You could say that Bitcoin, the way it is now, wasn’t meant to be used by as many people and process as many transactions as is being asked of it.
The Bitcoin blockchain block size of 1 MB limits transaction speed to 4.4 per second. This makes the average wait time about ten minutes in a world where everything’s meant to be instantaneous.
A solution to this, known as the SegWit2X, was proposed in the infamous New York Agreement. This solution would cause a hard fork in the blockchain, changing the protocol to increase the block size to 2 MB instead of just one. This newly created chain – B2X, would increase transaction speed and further mitigate issues of scalability. However, the process isn’t simple.
A hard fork in Bitcoin would create an alternative in Bitcoin’s blockchain, creating a new chain. An important thing to note is that the fork would, or rather, could, not delete the original blockchain. The B2X would be an exact copy of the original blockchain ledger just with different protocols. While this may sound innocuous, imagine opening up a bank account with a $1,000 deposit. The next day, the bank splits into two separate branches, each with the exact same ledger system. You have access to both new accounts. Both accounts state that you have $1,000, which combined, of course, means you have access to $2,000, except you only deposited $1,000. Yet, you’re still allowed to use the full amounts in each account, despite the clear error. This sort of thing in blockchain is called a replaying attack and it’s something that B2X has no protection against.
Of course, one could argue, then why not just go back to using the original Bitcoin chain, since though it has its faults, it didn’t allow fraud? Well, after the hard fork, 85% of miners stated they would go to mining B2X. This brings the transaction times on the original Bitcoin network down even further, turning a ten-minute wait into sixty-five minutes. While this may not be a big deal if you intend to buy and store Bitcoin in a wallet, it can be cumbersome if you want to use Bitcoin as an actual currency. Long transaction times can significantly hinder the widespread adoption of Bitcoin. It’s primary strength, assured verification between two parties, pales if you’re standing at the register in Starbucks for sixty-five minutes, waiting for the transaction to go through.
The silver lining may be disagreement over a solution among key shareholders, those with the final say over the hard fork. The New York Agreement specified a block size increase but didn’t define the lack of replaying protection. This has led many to pull out of the hard fork deal and wait for something else to come along. However, while miners wait, the Bitcoin blockchain doesn’t. While this unfolds, new attention and more transactions create even more of a drain on the network, hindering scalability even more.