Bitcoin scaling can be achieved without need for hard fork

October 08, 2018
Chris Wheal

Mark Friedenbach, the bitcoin protocol developer, announced over the weekend a solution to the problem of scaling the bitcoin network without the need for a hard fork.

Friedenbach suggests method of scaling Bitcoin network without prompting a hard forkSpeaking at the Scaling Bitcoin workshop in Tokyo, Friedenbach introduced his paper “Forward Blocks” that claims to achieve massive increases in on-chain settlement capacity without forcing a major change in protocol.

He said that simply removing or replacing block-size and other aggregate limits would preserve the transaction graph, but at the cost of a hard-fork cut-off event and the “centralising pressure that comes with any scheduled hard fork event”.

Forward blocks concept

The concept of “forward blocks”, he proposed, is a method of increasing settlement transaction volumes to 3,584-times current levels by means of alternating proof-of-work (PoW) algorithms producing only a soft fork.

“Suppose that you want to transition from an old PoW to a new PoW,” Friedenbach said. “You need both sets of miners to commit to where they want their reward for their block to go to, and you transition in proportion from the old to the new.”

He added: “If you do this slowly enough then the effect this has on mining income is comparable to just natural variance.”


The problem of bitcoin scalability has been a major topic of discussion in the digital asset sector as the blockchain network of the most-popular cryptocurrency by trading volumes falls behind in the search for use cases due to the issue of scaling – increasing transaction speeds and volumes and reducing fees.

Friedenbach’s solution emphasises the role of sharding – which breaks down the network into smaller units that can each handle data input across multiple servers, creating a faster, more manageable network.

In the following Q&A session, Friedenbach said: “In my shards, transactions only source inputs from one shard. Each shard is a separate consensus system. There’s a mechanism for moving value between shards.”

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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