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Bitcoin Network Capacity is Reaching a Critical State: Mike Hearn

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:44 PM
Evander Smart
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:44 PM

bitcoin networkVery few things in this world that we use every day have unlimited growth potential. The Internet, as we now know it, has limits of which we need to be mindful. Your smartphone’s data plan certainly has limitations. The Bitcoin network itself also has limitations, and these limitations may be holding Bitcoin’s development back, so core developers are getting involved in upgrading the capacity through different means.

Mike Hearn talked to Satoshi Nakamoto about this

Back in 2010, Bitcoin Core Developer Mike Hearn  had questions about the limitations of the Bitcoin network and when adjustments should be made. He emailed Satoshi Nakamoto about this upcoming issue, and this was Satoshi’s response:

“A higher limit can be phased in once we have actual use closer to the limit and make sure it’s working OK. Eventually when we have client-only implementations, the block chain size won’t matter much. Until then, while all users still have to download the entire block chain to start, it’s nice if we can keep it down to a reasonable size.”

According to Hearn’s calculations, Bitcoin capacity will run out this year, and this is why he and Gavin Andresen  have begun talking about and working on getting ahead of this issue. Bitcoin usage seems to have fallen into a fairly consistent pattern of stagnation in the Spring and Summer, and growth in the fall and winter, going back to Mt. Gox in 2013. Mike Hearn worked for three out of his eight years at Google doing capacity research within their Geo Team for Google Maps/Earth, so this is not his first rodeo when it comes to network capacity issues.

“Quite simply, we are out of time. There are no credible technical proposals that could gain widespread adoption within the next twelve months, beyond simply raising the capacity on the existing system,” says Mike Hearn.

Also read: Bitcoin Core Developer Commits to 20MB Block Size by March, 2016

Bitcoin Core Developer Gavin Andresen  has seen fit to submit a “pull request” for some time within the next twelve months. This would allow miners to create blocks that are larger than 1MB as a max block size. He believes the exchange rate is more important than the block size, at least until the reward drops to zero. Increasing the bitcoin exchange rate will help make the network more secure over the long run, say ten years from now.

There are many things that make bitcoin more and more valuable, in the long run, primarily adding new people to the network, which is becoming more difficult under the current limitations. Will benefit from a larger maximum block size. An increase in innovation and development of useful bitcoin apps, and improving security for users would also increase bitcoin’s appeal.

What Hearn and Andresen agree upon is that the time is now to act and get ahead of any capacity issues. Hearn believes this is fairly urgent in nature, and should have been done awhile ago. Miners may see another drop in returns, and they’ve had a tough go of it over the past almost eighteen months, but bitcoin needs these tweaks for the incremental growth that will lead to its long-term success.

For all the miners out there, how and when would you look to improve bitcoin network capacity? Share above and comment below.