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.

Browser Extentions Are Trying to Steal Your Bitcoin, Says Casa CEO

Will Heasman

Casa CEO, Jeremy Welch has expressed concerns about, malicious browser extensions, noting that some may pose a risk to users' bitcoin holdings. 

Addressing a crowded conference room during this weekend's Baltic Honeybadger meeting in Riga, Welch urged proper due diligence when it came to bitcoin and browser security. 

Browser extensions impose major risks, and these risks haven’t been discussed until this point... Make sure you don’t expose your bitcoin addresses anywhere.

Somewhat unbeknownst to any casual peruser of the internet, dangers lurk around pretty much any URL. Browser extensions are perhaps the most insidious element, containing trackers to monitor user information and gather data. While these may not necessarily be menacing in themselves, they can provide scammers with a great resource to expose users to further threat. 

Speaking further on the matter, Welch elaborated on several examples, including a seemingly harmless extension that provides wallpapers depicting motivational quotes. In reality, this outwardly innocuous add-on is actually malware stealing KYC data as you fill in online compliance forms. Such threats can appropriate identification such as passports via code which is later portrayed as a graphic depiction.  

You got a nice background here, and you don’t realize that your browser is actually dumping data

Moreover, Welch explained how some extensions allow the diversion of funds, altering a receiving address and channeling it to the hacker's own.

Even if wallpaper apps aren't your thing, you may be surprised to learn that Welch highlighted more mainstream iterations, such as editing app, Grammarly, as well as the Joule extension for lightning transactions.  

The issues remain that there is no real way to know which browsers are dependable and which are not. As Welch notes, something as simple as a software update could prove to destabilize the security of a browser extension and provide access for bad actors. 

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