Bitcoin Chief Scientist Gavin Andresen Proposes Blockchain HardFork

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Gavin Andresen, Chief Scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, has a plan to raise the maximum block size on the blockchain by 50% per year, proposing it in a blog post on the Foundation Website. This move is an attempt to address worries that the current block size limit of 1 MB will be inadequate for processing an increasing volume of network transactions as the bitcoin economy grows.

The solution that Andresen outlines in his post is the implementation of a “hard fork”. What does this mean? The Bitcoin Wiki explains that a hard fork is “Any alteration to bitcoin which changes the block structure, difficulty rules or increases the set of valid transactions is a hardfork.” A hardfork is a controversial solution because it requires a change to the bitcoin protocol, forcing all users to upgrade and transfer data to a new core client.

With bitcoin adoption on the rise, Andresen has good reason to worry about scalability issues. The bitcoin network, which currently processes an average of 60k transactions every day, could one day see as many as 400 million daily transactions. A hardfork would address potential volume issues before they become urgent.

However, Andresen’s proposed plan has certainly received criticism within the cryptocurrency community. There are a few popular objections to the hardfork solution. One camp of enthusiasts worry that this upgrade would centralize power in the hands of the bitcoin foundation. This is an undesirable outcome for those who prize the cryptocurrency’s decentralized nature. Others believe that there are simply better ways to scale the blockchain, using protocols such as trustless off-chain transactions. Andresen himself has said that he is open to other solutions. He writes,

“There are other ideas for how to make Bitcoin scale, and whenever practical I like to choose “all of the above” for how to solve a problem, because nobody is smart enough to choose The One True Solution every time. So I won’t be surprised or disappointed if development wanders off this roadmap in a different direction.”

The Bitcoin Foundation and the developers who maintain the network have always relied on the cryptocurrency community for input into important decisions. Hopefully, the community will come to a broad consensus about the best strategy to keep the blockchain easy and intuitive as adoption continues.

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