ViaBTC, the mining pool which has expressed its strong support toward Bitcoin Unlimited for a long period of time, ran a poll to decide whether to activate Segregated Witness (SegWit), the Bitcoin Core development team’s transaction malleability fix and scaling solution.
The operators of the ViaBTC mining pool launched a public poll on Twitter on May 6. Over a period of 20 hours, the poll garnered over 5,700 votes and more than 83 percent of the respondents voted for the activation of SegWit.
Should we active Segwit?— ViaBTC (@ViaBTC) May 6, 2017
ViaBTC’s abrupt decision to run a public poll in regard to the activation of SegWit came as a surprise to the Bitcoin community considering the mining pool’s history with SegWit.
In particular, on April 19, the operators of ViaBTC released an article entitled “Why we don’t support SegWit” to explain their position on the SegWit vs. Bitcoin Unlimited debate.
In the article, ViaBTC wrote:
“SegWit, which is a soft fork solution for malleability, cannot solve the capacity problem. From Core members’ public statements, they didn’t attach necessary importance on this issue. Even if SegWit after activation can slightly scale up block size with new transaction formats, it’s still far behind the demand for the development of Bitcoin network.”
Were ViaBTC’s claims fair?
In some sense, ViaBTC’s statement can be justified as the Bitcoin Core development outlined that the activation of SegWit would most likely increase the Bitcoin block size by around 75 percent. By that calculation alone, the activation of SegWit will most likely lead to an on-chain capacity increase of 0.75 MB, which would ultimately result in the production of 1.75 MB blocks.
In the short and mid-term, SegWit will be an optimal choice as a scaling method. Blockstack’s Ryan Shea stated previously that SegWit is a Swiss knife solution. Although scalability is a byproduct, it provides a necessary infrastructure for two layer solutions such as Lightning which could drastically improve Bitcoin scaling.
The issue ViaBTC and many other Bitcoin Unlimited-supporting mining pools have over SegWit is that the 75 percent increase in on-chain capacity will not be sufficient to supplement the exponential growth of Bitcoin. In other words, the 1.75 MB block size after the activation of SegWit could be maximized within months, a year or two years. It is simply not possible to predict the increase in block size in a linear manner.
Ultimately, ViaBTC ran a public poll and the community is in support of SegWit. The optimal choice of ViaBTC would be to activate SegWit on Bitcoin and pursue other methods or scaling solutions in the future when SegWit’s 75 percent on-chain capacity increase turns out to be not enough.