On Monday, bitcoin users were up in arms about their transactions taking a long time to be processed by the network, potentially foreshadowing dark, deeply annoying times for the cryptocurrency.
In the past, network slowdowns were the work of hackers or other malicious actors. But this time, the reason for the frustration appears to be much more unsettling and banal. In the absence of any obvious spam transactions or attackers claiming responsibility, some users complained that the bitcoin network is slowing down simply because people are using it the way it’s meant to be used.
“I think the point is that this is not an attack,” one Reddit user wrote in reply to a poster asking if a “stress test,” another term for a spam attack on the bitcoin network, was behind the slowdown. “This is now normal.”
Transactions are completed once they’ve been verified by other users and uploaded to the central ledger, or blockchain. This happens in batches of transactions, called blocks. The current bitcoin protocol says blocks must be smaller than 1 megabyte, a hard-coded restriction that was recently the topic of heated debate in the bitcoin community. The plodding pace of transactions appears to