Bitcoin’s Block Size Can Be Increased Without Creating A New Coin

Mark Friedenbach, the co-founder of Blockstream, put forward a proposal to allow for increasing the block size of Bitcoin without a hard fork at the Scaling Bitcoin 2018 conference in Tokyo.

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Mark Friedenbach, the co-founder of Blockstream, put forward a proposal explaining that the Bitcoin network can increase its block size without a hard fork at the Scaling Bitcoin 2018 conference in Tokyo.

Forward Blocks solution for Bitcoin scaling

During the conference, Friedenbach revealed that Forward Blocks are the solution to Bitcoin scaling problems.

Explaining further, Friedenbach explained that the protocol would lead to a major on-chain capacity boost by means of Proof-of-Work (PoW) alternation, carried out as a soft fork in combination with alternative private ledgers.

He stated that most developers working on scaling is stumped on how to execute a hard fork safely, and when the scaling hard fork should be done. Forward Blocks makes that line of thinking totally pointless, he added.

With the help of Forward Blocks, scaling can be achieved via a soft fork, in a similar implementation to SegWit.

Benefits of Forward Blocks

In his presentation, Friedenbach stated that Forward Blocks would provide a lot of scaling benefits, including improvement of censorship resistance through sharding. The direct on-chain scaling could reach 3584X.

The solution would also provide other benefits including a linearized block subsidy and underlying ledger support for future chain enhancements, such as confidential transactions and sidechains.

According to Friedenbach, Forward Blocks can be implemented by separating chains via separate proof-of-work functions, in contrast with a single block chain with each block given multiple work requirements.

Friedenbach noted in the presentation that the forward blockchain improves on-chain scaling by increasing its per-block aggregate weight limit while, at the same time, maintaining a fixed, long duration target inter-block interval.

This allows for the smallest possible impact on centralization risks for both full validators and SPV nodes.

Friedenbach also touched on database sharding:

If we can have one forward blockchain, we could just as easily have 30, and source transactions from them separately such that each shard has its own UTXO set, and transactions are required to source its input from a single shard only. Stuff in one shard is not connected to what happens in other shards. There needs to be a way to transfer between shards, and there are some synchronization requirements, and it’s the same mechanism we used earlier for the Coinbase rules.

Major improvements for on-chain Bitcoin transactions can be achieved via soft fork

Most developers in the Bitcoin community had traditionally thought that some of the biggest changes to Bitcoin could only be made via hard fork.

Friedenbach stated that soft fork alternation is a way to strengthen consensus rules where old nodes still see the chain advance. His research points to a forwards-compatible soft-fork, which would allow non-upgraded nodes to still receive and process all transactions.

He admitted that at the beginning, he wasn’t thinking about Bitcoin scaling. Rather, he was focused on a dual proof-of-work change where a new proof-of-work can be introduced with a soft-fork.

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