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.

Kraken CEO on the Potential for Bitcoin's Price to Reach $1 Trillion

Siamak Masnavi

Recently, crypto-focused investment firm Pantera Capital held a conference call (about Bitcoin's third halving), during which Jesse Powell, Co-Founder and CEO of crypto exchange Kraken, talked about Bitcoin.

Regarding the long term potential for the Bitcoin price, Powell said::

"Most people have heard about Bitcoin, but they don’t own any Bitcoin. They don’t know what the future of Bitcoin is. I think if everyone knew about Bitcoin and the potential of Bitcoin and how great it was, the price would be like a trillion dollars a Bitcoin. We would all just be switched over to Bitcoin and not be using anything else…"

"I think that there’s a lot that’s not priced in, even though it’s predictable, like what the future is." 

"Ten years down the road, the US dollar is going to continue to be printed like crazy. It’s going to be totally worthless. No one is going to want it. Everyone is going to want Bitcoin. But that’s not priced in because of perceived risks or perceived uncertainty about the future, about regulation, about how does the government respond in different situations as Bitcoin continues to develop, or how useful does it actually become.”

As for the medium term future, Powell expects the Bitcoin price to reach $100,000 within the next two years:

“I believe that we’re in a completely unprecedented time in terms of the global political and economic systems. I believe that this is going to continue to drive a pretty massive shift into digital currency. I think the next couple of years we’ll likely see 1 BTC exceed $100,000…

"Just anecdotally, in the last two months, we’ve seen a huge surge in new accounts, from institutions. I think, again, I mentioned it earlier, something that’s preventing more institutions from getting in is just the uncertainty around the regulatory situation.

"I think many are in a wait and see mode, many maybe trying to have their mandates changed to allow them to invest in these asset classes. But I do think it’s coming. I think that more LPs are going to demand that their GPs invest in crypto. I think it’s going to come from the bottom up. The returns are just so hard to ignore. It seems irresponsible not to have crypto be a piece of your portfolio.”

Powell believes the only thing holding Bitcoin back in the short term is that the current high level of uncertainly in the world is pushing many people towards what they know best, which is cash:

“In a time like this, with so much uncertainty, I think people are looking to what they know, which is cash. I’ve got to pay my rent in cash. I’ve got to buy my food and my toilet paper with cash.

"They’re not looking to hold a volatile asset, however a good investment it might be in the long term. People are thinking very short-term right now. I think that’s one thing working against Bitcoin.”