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The Bitcoin World (BSV) woke up on March 8 with exciting news. The nChain BSV Node team announced that it had successfully maintained an average block size of 128 MB on 144 blocks over a 24-hour period. We discussed the details with Steve Shadders, Director of Solutions and Engineering at nChain.

We started by talking about what this meant for both nChain and the BSV network. Shadders says:

"What this means and what convinced the SV team, without a shadow of a doubt, is that raising the block limits beyond what current software can handle will not tip the sky and will offer a real advantage. We have come to improve the software so that it can manage it for two reasons: 1. we are actually trying to exceed the old limits when performance changes are made and 2. This imposes a certain degree of healthy pressure on us to keep our eyes on the target, which is the ability to scale up. "

Now that we know that Bitcoin SV is able to manage these large blocks, what can we expect to see from companies and applications?

"Just having the capacity available now and giving application developers the assurance that we have a roadmap to ensure that the capacity will always be there will make a big difference for businesses and developers in this space. The good ideas that were previously put aside because they needed capacity are dusted off. The new possibilities of an evolving Bitcoin are also beginning to permeate the collective consciousness of Bitcoin application development communities and we are witnessing an explosion of creativity. 

"Not all ideas resist, but even those that are not used to fuel new ideas. In a world where your idea is simply something that you may one day be able to do in the future if a group of computer scientists agree to change a limit, there is not much motivation to get up from bed and build it now. This is no longer the case and ideas can only become reality days or weeks after the first spark of creativity. ”

Let's talk more about how this was done. Did the team do this with the new node software, from the existing version of BSV 0.1.1.1?

"The Scaling Test Network (STN) is a combination of the latest stable version software (v0.1.1) and various development versions with various new performance features. This allows us to test the impact of some of these features in a relatively controlled way. In addition to checking for interoperability issues with the stable version.

"The Bitcoin network is a living entity with many complex interactions governing its behaviour. It is therefore important to have a little diversity of software versions in order to be able to reproduce these interactions."

Do you think that the success of the test is based on these "laboratory conditions"? Do you think this will happen on the network?

"There is certainly an element of laboratory conditions since we use the TNC to conduct research on scaling up behaviours related to the bitcoin network. Sometimes we test a very specific problem and we will see different side effects due to the choice of the mechanism used to load the network. 

"I therefore think it is reasonable to expect that the main network will always lag behind the STN network by a few months in terms of scalability. Which is as it should be. The STN is intended for research and advanced code. The main network aims for stability. The TNC is also a tool to improve this stability. Not just by looking for new ways to cross the boundaries. But by providing an environment to test what are the safe limits for the main network. ”

How long before we can see this result in a real world test?

It is difficult to gauge accurately. But what matters most to Mainnet is that its supply capacity remains at least an order of magnitude in relation to demand. We therefore have the ability to manage peak demand in the short term without affecting the user, as we often see on BTC (Bitcoin Core). We are currently seeing steady and steady growth due to the size of the transactions and steady but slower growth due to the volume of transactions. At the moment, we have a very large margin of safety. And while I expect to see the rate of growth in Mainnet's growth, we are improving software capacity at a rate fast enough to stay well ahead of the curve.

When do you think we could see the block size increase to 512 MB?

When we talk about 512 MB block size limits, we need to establish what the increase in this limit unlocks. There are two types of block sizes that interest us. Intermittent peaks and sustained flow. Intermittent peaks may be expected rarely but can be 10 or even 50 times the size of the supported block size. We already have 128 MB on the STN for both peaks and maintained for 36 hours. And since we had a 108 MB block on the network with an earlier version of the software that did not benefit from some performance improvements, it is not an exaggeration to think that the network can reach 128 MB at this time. Even if 128 MB of supported space is not yet available, the size of the block should not limit larger peaks. 

I therefore believe that the TNC limit should be increased to at least 512MB for the time being. And that the Bitcoin SV ecosystem must start planning a minor protocol upgrade in the coming months to increase the maximum block size on the main network.

Author Romain
Published Mar 13, 2019
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