Haipo Yang, ViaBTC’s founder and former employee at the Chinese internet giant Tencent, expressed strong criticism in a brief interview with CCN towards Luke-Jr, a Bitcoin Core developer and Blockstream contractor, regarding his proposal to reduce the blocksize to 300kb or, alternatively, for the network to wait another 7 years before an increase of the current 1MB transaction capacity. Yang says:
“If we change the block limit to 300KB now, the bitcoin system will crash. He, as the core developer of Bitcoin, [is] very irresponsible to do this.”
Luke-jr did not respond to our requests for comments in time for publishing.
Yang further stated that Bitcoin Unlimited is winning and despite a recent bug that created a forked bigger than 1MB block, ViaBTC will continue to support BU as “every software has Bug. We have bug too and lost some money.”
Big Block Forked Off the Network
Bitcoin.com created a bigger than 1MB block yesterday which was rejected by the wider network. The unintentional block was due to a bug that “did not take into account the space required for the rest of the coinbase transaction,” according to a public statement by Andrew Stone, Bitcoin Unlimited developer. Yang says that he was the one who found the bug last night and informed Stone of it, but ViaBTC was not affected as they had not upgraded to the new software due to the Chinese New Year Holidays.
The bug, which led to a forking of a block worth around $12,000, has courted criticism with some suggesting that Bitcoin Unlimited undertakes no review nor testing. Andrew Stone only briefly replied to our request for comments to state “we have review and testing of course.”
Andrea Suisani, another Bitcoin Unlimited developer, told CCN that “the test that should check for this didn't catch it because it couldn't jam transactions in fast enough to exceed 1MB.” He further added that they are in the process of preparing a post-mortem document to be shared as soon as possible.
The Battle of Bitcoin Clients
Bitcoin Unlimited has continued to increase in miner adoption while segwit has stalled. ViaBTC, a relatively new pool that mines on Bitcoin Unlimited, has increased its hash-share to 9% of the network. Although it has no hardware of its own, it continues to attract miners because, according to Yang:
“First, we running BU. Second, we distribute all TX fee to miners, profit is more than those so called 0 fee pools. Higher & Stable profit with ViaBTC PPS+ method. Also, we are the most advance Bitcoin mining pool.”
They have recently been joined by another pool which shot to more than 6% of the network’s hashrate, BTC.TOP. We have been unable to reach them, but Yang says they are a mining farm group with a lot of hashrate.
In a previous article, I suggested that miners should fund developers to have some voice in the protocol’s improvement, but Yang says he already funds two developers, Tom Harding and Dagur Valberg who both contribute to Bitcoin Unlimited. He further says that some people have funded the Bitcoin Unlimited team, but he doesn’t know who they are.
I asked Andrew Stone if he can name them, but he hasn’t replied in time for publishing. Suisani states that around half a million dollars worth of bitcoins was anonymously donated last year and that he's "not aware of the source of such a donation." Suisani further adds that he is "doing it on a voluntary base." Another fund of $1.2 million was set up last year to support alternative development.
Bitcoin’s Community Remains Split
In total, there appears to be a number of developers working in alternative clients to Bitcoin Core, but the community remains split. In a CCN poll, which is not scientific, but may be indicative, 29% of 411 CCN readers would like a Hardfork through Bitcoin Unlimited. Meanwhile, 28% would like a softfork through segwit. In total, around 53% would like a maxblocksize increase through a hardfork, with 6% happy to maintain the 1MB while 13% remain undecided.
In a likewise non-scientific poll by Luke-Jr, 64% would be happy with a maxblocksize hardfork this summer, but 10% (129 votes) would “literally never” agree to an increase of the 1MB limit through a hardfork. Some go further and suggest that a hardfork should not happen even to fix a protocol bug. Any agreement beyond majority, therefore, appears impossible.
The proposal by Luke-Jr for the current 1MB transaction capacity to be increased in seven years may suggest that Bitcoin Core would like the 1MB limit to remain, at least for this decade. The real reasons are not clear as Bitcoin Core has reached consensus to softfork an increase to a maximum of 4MB, which has seemingly been rejected by miners due to numerous criticisms, including that it changes bitcoin’s underlying incentives and economics.
It is doubtful, therefore, that the size of blocks themselves are the concern. The hardfork mechanism might be, but if Bitcoin Core supports it, then it is unlikely to have much controversy.
Whether they will, remains to be seen. Currently, it appears that 2017 may well progress without much solution to this question, which would translate to another year wasted on a matter that in many ways finds wide agreement for an increase in transaction capacity to around 4MB.
Featured image from Shutterstock.