The number of unconfirmed Bitcoin transactions leapt to over 100,000 overnight, as the pool of those waiting to be processed swelled to one of its largest-ever sizes. Though today was a high-volume day for BTC trading, it highlighted how the network struggles under stressful conditions.
Who’s Waiting for a Transaction Confirmation Right Now?
Days of frenetic trading saw BTC drop from over $7,700 USD to $6,705 (at press time). It appears much of that value has gone to Bitcoin Cash (BCH/BCC) as disgruntled users appeared to abandon Bitcoin in the wake of the aborted “S2X” hard fork that attempted to increase block sizes.
Over that same period Bitcoin Cash rocketed from around $630 to over $1,000 (it’s currently around $985). Suspecting a large-scale “flippening” of value from BTC to BCH, many users hurriedly sent their bitcoins to exchanges or quick trading platforms like ShapeShift, straining the network.
According to live data on Blockchain.info, there’s currently (at press time) over 102,200 unconfirmed transactions, and over 100MB of transaction data in Bitcoin’s “mempool“. That’s the repository of transactions broadcast to the network and waiting for confirmation. When you send a BTC transaction and it says “unconfirmed”, the mempool’s where it is.
Blockchain’s chart says the mempool has only grown to such proportions a few times before, namely May-June 2017, and September 2017.
In this situation mining software usually picks transactions that paid the highest fees. Jochen Hoenicke’s mempool and fee charts show all this more colorfully, also detailing that fees are rising and how miners will scoop only the highest-fee transactions from the queue.
If you want to send an urgent BTC transaction now, you’re looking at bank-tier fees to ensure it goes through in a timely manner. It could be over $50, even in the hundreds of dollars depending on what you’re sending.
According to Blockchair, average transaction fees are around $5 for Bitcoin, but only 3 cents for Bitcoin Cash. BTC fees dropped in the wake of SegWit activation, but have since risen back to alarming levels.
#Bitcoin vs. #BitcoinCash median fees chart.
Bitcoin just hit its ATH of $5, while Bitcoin Cash users enjoy stable and predictable fees under 3¢ 📊
Follow us for more analytics! pic.twitter.com/XlNtyYFz0Q
— Blockchair (@Blockchair) November 10, 2017
Bitcoin Scaling Capacity at the Heart of Dispute
Bitcoin’s scaling capacity lies at the heart of its largest disputes. Running for years, the scaling argument came to a head in 2017 with the hard fork that created Bitcoin Cash, a soft fork to activate segregated witness (SegWit) transactions, and the “SegWit2x” compromise plan.
The end result of all that was a slightly-increased capacity thanks to SegWit and a new “block weight” method for calculating block sizes. However to once again process everyday purchases and microtransactions, Bitcoin will now rely on as-yet-unreleased payment layers like Lightning Network.
Bitcoin Cash developers and proponents opted for a more straightforward solution — it increased the maximum transaction block size from 1MB to 8MB, with a view to making them even bigger in the future.
The new network demonstrated its utility just two weeks after its birth, clearing a 37,814 transaction backlog in one big 8MB block.
While Bitcoin Cash’s solution appears logical, opponents say it’s inelegant and will increase the blockchain (and bandwidth) to such sizes that only large-scale factory operations will be able to mine it.
What are your views on how Bitcoin should scale? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Blockchair, Johoe, Pixabay