SegWit-based Proposal Garners over 30 Signatures of Bitcoin Core Developers

News and Analysis

The notorious block size debate is about to gain yet another dimension following the release of a “road map” conceptualized by Bitcoin Core developer Gregory Maxwell.

The proposed solution is based on his idea of a “segregated witness”, or SegWit, and essentlially offers separate processing of signatures.

In a few words, the proposal leaves signatures processing to fully validating nodes only, while other nodes will be ignoring them. This would lead to a huge increase in efficiency, as now signatures account for 60% of the Blockchain.

The proposal has already garnered 31 signature, including those of Charlie Lee, Cory Fields, Pieter Wuille, Wladimir J. van der Laan, and, certainly, Gregory Maxwell himself.

The basic problem according to Maxwell is that bitcoin in its current configuration is a fundamental “tradeoff” between scalability and decentralization. That means that either the whole system becomes unstintingly costly, or its efficiency significantly drops. The first outcome results in prosperity of third parties involved, while the second leads to decrease of trust and quantity of transactions.

According to the “roadmap“, testnet for SegWit will become effective as of December 25, while the whole feature is expected to be ready for reviewing by next February, and its deployment is conventionally scheduled in April 2016.

The general concept results in a soft-fork, as opposed to a hard-fork everyone was expecting from possible block size increase. Rearrangement of blocks for separate processing of signatures, according to Maxwell, might push up the network’s capacity and scalability. The concept also supposes gradual increase of the block size, which, however, will reach only 4 MB at max in the end, as opposed to enormous gigabytes inherent in earlier proposals.

Maxwell himself states that the scaling mechanism is independent from bandwidth, which would certainly work in favor of Chinese miners, who have to suffer from government-implied restrictions of bandwidth while collectively providing more than a half of the whole network’s mining power.

Maxwell also said that efficiency and capacity of the system will increase by means of using smart contracts.

“We’ll continue to set the stage for non-bandwidth-increase-based scaling, while building additional tools that would make bandwidth increases safer long term. Further work will prepare Bitcoin for further increases, which will become possible when justified, while also providing the groundwork to make them justifiable,” Maxwell stated.

Notably, Gavin Andressen, who had proposed BIP101 featuring the block size increase to astronomical scale, and Jeff Garzik, who had filed a bit more conservative BIP100 and BIP102, did not sign Maxwell’s proposal.

However, only 31 signatures is nothing as compared to the entire population of the bitcoin space. Further developments will probably show whether there could be a community-scale consensus as to Maxwell’s soft fork.

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