So where are we today?
The fears of several users that the Bitcoin community would not be able to agree or find solutions before the 1MB limit was reached came to fruition in April 2017, as is shown in the graph below:
As expected, transaction fees reached a peak around $30 per transaction, which undoubtedly weakened Bitcoin’s image as a cheap means of payment.
Below is the evolution of transaction fees. When the limit of 1 MB has been reached, these fees increased exponentially:
This is partly due to the increased adoption of Bitcoin in 2017, which brought many new users, but also many new transactions, which have completed filled up the blocks.
With this fast growing adoption, debates for or against increasing block size intensified in 2016 and 2017.
A compromise was found in May 2017, which consisted of implementing a protocol enhancement called Segregated Witness (or SegWit) via a soft-fork, and at the same time double the capacity of the transaction blocks (2x).
The first part of the deal went as planned. SegWit was put in place to be added to Bitcoin on August 24, 2017. It would not only increase the size of blocks up to 1.8 MB by introducing a notion of transaction weight but also resolve a problem of transaction security and would allow for the implementation of Bitcoin overlay technologies such as the Lightning Network.
Adoption of SegWit in terms of percentage of overall transactions per block since August 2017.
The second part of the plan did not go so well. Since the promoters of the block size increase had already forked the network, creating Bitcoin Cash, there was no consensus on changing the size of the blocks on the original chain. However, the project sponsors expect more support in the future and will likely reintroduce their proposal.
Bitcoin Cash is a clone of Bitcoin, without SegWit, but with 32MB blocks. The project was spearheaded by Roger Ver, a pioneer of the Bitcoin ecosystem and an early adopter.
Roger Ver is a good businessman and really knows how to sell a product. The marketing around Bitcoin Cash is strong, with initiatives like https://acceptbitcoin.cash/ put in place. Roger Ver also owns the bitcoin.com domain name and publicly claims Bitcoin Cash as the real Bitcoin, which can confuse new investors.
In the end, whether it’s the “Big Blockers” or the “Small Blockers,” everyone wants to achieve the same goal: to make Bitcoin mainstream and adoptable by the masses. The goal of Bitcoin Cash, which is simply to replace Bitcoin, has not been achieved as of yet. It is estimated that about 10% of the total mining capacity is concentrated on this new Blockchain. While supporters of an increase in block size have suffered a setback with the cancellation of SegWit2x, this does not mean that it will not be proposed again in the future.