If Bitcoin’s max-blocksize doesn’t increase soon, it will die. It will never handle enough transactions to matter. It is doomed. It is a joke. The experiment failed.
People really do believe this.
Needless to say, I disagree with the above sentiment. I disagree for the same reason that I was initially attracted to Bitcoin as an investment: the most compelling aspect of the system is the Incentive Construct, motivating all system participants to fight for the success of the network as a whole. If Bitcoiners, in general, want what’s best for Bitcoin, and at least one person can basically figure out a solid solution and get enough support for their proposal, then problems like “What is the optimal maximum blocksize?” will always be solved in reasonable ways before they represent a genuine systemic threat.
We already have some solid suggestions proposed. Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn have collaborated to create, test, and promote BitcoinXT, which sports a dramatic long-term scheduled blocksize increase as described by BIP101. Peter Wuille has suggested a more conservative solution of 4.4% max-blocksize increase every 97 days. Jeff Garzik’s BIP100 (which already touts over 60% miner support at this time) would implement a floating blocksize in its place.
So why haven’t any of these proposals been implemented already?
Because no real problems have materialized yet, so there’s no rush. We’re taking our time to figure out which solution is the most elegant.
I’ll admit that there are social disturbances, though. There’s plenty of drama on the mailing lists, forums, and most of all reddit, with countless little feuds between Bitcoiners and Buttcoiners mocking one another and getting worked up over whatever flavor drama is making the front page that week. Sure, there’s tons of drama.
But Bitcoin, the actual network? The actual system, chugging along at ~$235 a pop, handling just about 144 blocks and tens/hundreds of millions of dollars of commerce and activity per day, comprising the single largest distributed superprocessor that has ever existed? That’s doing just fine. There’s no problem there; the tech works.
And the world is definitely noticing.
“Oh, but they’re talking about the blockchain technology, though! Can’t you even read?”
Yes, they are talking about blockchain technology. That is the politically correct way to refer to Bitcoin these days, in case you hadn’t noticed.
“They’ll just build their own blockchain! It’ll be so much better than yours!”
We have a term for this. It is called “vaporware”. It means “a computer program that doesn’t actually exist yet (and may never be created), but is being talked about as if it does exist”. It’s derogatory.
Furthermore, in this particular instance, the vaporware being championed actually shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the underlying technology itself. It, very simply, does not make sense. A blockchain isn’t a magical thing. It’s a technical construct designed to achieve reasonably-unthreatenable consensus on a distributed network of mutually nontrusting somewhat-rational agents. This construct is not without costs and drawbacks; to achieve this consensus, many sacrifices must be made. However, it also has benefits, because distributed consensus is a pretty cool thing, and there is a positive feedback loop (tightly related to the network effect) that comes as close to a “guarantee of growth” as anything you’ll ever find. And in this particular case, that growth is poised to revolutionize many disparate industries along the way.
In short, the max blocksize is the problem-that-isn’t-actually-a-real-problem. It is being discussed and debated far in advance of any actual issues regarding network integrity. That’s basically best-case-scenario, and exactly what you should hope for.