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Crossing Our Desk:
– Over the weekend, a new version of bitoin’s software was released, Bitcoin XT. It’s a line in the sand – a “hard fork” in the parlance – and an attempt to force the bitcoin community into accepting changes to the underlying protocol that purportedly will allow the system to grow. But it’s unleashed a torrent of rancor within the community, which now looks like very much like the proverbial house divided against itself.
The debate revolves around a seemingly small point: whether or not to allow bitcoin’s open ledger, the blockchain, to accept block sizes greater than 1 megabit. The blocks comprise individual bitcoin transactions; the transactions are packaged into blocks, confirmed, and added to the ledger. The ledger is maintained by the decentralized, independent consortium of miners. Today the size limit is being pressed as the system grows. The problem is that changing the limit at this point will alter the economics of bitcoin mining. Any change to the software requires agreement among the miners, and many have been vocal in their opposition.
This debate has been brewing for months, without conclusion. To force a solution, the group in support of larger block sizes, led by Gavin Andresen, released Bitcoin XT on Saturday. It’s virtually identical to bitcoin’s existing protocol, now called Bitcoin Core, with the critical difference being the limit on block