Bitcoin Core’s scaling solution Segregated Witness (Segwit) will likely support 1.7 MB bitcoin blocks when activated, testnet experiments have revealed.
According to Smartbit, a bitcoin testnet data provider, Segwit is currently able to process 1.7 MB blocks on the bitcoin testnet, with more than 8,865 transactions. The current bitcoin blockchain capped with a 1 MB block size can only handle around 2,500 transactions.
However, the transactions processed on the testnet were p2pkh transactions. Although the standard 1 MB blocks are limited to process around 2,500 transactions, they can still handle 5,235 p2pkh transactions in each block.
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Alternatively stated, the activation of Segwit will likely result in a 75 percent increase on the current 1 MB block size if implemented in an optimum ecosystem.
On November 23, bitcoin trader and analyst WhalePanda introduced a testnet experiment conducted by the Bitfury analytics team shared by the BitFury Group chief information officer Alex Petrov. While the types of transactions settled in Segwit-enabled blocks could vary, the Bitfury analytics team’s research concluded that 1.7 MB was the average block size based on their experiment conducted on the bitcoin testnet.
More importantly, WhalePanda noted that 1.7 MB is theoretical and other numbers such as 2.1 MB or Lightning co-author Thaddeus Dryja’s 3.7 MB are also all hypothetical. The only issue with Segwit which the miners, especially the Chinese mining community struggles to deal with, is that it can’t guarantee a specific block size due to a wide range of variables including different transaction types and circumstances.
In January of this year, Dryja noted that his experiments on the bitcoin testnet demonstrated the capability of Segwit to handle 3.7 MB blocks. He explained:
“I have a script that will spam testnet and make 3.7MB blocks. It’s not a 800KB regular block with txids and output scripts, and a 2.9MB witness block with just a bunch of signatures. It’s a single block, that looks pretty much the same as old blocks with a few extra requirements, that’s 3.7MB.”
The on-chain capacity expansion suggested or discovered by Dryja is a 3.7x increase to the current standard 1 MB block size. Dryja’s discovery offers a significantly different perception of Segwit’s on-chain capacity increase in comparison to Petrov and the Bitfury team’s research. This huge gap, which at this stage is completely theoretical and based on assumptions, should be the main discussion point of Segwit activation.
As explained by security experts such as Andreas Antonopoulos in the past, Segwit is more than a conventional block size increase solution. Its advantages derives from its ability to fix transaction malleability, provide infrastructure for two-layer solutions and overall, optimize the bitcoin network. Some experts described Segwit as a “Swiss army knife of a scaling solution.”
In fact, Slush, the CEO and IT architect of Satoshi Labs, the parent company of bitcoin hardware wallet manufacturer Trezor, stated:
“Bitcoin as Gold is Bitcoin without Segwit. Just activate it and whole world of new applications and solutions will appear.”
The only question left for the community to consider is, what happens if Segwit is activated and it does not provide on-chain scaling that is on par with the community’s expectation? What if Segwit’s 1.7 to 3.7x theoretical increase is not sufficient enough to scale the network?
Then, the community can begin to consider the possibility of expanding the block size of Segwit-enabled bitcoin blockchain.
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