Bitcoin is in danger of being split in two by a dispute by two of the highest profile developers of the digital currency.
For the past several months, developers and bitcoin users have debated the merits of increasing the “block size.”
A block is a record of recent transactions, and currently has a 1MB limit; increasing it would allow more transactions on the network at once, helping it to scale up to meet growing demand. But it would also make it more difficult for ordinary users to host full network “nodes” that validate new transactions on the network, potentially making the digital currency more centralised as a result.
Because bitcoin is open source (meaning the full code is available for anyone to alter) and decentralised, no one can unilaterally push an update on other users without widespread consensus — consensus that has so far been lacking.
The dispute could make Bitcoin users be forced to decide between “Bitcoin Core” and Bitcoin XT, raising the prospect of a “fork,” where the digital currency divides into two competing versions.
Right now, Core and XT are compatible, and both exist on the same blockchain, the public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions shared across the network. Bitcoin is still running as one digital currency. However, if XT is adopted by 75% of users by January 2016, it will upgrade to a larger block size. This will be incompatible with Core — meaning that if the other 25% don’t then choose to convert, it will effectively split the currency into two.
The possibility of this would create uncertainty in the Bitcoin user community along with online gaming operators current usage of the currency. Ever since the appearance of Bitcoin there has been a split in those that support the digital currency and those that believe there are huge dangers from it. The next few months will decide the fate of Bitcoin and whether it will survive a split.