Bitcoin Block Size: Getting Fatter, But Decrease Chatter Growing

Bitcoin Block Size: Getting Fatter, But Decrease Chatter Growing

The average daily size of a Bitcoin block temporarily hit 1.3MB, a new high. Yet with full nodes dwindling and the Lightning Network’s advance, some argue it’s time for a block size decrease. Skeptics of a decrease say there’s no urgency to move just yet. Others say: what’s the matter with a big fat block? For now, the debate’s on. 

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Bitcoin Blocks Growing in Wake of Segwit Activation

Via the Segwit upgrade activated on Bitcoin in the fall of 2017, developers effectively raised the blockchain’s block size to around 2MB. Now, more than one year later, Bitcoin’s average daily block size has reached 1.3MB — a new high water mark for the chain.

The average daily Bitcoin block size reached 1.3MB on Feb. 12th. Image via BTC.com

That average daily size is now 300kb above the temporary 1MB limit that Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto first discreetly set in 2010.

And more than 40 percent of bitcoin transactions are now Segwit-spending payments, so a continued climb toward a 2MB average daily average looks to be in order.

Unless, that is, the Bitcoin block size is intentionally decreased. And the specter of that possibility is growing as chatter in the cryptoverse has increased anew around Bitcoin Core developer Luke Dash Jr.’s 2017 proposal to reduce the block size to 300kb — more than four times less than the 1.3MB daily average that was hit this week.

How Low Can We Go?

Talk of 300kb has arisen again after Dash Jr. put the feelers out this month regarding temporarily lowering the Bitcoin block size to that mark via soft fork later in 2019.

Dash Jr., arguing everyday users need to be able to easily run full nodes after the Bitcoin node count has dropped markedly in recent months, has suggested it’s time to reconsider a decrease to 300kb so that consumer devices are able to readily download the blockchain.

“We need to reduce the block size just to have a realistic hope of it remaining feasible and becoming practical again,” the developer said recently.

Some, like Bitrefill CCO John Carvalho, have argued Dash Jr.’s position is a worthwhile one to consider, while others, like Lightning Labs Infrastructure Lead Alex Bosworth and Nic Carter of Castle Island Ventures, have suggested a dynamic block size could be an avenue to explore amid a change.

In any case, Dash Jr. has set off a new round of conversation in the cryptocurrency space, as another wave of Bitcoin block size debating has come into the fore again.

Skeptics Say Not So Fast

Those who are skeptical of a block size decrease either say 1) there’s no reason to act just yet, 2) the space saved would be marginal in the mid-term, and 3) it would be too contentious of a change right now.

Regarding the first point, the Lightning Network took major strides in 2018, but Bitcoin’s proposed scaling solution is still fledgling and thus far from being ready for mainstream throughput.

As for the second argument, skeptics contend the amount of on-chain space saved for the foreseeable future would be small and ask whether the drop in Bitcoin full nodes is from declining interest and a lack of requisite technical skills.

Thirdly, the Bitcoin block size debate reached a fever pitch in the fall of 2017 upon the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) split, and few in the cryptocurrency space are eager for such hostilities again if hostilities aren’t necessary.

And of course there are the big blockers, typified by Roger Ver, who argue that on-chain scaling is the best way forward for handling blockchain throughput. Naturally, they think going for smaller blocks is an utterly wrong way of approaching scaling.

There are critics who will highlight incentives, too. It’s second-layer scaling solutions like Lightning Network and Blockstream’s Liquid that stand to experience major boons if a block size decrease is enacted. Some stand to directly gain from smaller blocks accordingly.

Whatever happens going forward, there’s set to be no shortage of intrigue — for better or for worse.

What’s your take? Should the Bitcoin block size stay the same, increase, or decrease? Let us know in the comments section below. 


Images via BTC.com, Pixabay

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