Bitcoin Classic is the latest attempt to increase Bitcoin’s block size limit via a hard fork initiated by miners running an alternative to Bitcoin Core, but it appears that the relatively new software client may already be on its last legs. According to various sources familiar with a meeting in Beijing on March 30, supporters of an increase to the Bitcoin block size limit were unable to convince the Chinese mining community to implement BIP (Bitcoin Improvement Proposal) 109 without support from Bitcoin Core contributors.
Bitcoin Core Supporters Not Invited
It was the intention of some participants to convince the Chinese mining community to adopt BIP 109 without the blessing of Bitcoin Core, which would, with support from 75 percent of the network hashrate, lead to an increase in the block size limit to 2 megabytes via a hard fork. The supporters of an increase in the block size limit also discussed a possible crisis that could ensue if the limit was not raised before the upcoming block reward halving.
Bitfury CIO Alex Petrov and others (who preferred to remain anonymous) have confirmed that anyone perceived to be associated with Bitcoin Core was not invited to the meeting. This includes Bitcoin Core contributors and various supporters of the Bitcoin Core roadmap. For example, Petrov was explicitly told that he was not allowed to enter the venue where the meeting was held until the discussions were over.
This is a similar setup to the meeting that took place in Hong Kong earlier this year between supporters of the Bitcoin Core roadmap and the Chinese mining community, although BTCC COO Samson Mow, who put that meeting together, told Bitcoin Magazine that FinalHash CTO Marshall Long was the only individual who was specifically not wanted at that event. Having said that, Bitcoin Classic supporter Peter Ng did attend the Hong Kong meeting.
Chinese Miners Prefer to Fork with Bitcoin Core
The details of exactly what was said during the meeting are still relatively unknown to outsiders at this point, but sources claim that one end result of the event is clear: Representatives of the Chinese mining community have no intention of deviating from the previous agreement made in Hong Kong as long as Bitcoin Core continues to implement improvements for scaling. Mow, who has spoken with multiple individuals who attended the meeting, told Bitcoin Magazine:
“Basically, [the BIP 109 delegation] came over with an arrogant attitude and tried to dictate who could and could not attend. They were not able to present a convincing argument, and the general vibe is that they’re going nowhere. ‘Train wreck’ would be a suitable term to describe their efforts in Beijing.”
Mow added, “This is based on multiple sources, and my opinion is that it is generally known [among Bitcoin miners and companies in China].”
In addition to Bitcoin industry executives, such as the CEOs of Blockchain and Coinbase, at least one developer attempted to convince miners to increase the block size limit via BIP 109. According to sources, that developer was Gavin Andresen, who authored the improvement proposal.
There are also rumors that miners may have been offered extra money to abandon Bitcoin Core for Bitcoin Classic. According to an anonymous source who was at the meeting, money was discussed, but it was in the context of protecting the network after a hypothetical hard fork had been activated. Bitcoin Core contributor Peter Todd recently claimed these sorts of discussions have happened in the past. Andresen responded to Todd’s statement on Reddit. He commented:
“That is the way Bitcoin consensus works. Majority hashpower wins, unless they try to force through a change that is rejected by majority economic power (exchanges, merchants, users). The block size limit is a change that the economic majority has been SCREAMING FOR for a long time.”
What Happens Next?
Since the vast majority of hashing power would like to honor the previous Hong Kong agreement and stick with Bitcoin Core, it appears that the only hard fork in Bitcoin’s near future is going to come from Bitcoin Core developers. Bitcoin Core contributors have been able to stick to their December roadmap, and new improvements have been released in a timely manner. At this point, a change to another, hard-fork-inducing software client seems unlikely.
For the supporters of larger blocks, the goal is to get an increase in the block size limit before the upcoming halving in an effort to avoid a possible “doomsday scenario.” Whether this goal will be achieved remains unclear.
Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured onVICE Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, RT’s Keiser Reportand many other media outlets. You can follow @kyletorpey on Twitter.