The Bitcoin fork: A good problem to have

February 15, 2016 //By Jérôme Rousselot
The Bitcoin fork: A good problem to have
Bitcoin use is growing so fast that some people have started worrying about the limits of the current version of the digital currency. While several solutions have been proposed to help Bitcoin handle more transactions, difficulty in coming to a consensus on the best approach threatens to divide the Bitcoin network in two.

Despite all odds, and challenging 20 years of failures in various electronic cash schemes before it, Bitcoin succeeded probably way beyond the intentions of its original inventor, who wisely chose to remain anonymous and is known to us only as Satoshi Nakamoto.

In the past seven years, the value of a Bitcoin climbed from less than a US Dollar to $380 at the time of writing these lines. In 2015, over 12 months, six million users became 20 million. The network is used every day to move more than $100 million between bitcoin addresses, with a spike in November at almost $350 millions. These numbers are staggering.

The number of users and the usage of the network is growing so fast that some people have started seriously worrying about the limits of the current version of Bitcoin. Indeed, the current version can "only" handle seven transactions per second, or 25,200 transactions per hour. This is now a hot topic in the Bitcoin industry, generally discussed under the term "Scaling Bitcoin."

Well, continuously reaching this level of transactions would be a fantastic achievement for the technology, and we still have some time ahead of us. That is the first good news. The second good news is that the technology degrades gracefully as it is, and at peak time, transactions would just take a bit longer to process.

The third good news is that users with important transactions can increase the fee they choose to pay if their transaction is time critical, to get ahead of other ones. Current transaction fees are around five cents. Thus the network can definitely keep operating for a long time and solve real user demand to move money around, without any change.

Bitcoin is, however, a constantly evolving technology. Like your iPhone updating its version, the companies running so-called Bitcoin nodes or performing Bitcoin mining regularly update their software version. Most new versions are adopted without


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