Wu Jihan still remembers the exhilaration he felt after learning about bitcoin in 2011.
A self-described computer geek fresh out of China’s top university, Wu soaked up everything he could about the digital currency’s mysterious founder and its users’ ambitions to transform the global financial system. Within a year, he quit his job at a private equity firm to launch a bitcoin startup. Today, his company is one of the world’s biggest players in bitcoin mining, a computing process that makes transactions with the cryptocurrency possible.
Yet for Wu, and the rest of bitcoin’s online community, feelings of exhilaration have been replaced by apprehension over what could be the biggest hurdle to the cryptocurrency’s growth since its emergence in 2009. Because of a pre-programmed cap on the amount of data bitcoin’s network is allowed to process, the current system for verifying payments needs to boost its maximum capacity, or transaction times will balloon and undermine bitcoin’s 4,475 percent advance over the past five years.
In theory, there’s a simple fix: With some coding tweaks, transactions could continue apace. But the problem is that any change