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Vitalik Buterin on Bitcoin Blocks



Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has recently criticized those opposing an increase in Bitcoin’s block size. He bases his arguments on two books that examine the “Bitcoin block size war” from contrasting viewpoints.

Jonathan Bier’s The Blocksize War supports small blocks, whereas Roger Ver and Steve Patterson’s Hijacking Bitcoin advocates for larger blocks. Buterin, who has been involved in these debates, leverages these narratives to assess Bitcoin’s technological direction.

Why Does Bitcoin Block Size Matter?

The debate centers around Bitcoin’s role – should it be a decentralized “digital gold” or an accessible “digital cash”? As Bier explains, small blockers argue for maintaining a small block size to prevent centralization and manipulation by powerful entities. Additionally, they believe significant changes should occur rarely and only with widespread agreement.

Conversely, big blockers contend that Satoshi intended Bitcoin as digital cash. Hence, they emphasize the need for larger blocks to lower transaction fees and improve accessibility.

They argue that expanding the block size is crucial to accommodate an increasing user base. This would reduce reliance on Layer 2 solutions that could centralize the network.

The Bitcoin block size refers to the maximum amount of data that can be included in a single block on the Bitcoin blockchain. The current Bitcoin block size is 1 megabyte. This size restriction affects the number of transactions that each block can process, impacting the overall transaction speed and network scalability.

Read more: Simplifying the Bitcoin Whitepaper: A Comprehensive Guide

Buterin sides with the big blockers, highlighting the practical limits of the Lightning Network and other Layer 2 protocols promoted by small blockers. He also reminisces about Bitcoin’s original promise of low fees and high scalability — a vision he believes overly cautious governance has compromised.

Critically, Buterin faults small blockers for not defining a clear consensus mechanism for significant changes, preferring to maintain a status quo that aligns with their conservative development views. This approach, he suggests, has curbed Bitcoin’s evolution and limited its functionality.

“I found myself agreeing with Ver more often on big-picture questions, but with Bier more often on individual details. 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,” Buterin said.

He also points out that both sides failed to integrate advanced technologies that could solve scalability and security issues. For instance, ZK-SNARKs technology, which enables confidential and efficient transaction processing, was conspicuously absent from the discussions in both books.

Read more: Who Is Vitalik Buterin? An In-Depth Look at Ethereum’s Co-Founder

Reflecting on the block-size wars, Buterin acknowledges the technical and political intricacies involved. Finally, he recommends both books to anyone seeking to understand the deep-rooted disputes influencing Bitcoin’s trajectory.

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