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Character Assassins for Hire: The Story Behind the ASICBoost & Extension Blocks Scandal

By Christine Chiang Apr 24, 2017 7:23 PM EDT

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Bitcoin has a problem; the demand for Bitcoin far outweighs the bandwidth of transaction throughput that the network can sustain. The Bitcoin “highway” is constrained at 1MB per block, or one single analogous lane, which permits a “speed limit” of between 3.3 to 7 transactions per second. For comparison, VISA verifies transactions at a rate of 2000 per second, which makes Bitcoin look like a very congested highway. It is primarily infighting over the best scaling solution while maintaining Bitcoin’s network security mid-flight where the debate is held in political stalemate.

Before April, there had been just two primary proposals under way: Bitcoin Unlimited, which defers to the free market to determine optimal block sizes, and Bitcoin Core’s Segregated Witness (SegWit), an optimization and code cleanup by which block sizes would increase to 1.6MB. Large miners like AntPool/Bitmain are heavily in favor of large blocks, and miners ultimately have the final say over which code of law is enforced.

Because of the different incentives and subsequent power struggle between the miners enforcing the code of law and the developers writing the code of law, the scaling debate has become a battleground that has been littered with the corpses of the reputations of high-profile contenders. As this two-year-long stalemate continues to carry on without a clear path forward, the ecosystem grows bloodier, with both sides, Core and miners, carrying out smear campaigns.

To end the bloodshed, a third scaling proposal was published on 3 April 2017. Extension Blocks is a proposal drafted and submitted for review by Christopher Jeffrey of Purse.io, Joseph Poon of the Lightning Network, Fedor Indutny of PayPal, and Stephen Pair of Bitpay. It was meant to act as a middle ground for the war-torn community, addressing the concerns of both sides. The proposal does not explicitly define


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