The split of the bitcoin blockchain has begun.
Earlier today a subset of bitcoin's miners began operating a different software in order to create a competing cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Cash. The move would effectively find a minority of users forging ahead with their own blockchain, one that shares a transaction history with bitcoin.
As previously reported, Bitcoin Cash – which raises the size of the network's transaction blocks while doing away with other capacity upgrades – is being advanced as an alternative to existing scaling efforts. Some of those who backed prior efforts aimed at raising the block size have since moved to support Bitcoin Cash.
Yet the split is far from complete.
The divergence started at approximately 12:37 p.m. UTC, according to data from BTCForkMonitor.info, when the network reached block 478,558. It's here that Bitcoin Cash needs to process a block that is greater than 1 megabyte (MB) in size in order to seal the split.
Thus far, that hasn't happened, and some observers believe that it could take hours or more for that block to be created. In the meantime, the original bitcoin chain has continued, reaching block 478,570 as of press time.
Also possible is that, should no new blocks be found, Bitcoin Cash could be abandoned. So far, a major mining pool for the currency has attracted more than 1 petahash of mining power.
Bitcoin markets, which rose to a high of $2,925.03 during today's trading according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI), are currently trading at around $2,732, representing a decline of about 4.9 percent.
Traders had been preparing for the looming split, though in most cases, the prospect of receiving what is an effectively a doubling of coins – brought about as a result of the two networks sharing a transaction history as well as an identical key structure – was mostly seen as a benefit.
Futures for Bitcoin Cash (BCC or BCH), which have been listed by the mining pool and project proponent ViaBTC, are currently trading for roughly $384, according to CoinMarketCap.com
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