It’s on! The current lock-in period for Bitcoin miners to signal support for BIP91 segregated witness (SegWit) has begun. Already support is hovering just above the required 80 percent mark, and it looks likely Bitcoin will remain united… for now.
BIP91 forms part of the “SegWit2x” proposal that first introduced SegWit, and then (if another support threshold is reached) automatically triggers a hard fork around November.
BIP91 support must stay at or above 80 percent for a 336-block period to “lock in” and officially become part of the Bitcoin protocol. After another 336 blocks, the network will begin to reject blocks not signaling support for BIP141 — the code that actually activates SegWit. XBT.eu is tracking support levels.
At press time, 54 blocks of the current 336-block period had been mined, and BIP91 support is at 81.9 percent.
BIP141 was introduced in November 2016 but set a much higher threshold to activate. It required 95 percent network support over 2,016 blocks, and was set to expire 12 months later. BIP91 itself is just a way to activate BIP141 with a lower support threshold.
As always, Bitsonline advises bitcoin holders to keep coins in a wallet with local private key storage, and try to avoid transactions around critical points where a fork could occur.
So Does This Mean Bitcoin Gets SegWit?
Probably — but as always in Bitcoin, it’s a little more complicated than that. This is all happening a little earlier than expected, and the SegWit2x code itself won’t be released until 21st July.
Even if the network doesn’t hit 80 percent support in 336 blocks, there are other chances to reach the threshold before the end of July. At this point, this scenario seems most likely to happen.
If for some reason it doesn’t, things get more interesting. The alternate BIP148 proposal, otherwise known as the “user activated soft fork” (UASF) activates on 1st August. If BIP91 is locked in, nothing becomes of it.
But if it doesn’t, the Bitcoin blockchain splits, and miners will have to jump one way or the other. To make things even more interesting, the Bitmain-sponsored “Bitcoin ABC” or “user-activated hard fork” (UAHF) enters the game. This technique is specifically designed to prevent BIP148/UASF.
If that happens, all bets are off and Bitcoin’s fate becomes unpredictable.
Why don’t some people like BIP148/UASF? Because it brings SegWit to Bitcoin with no guarantee to ever increase the block size. And increasing the transaction block size is what the whole years-long scaling debate is all about.
BIP91 Support Means You Can Probably Relax… Until November
In conclusion, it’s looking likely that BIP91 will succeed by the end of July and Bitcoin will complete the first step towards SegWit2x. However the drama is far from over — many say the real fireworks will start in November, when the blockchain potentially hard forks to allow 2MB blocks. This could again result in two separate “Bitcoins” if not everyone plays along.
2MB is double the size of all transaction blocks since Bitcoin began. Many remain vehemently opposed to such an increase, saying the increased storage and bandwidth requirements will push smaller miners off the network and centralize mining in large factory operations. Most of these are in China.
The only guarantee is that Bitcoin at the end of 2017 will look different to the Bitcoin we have now — in one way or another.
Can you predict what will happen between now and November? Let us know.
Images via XBT.eu, Pixabay