Big Miners Back Bitcoin Classic As Scaling Debate Evolves

(@pete_rizzo_) | Published on January 23, 2016 at 05:17 BST
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TNABC

Following a months-long debate on how best to scale the bitcoin network to accommodate a greater number of transactions, bitcoin mining firms are voicing their support for a newly introduced proposal called Bitcoin Classic.

Though a new entrant to the debate, Bitcoin Classic so far has the support of bitcoin developers including former Bitcoin Core maintainer Gavin Andresen, Bloq CEO Jeff Garzik and Ledger Journal editor Peter Rizun, among others. If adopted, Bitcoin Classic would increase the size of blocks on the bitcoin blockchain to 2MB, up from 1MB today.

The proposal has created controversy in the industry for running counter to the recommendations of the Bitcoin Core developers, the network's main development team, which has introduced a road map that advocates for a change that would not directly increase block size, but boost transaction capacity four-fold.

However, bitcoin mining firms believe that the solution to the scaling debate must come in the form of a direct increase to the network's block size limit, and that Bitcoin Classic offers a more immediate solution to the perception problem that bitcoin as a whole is not doing enough to accommodate new users.

To date, miners including BitFury, Bitmain and Genesis Mining are among seven groups that the Bitcoin Classic initiative has said have pledged support to the project.

At The North American Bitcoin Conference (TNABC) this week, all three groups were vocal in their enthusiasm, putting forth the argument that Bitcoin Classic is the fastest way to achieve a solution that moves the open-source project forward.

Speaking on a panel session, BitFury CIO Alex Petrov explained:

"Right now, the Bitcoin Core team is slowly introducing a solution, and it’s a really complicated solution, and it's been a half a year and they are still in tests. Bitcoin Classic is a fast answer."

Elsewhere on the panel, FinalHash CTO Marshall Long, Genesis Mining CEO Marco Streng and Bitmain's Yoshi Gato spoke positively about the proposal, while underscoring that they believe the industry is in need of a solution that prioritizes speed.

"The transition with Bitcoin Classic can happen in a few weeks," Gato said.

Despite the consensus among the day's panelists, however, some Chinese miners have suggested that their support for Bitcoin Classic may be wavering, with major mining firms in China putting forth an uncertain stance on which proposal they favor.

Notably, developers like Andresen have voiced support for both proposals, suggesting others may be willing to align with whichever concept gains traction in the market, thus helping the network scale.

'Straightforward' solution

In his statements, Long perhaps best spoke to Bitcoin Classic's merits, calling the proposal the "most direct" from a technology standpoint.

The panelists indicated their belief that the Bitcoin Classic proposal only intends to increase increase the block size, and that additional changes will not be included as part of the proposal despite confusion it would also aim to change bitcoin's mining algorythm

"We’re supporting Bitcoin Classic because we feel it solves the current problem," Streng told the audience. "Bitcoin Classic is a proposal for increasing the block size without changing the rest."

Still, some in the community are worried about the message such an action would send to the Bitcoin Core team and its developers.

For example, Blockstream CEO Austin Hill, whose company funds the work of many of Core's more notable developers, has argued that Bitcoin Classic sends a message that the efforts and reasoned recommendations of developers are under-appreciated.

Dangerous upgrade

But while straightforward in its rule changes, Bitcoin Classic differs from the road map put forward by Bitcoin Core in that it would require a hard fork of the bitcoin blockchain, meaning that it would enact a change that makes the latest edition of the software incompatible with older versions.

"Core is saying, well the miners might do it, the service providers might do it, but not the merchants or other entities. That’s their argument, saying we have to be sure that everyone wants it," Streng continued.

Gato noted that there is a potential danger that a certain segment of the community will continue running Bitcoin Core, thus creating a situation where there are two versions of the bitcoin blockchain, each with transaction histories that couldn't be reconciled.

"I think the perception of Bitcoin Classic is that because it’s a hard fork change, the existing system will branch into two separate blockchains," he said.

Petrov also argued that, despite the risk, time was of the essence in dealing with the problem given that blocks on the bitcoin blockchain are becoming increasingly full.

Calling it a "question of survival" for the project, Petrov added:

"If the Bitcoin Core team doesn’t deliver [a solution] in time, we should force the process and that’s why we’re supporting classic. It’s not the best way, it’s painful, but we should do it."

Overcoming obstacles

Still, Long voiced his opinion that the bitcoin community needs to come together to solve the human challenge involved in a hard fork given that, as more businesses and consumers seek to use the blockchain, it's likely future increases will be needed.

The opinion is similar to one originally voiced by Garzik at Scaling Bitcoin Hong Kong, at which the community's developers considered a number of solutions and theories on how blockchains can and could be designed.

"One benefit that I think everyone agrees on is that if we do [a hard fork] gracefully, it proves that we can actually do something that form the outside is hard, not from a technological level, but a communication level," Long said.

Petrov acknowledged that "a lot" of work would need to be done to increase the community's awareness about the change, but that this was preferable to waiting on a solution.

Petrov concluded:

"It will be not easy to implement, but we can do it one month. This is why we are supporting Bitcoin Classic."

Unity image via Shutterstock

Bitcoin ProtocolBitFuryBitmainBlock SizeMiningTNABC

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