Mining Pools Force Consensus on Bitcoin Scaling

Mining pools collectively holding at least 70% of the whole bitcoin network’s hash power sided with two large bitcoin exchanges in a so-called “call for consensus”. The call in question was compiled following the roundtable where the attendees agreed not to support Bitcoin Classic or any other hard-fork they call “contentious”.

This move may propel the severity of block size debate to yet unseen degrees of harshness.

The call for consensus incorporates five items the roundtable attendees have agreed upon:

“1. We see the need for a modest block size increase in order to move the Bitcoin project forward, but we would like to do it with minimal risk, taking the safest and most balanced route possible. SegWit is almost ready and we support its deployment as a step in scaling.
2. We think any contentious hard-fork contains additional risks and potentially may result in two incompatible blockchain versions, if improperly implemented. To avoid potential losses for all bitcoin users, we need to minimize the risks. It is our firm belief that a contentious hard-fork right now would be extremely detrimental to the bitcoin ecosystem.
3. In the next 3 weeks, we need the Bitcoin Core developers to work with us and clarify the roadmap with respect to a future hard-fork which includes an increase of the block size. Currently we are in discussions to determine the next best steps. We are as a matter of principle against unduly rushed or controversial hard-forks irrespective of the team proposing and we will not run such code on production systems nor mine any block from that hard-fork. We urge everyone to act rationally and hold off on making any decision to run a contentious hard-fork (Classic/XT or any other).
4. We must ensure that future changes to code relating to consensus rules are done in a safe and balanced way. We also believe that hard-forks should only be activated if they have widespread consensus and long enough deployment timelines. The deployment of hard-forks without widespread consensus is dangerous and has the potential to cause trust and monetary losses.
5. We strongly encourage all bitcoin contributors to come together and resolve their differences to collaborate on the scaling roadmap. Divisions in the bitcoin community can only be mended if the developers and contributors can take the first step and cooperate with each other.”

The letter has signatures of top management representatives for Bitfinex, BitFury, BIT-X Exchange, BTCC, F2Pool, Genesis Mining, GHash.io, CEX.io, and Litecoin among others.

The first version of Bitcoin Classic fork, which implies twofold increase of block size, from current 1 MB to 2 MB, was released February 10. The initial code of Bitcoin Classic 0.11.2 was posted on Github by Bitcoin developer, Gavin Andresen, on February 9. The version is numbered 0.11.2, however, this only means it’s compatible with Bitcoin Core version 0.11.2.

Meanwhile, Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, announced that the company implements Bitcoin Classic and urged the company’s customers to follow their lead:

According to coin.dance, the share of Bitcoin Classic nodes has significantly increased, and now comprises 13.67% of all nodes running on the network.

Concerning the consensus in the community, Jeff Garzik, a prominent Bitcoin developer (including Bitcoin Classic), wrote:

“Pick a date for the 2M hard fork and communicate that date widely, testnet it, etc. — give users plenty of time to understand the implications and evaluate it on their own terms. 28 days seems to be the consensus for an “if we must” hard fork. In the context of a production upgrade cycle at a financial shop, 28 days is more like an emergency update than planned update. 3–6 months is a minimum in that context.

SegWit cannot be an artificial pre-requisite, blocking other upgrades. Avoid logic trap of “SegWit must come first, now rush to upgrade up-layer”
Organize an IETF-like working group, in public, with transparency, inclusive of all geographies.
We all need to work together towards shared goals of improving bitcoin.”

The community thus is probably approaching the point of bifurcation, which will resolve either in the long-awaited consensus, or end of bitcoin.