Bitcoin Developers Pen Open Letter on Network Scalability

More than 30 bitcoin developers and contributors have signed a letter that discusses how the project aims to achieve consensus for scalability.

AccessTimeIconSep 1, 2015 at 6:35 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 11:51 a.m. UTC
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More than 30 Bitcoin Core developers and contributors have signed an open letter to the bitcoin community about the process of reaching a technical consensus for bitcoin scalability.

Signatories on the list include current Bitcoin Core maintainer Wladimir van der Laan, Blockstream co-founder Pieter Wuille, tree chains developer Peter Todd and litecoin creator Charlie Lee, though former Bitcoin Core maintainer Gavin Andresen and bitcoinJ developer Mike Hearn are notably absent.

The letter follows weeks of heated debate regarding whether the network should be augmented to allow for more transactions to be processed per block. The current version of Bitcoin Core processes blocks approximately every 10 minutes, with a data limit of 1MB.

Andresen and Hearn are separately pursuing an implementation of the bitcoin network called Bitcoin XT. Bitcoin XT would raise the block size limit to 8MB, with this limit increasing over time, and has emerged as an alternative to Bitcoin Core.

Though Bitcoin XT is not referenced in the letter, it begins by claiming bitcoin creator Satoshi's intention was for bitcoin's code to be continually improved through a process of "review and cooperation".

It goes on to say:

"We’re committed to bitcoin and responsive to the needs of the community. For the past five years, we’ve written code and managed over 50 bitcoin releases and reviewed more than 45 formal proposals to improve bitcoin’s performance, security, and scalability. Technical discussions, while heated at times, are always focused on improving bitcoin."

Collaborative approach

The authors sought to make the case that Bitcoin Core has made already significant improvements to address scalability, including improving network efficiency and algorithmic scaling.

Further, the letter sought to frame alternative versions of the bitcoin network as those that deviate from an existing, already successful process that has seen the network grow to hold $3.3bn in value.

"There will be controversy from time to time, but Bitcoin is a security-critical system with billions of dollars of users’ assets that a mistake could compromise," the letter reads, cautioning:

"To mitigate potential existential risks, it behooves us all to take the time to evaluate proposals that have been put forward and agree on the best solutions via the consensus-building process."

Workshops scheduled

Many of bitcoin's devs and contributors will be attending two open workshops, called Scaling Bitcoin. The first is being held in Montreal on 12th-13th September and the second workshop is planned for early December in Hong Kong.

The event mirrors others held by the usually decentralized bitcoin community, including a summit of key bitcoin mining groups held at last year's CoinSummit London. That event, held at the time of broad concern over mining pool centralization, led to a commitment by then-market leader Ghash to commit to reducing its scale.

Overall, the message sought to convey that such an approach to a network solution would represent the community "working together" in a manner that has not been pursued by other solutions.

The letter concludes:

"We believe this is the way forward and reinforces the existing review process that has served the bitcoin development community (and bitcoin in general) well to date."

The full letter can be viewed below.

Additional reporting by Pete Rizzo

Block image via Shutterstock


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