It's Possible to Increase Bitcoin's Block Size Without a Hard Fork: Blockstream Co-Founder

Mark Friedenbach, a bitcoin developer and co-founder of the popular Blockstream company, has recently revealed a scaling approach he called “forward blocks,” which could essentially help increase BTC’s block size without a hard fork.

Currently, bitcoin can accommodate a small number of transactions per second, and is unable to compete with traditional payment networks such as that of Visa. While some believe the cryptocurrency should scale through a block size increase – which would require a hard fork - others argue this approach will lead to centralization, and prefer other solutions.

A hard fork is essentially a change to the network that isn’t backwards-compatible, meaning all of the cryptocurrency’s users need to upgrade to keep up with the change. A soft fork, on the other hand, can be backwards-compatible.

Friedenbach’s approach, according to a transcript of his presentation at the Scaling Bitcoin workshop, would be able to boost the flagship cryptocurrency’s on-chain transaction capacity through a Proof-of-Work (PoW) alternation achieved through soft forks and “privacy-enhancing alternative ledgers (side chains).”

According to Friedenbach, a former space apps developer at NASA, the forward blocks approach could ultimately help increase the cryptocurrency’s “settlement transactions volume to 3584x current levels,” while improving censorship resistance via sharding.

Here, the developer refers to sharding as a change to the PoW system and a series of developments that would see bitcoin’s blockchain scale. Most cryptocurrency users refer to sharding when mentioning Ethereum’s scaling solution, which would see multiple network computers divide transaction workload between them to scale the blockchain. These two, per Friedenbach, are “largely not” the same.

Speaking to CoinDesk, the former NASA employee noted his approach could help with the scaling debate, as the community often opposes hard forks because of how hard it can be to do them safely. He was quoted as saying:

Forward blocks makes that whole argument pointless. We don't need a hard-fork to scale bitcoin, if and when we decide to do so. It can be accomplished as a soft fork, like SegWit was.

SegWit, as CryptoGlobe covered, was launched one year ago and recently saw its usage go over 50%. During his presentation, he further suggested it could be good to replace bitcoin’s current halving mechanism, which halves block rewards every four years. To him, a more linear approach could be more beneficial to the cryptocurrency, as it wouldn’t suddenly affect the ecosystem.

Notably, Friedenbach reportedly got to his forward blocks approach by starting out thinking about a “development of a dual PoW change where you introduce a new PoW with a soft fork.” While he noted this wasn’t a proposal, it’s a “good place” to start thinking about the solution.

 

A Controversial Solution

While some could look at the former NASA contractor’s approach as revolutionary, CoinDesk reports not everyone is excited about it. Pseudonymous bitcoin developer “Shinobimonkey” was quoted as saying it was a “network attack being called an upgrade.”

Blockstream’s CEO Adam Back noted that “it’s OK,” as discovering mechanisms “can be useful and separate from whether it would be practical technically and in terms of user consensus.” To him, it’s so far just another tool.

Per the news outlet, Friedenbach isn’t advocating to use forward blocks on bitcoin either, but is merely trying to put the option out there. He’s reportedly set to test it on “Freicoin,” an altcoin he created.

Bitcoin Ransomware Attack: Google Disables Baltimore Officials’ Gmail Accounts

The Baltimore City government has been under siege since May 7, as it was hit with a ransomware attack that saw hackers demand $100,000 in bitcoin and officials refuse to pay the ransom. In a new development, Google disabled officials’ Gmail accounts being used as a turnaround.

According to The Baltimore Sun , the Baltimore City government created Gmail accounts to work during the ransomware attack, as the city’s servers have been disrupted to the point their baltimorecity.gov emails aren’t working.

Recently, however, emails sent to several of the newly created Gmail addresses returned messages claiming the “email account that you tried to reach is disabled.” It was found that Google has considered these business accounts that need to be paid, instead of free individual Gmail accounts.

James Bentley, a spokesperson for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, noted Baltimore planned to purchase a business plan from Google so the accounts could be restored. The news outlet quoted him as saying:

They disabled them because they deemed them to be business accounts. Their position is these accounts are circumventing their paid service

City Council President Brandon Scott added that meanwhile his staff was appealing the suspension with Google, although he hadn’t been briefed on the problem. A spokeswoman for Baltimore’s health department claimed she was able to see received old emails, but not send or receive new ones.

Per her words, there as no notice on why the account was disabled. On its website, Google claims it’ll suspend accounts used for sending spam, distribute malware, abuse children, violate copyright, or for other illicit purposes.

As CryptoGlobe covered, Baltimore was hit with a ransomware attack earlier this month that brought its real estate industry to a halt and crippled some of its essential systems. So much so the city’s collection and transfer of property taxes and water bills have been affected.

The hackers attacked the city’s servers with a new type of ransomware known as “Robbinhood,” and are demand a 13 BTC ($102,900) ransom to stop the whole attack. They also gave the city the option to pay 3 BTC ($23,700) to decrypt a specific system.