause his proposal to be quickly rejected. It’s only the exertion of outside political force which has forced it to be taken seriously.”
The political influence that Cohen is denouncing could be the MIT Digital Currency Initiative, which Andresen and other Bitcoin developers joined as soon as it was launched and is positioning itself as a de-facto governance body for Bitcoin technical development.
Cohen thinks that proposed extensions to Bitcoin should go through a sort of voting process where miners indicate that they’re willing to accept them. Concerning the specific case of the block size limit, he thinks there are no problems, let alone urgent problems, that must be solved. The only thing that would happen when the block size limit – which is a limit on the bitcoin transactions rate – is reached is that the transaction fees would go up.
That, according to Cohen, is not a bad thing. On the contrary, he thinks that high transaction fees would be the first clear evidence of Bitcoin providing real value instead of just being a vehicle for speculation, and it would also lead to miners directly earning more money.
Cohen’s article will certainly put even more steam in the Bitcoin block size debate. Cohen may have been too blunt in his criticism of Anderson, but the opinion of the creator of BitTorrent, the first building block of the developing P2P Internet and a Bitcoin precursor, certainly deserves full consideration.
Giulio Prisco is a writer specialized in science, technology and business. He is persuaded that Bitcoin and its underlying technology are about to bring disruptive positive changes to finance, business, and society.