HomeNewsVitalik Buterin Reflects on Bitcoin Scalability Issues and Ethereum’s Approach

Vitalik Buterin Reflects on Bitcoin Scalability Issues and Ethereum’s Approach

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  • Buterin explores small and big blockers’ positions on Bitcoin’s scalability and transaction fees, shaping blockchain futures.
  • Discusses the implications of block size decisions on Bitcoin’s utility as “digital cash” versus “digital gold.”

Vitalik Buterin, recently revisited the Bitcoin block size debate that occurred primarily from 2015 to 2017. In a blog post, Buterin drew on two books that explore this debate from opposing viewpoints. Jonathan Bier’s The Blocksize War supports the small-block advocates, while Roger Ver and Steve Patterson’s Hijacking Bitcoin champions the big-block camp.

The small blockers, as described by Bier, prioritized keeping Bitcoin decentralized and user-friendly for individual node operators. They argued that larger blocks would require more advanced hardware, potentially centralizing the network to wealthier participants who could afford such technology. This group favored a governance model based on broad consensus rather than decisions dominated by a few large stakeholders.

In my view, big blockers were right on the central question that blocks needed to be bigger, and that it was best to accomplish this with a clean simple hard fork like Satoshi described, but small blockers committed far fewer embarrassing technical faux pas, and had fewer positions that led to absurd outcomes if you tried to take them to their logical conclusion.

Conversely, the big blockers, as portrayed in Ver and Patterson’s book, advocated for larger blocks to preserve Bitcoin’s functionality as digital cash. They argued that small blocks resulted in higher transaction fees and limited Bitcoin’s practical use for daily transactions. 

The big blockers criticized second-layer solutions like the Lightning Network, which were proposed as alternatives to increasing block size but, according to them, did not scale globally or maintain constant user connectivity.

Buterin shared his own perspective in the blog post, expressing initial support for the big blockers due to the practical implications of high transaction fees. However, he also acknowledged the technical solidity of the small blockers’ arguments.

Buterin noted both groups failed to integrate advanced technologies such as ZK-SNARKs that could have addressed scalability and privacy concerns effectively.

One incredibly glaring omission from both books stood out to me more than anything else: the word “ZK-SNARK” appeared exactly zero times in both books. There is not much excuse for this: even by the mid-2010s, ZK-SNARKs and their potential to revolutionize scalability (and privacy) were well known. Zcash launched in October 2016. The scalability implications of ZK-SNARKs were explored a little bit by Gregory Maxwell in 2013, but they did not seem to get taken into account at all in discussions of Bitcoin’s future roadmap.

In his blog, Buterin highlighted that the block size debate offers valuable lessons for Ethereum and other blockchain networks regarding balancing technological advancements and governance.

He promotes a measured approach to transaction costs and operational demands for network nodes. Buterin also pointed out that embracing new technologies could mitigate political divisions by offering solutions that serve diverse stakeholder interests.

The post reflects on the importance of adaptive governance and technological innovation in blockchain development, aiming to prevent similar conflicts and ensure progressive growth within the sector.

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Isai Alexei
Isai Alexei
As a content creator, Isai Alexei holds a degree in Marketing, providing a solid foundation for the exploration of technology and finance. Isai's journey into the crypto space began during academic years, where the transformative potential of blockchain technology was initially grasped. Intrigued, Isai delved deeper, ultimately making the inaugural cryptocurrency investment in Bitcoin. Witnessing the evolution of the crypto landscape has been both exciting and educational. Ethereum, with its smart contract capabilities, stands out as Isai's favorite, reflecting a genuine enthusiasm for cutting-edge web3 technologies. Business Email: info@ethnews.com Phone: +49 160 92211628