The Bitcoin block size debate heated up on Monday as Antpool officially entered the fray. The largest mining pool is now signaling for Bitcoin Unlimited (BU).
A Whale Enters the Water
Antpool controls the largest percentage of Bitcoin’s mining hashrate, currently at 15.28 percent of the total mining power. Despite previously refraining from signaling for any Bitcoin client, the pool began mining its first BU-signaling block, number 456039, on Monday. At press time, five BU-signaling blocks have been mined by Antpool in total, representing a third of the total number of blocks mined by the pool during that time.
These blocks can be tracked on several different websites such as Coin Dance which shows BU achieving a new high, at 22.8 percent of the total network hashrate. Meanwhile, competing client Segwit is signaling at 25.7 percent, down a couple of percentage points from the previous day. BU’s overall block count is creeping very close to overtaking Segwit once again.
How Signaling Works
In order for Bitcoin miners to make their choice between upgrading to Bitcoin Unlimited, Segwit, or any other version of Bitcoin, they must edit their mining software to make a small mark on the blocks that they mine. This small flag is called a ‘versionbit’ and its only purpose is to reveal to the world their choice of software client. Only Bitcoin miners can make these ‘votes’ and only when they have successfully mined a block.
When enough blocks are mined and signaled with the same versionbit, the new client software can be safely upgraded by those miners with little fear of the network splitting into two different Bitcoins. However, if the miners attempt to upgrade to a new, incompatible version of Bitcoin before enough miners are signaling the same version, Bitcoin could split into two or more different Bitcoins, like Ethereum’s blockchain split last summer. Such a move could destroy investor confidence in Bitcoin, a fate that most people want to avoid.
Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu, whose company runs Antpool, has not specifically revealed the reason why he has started signaling for BU. However, many people in the Bitcoin community have speculated that the move may be in response to recent calls for a “User Activated Soft Fork” (UASF) which would theoretically transfer the power of signaling for the next version of Bitcoin away from Bitcoin miners into the hands of node operators instead.
Wu disapproved of the concept and tweeted his response shortly after the idea was suggested. “UASF will split the blockchain and create 2 or 3 kinds of Bitcoin if majority miners vote “no”. Exchanges should be careful”, Wu tweeted.
What do you think of Antpool signaling for BU? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Antpool, Coin.dance, and Nodecounter
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