This is the most basic way I could describe the dynamics of the blocksize debate. Here are the rules….Pick any two sides of the triangle. You can have those two things but they come at the expense of the 3rd.
The Bitcoin Triangle. Pick any 2 sides at the expense of the 3rd.
For example, you can keep scale bitcoin and do so in a relatively short amount of time (increase blocksize) but inso-doing you sacrifice decentralization. Similarly, you can make bitcoin super-decentralized (smaller blocks) quickly as well, but inso-doing you sacrifice scale.
Fortunately, I believe the way things will play out for bitcoin is the best of the three possibilities. I believe we will see a scenario where we focus on scale and decentralization at the acceptable expense of time. I don’t know about you but I’m willing to wait on a sound solution… even if it takes some a couple more months, that’s all.
Recent events and bitcoin volatility appear to have sparked momentum in the blocksize debate. Despite following the proposals and on-going debate I have yet to formally support a proposed path forward. Here I want to lay out a very succinct account of the issues and pose some questions that will help me finalize my decision to support (or not support) Bitcoin Classic. I welcome comments and feedback from anyone in the community to help me gain a better understanding and make an informed decision.
The Fundamentals of the Debate
I understand the foundation of the debate to be based on two fundamental objectives shared by many in the community.
- Scale Bitcoin to Compete as a Global Transaction Network & Clearing Rail
- Maintain Strong Degree of Decentralization of the Bitcoin Blockchain
The irony in the debate is that all parties would likely agree that they want to achieve both of these. The challenge is that in many ways these objectives are at odds with one another, at least in the short term. To scale bitcoin in the near term means increasing the blocksize but increasing the blocksize means weakening the degree to which bitcoin is decentralized. Thus the need for compromise.
Where is the fair ground between scaling bitcoin for short term utility while not losing what makes bitcoin bitcoin in the process? In my humble opinion I believe this point falls where objective #2 (maintaining decentralization) has been prioritized while allowing for objective #1 (scaling bitcoin by increasing blocksize) to be achieved in a way that reasonably maintains decentralization.
Resources Informing my Decision
I’ve laid out my concerns. My stance could be summarized as follows:
Decentralization should be maintained as a priority and scaling bitcoin should be attempted where possible as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the decentralized nature of the protocol itself.
With this understanding I’ve referred to a number of resources to become more informed on the immediate proposals and considerations. Here are some of the resources for your reference:
- Charles Hoskinson’s recent blog post has a section at the end called “My Proposal to Solve the Debate”. I respect his opinions based on his past & current contributions to Bitcoin and Ethereum. In it he shares a number of potential solutions (both technical and political) as well as a number of foreseeable innovations worth taking into account. This post does a good job of painting the big picture for bitcoin in the long run.
- In the latest episode of the Lets Talk Bitcoin! podcast Andreas Antonopoulos spends the final minutes discussing the greater implications of Segregated Witness (Dr. Peter Wuille’s proposal that could reduce blockchain bloat by 75%). Beyond it’s immediate implications for bitcoin blocksize and transaction capacity Andreas describes a number of other benefits that may have even greater implications for scaling Bitcoin over time.
- Overall growing momentum and support of Gavin Andressen’s Bitcoin Classic proposal.
While my greater understanding of the issues is based on a host of other information from the past 3 years these are the primary sources I’m considering at the moment.
My Own Conclusions
Based on this I’ve come to the following conclusions:
- Decentralization must be maintained and protected as a priority — aggressive blocksize increases are not worth the risk but minor ones may be acceptable.
- The benefits of Segregated Witness as a soft-fork are significant and this should be considered for immediate testing & implementation.
- Bitcoin Classic is gaining momentum, is supported by leaders in the space, is proposed by one of Bitcoin’s most trusted core developers. It’s 2 MB blocksize increase appears modest and does not immediately threaten decentralization to any significant degree.
Essentially, if Bitcoin Classic maintains the tenants described above (prioritizes decentralization and allows for scaling at modest levels when appropriate) and allows for Segregated Witness I am inclined to support it and see bitcoin move on to it’s next great challenges.
Questions to the Community
What am I getting wrong here? Have at it!