Of the last 144 blocks over the last 24 hours, blocks mined by the Bitcoin Unlimited client have reached 28.5 percent of the network total. This is the second time Unlimited has passed SegWit adoption this month and the first time Bitcoin Core blocks mined have dropped below 75 percent of the network total.
Bitcoin’s network load and resulting scaling issues have been the source of debate and controversy in the community. In particular, the impetus to hard fork Bitcoin to raise the block size limit beyond one megabyte has been a central issue to this debate.
A new high in Bitcoin Unlimited’s adoption, which would allow miners to mine blocks larger than one megabyte, may indicate that the block size limit may be raised soon with the goal of alleviating Bitcoin’s network congestion problems.
Bitcoin’s scaling problems have taken their toll
The Bitcoin network’s activity has increasingly pushed the limits of its capacity recently. Over the last year, average block size, median confirmation time and mempool transaction count have all risen significantly. BitcoinFees.info has charted transaction fees over the last six months, which have seen a steady increase, especially this year.
Now, the average fee to have a transaction included in the next six blocks or roughly one hour is $0.37, higher than many card processors’ fees.
For reference, the popular point-of-sale system Square charges 2.75 percent on swiped transactions, or roughly 28 cents on a ten-dollar transaction- a couple of pints of beer, for example. That same transaction with Bitcoin would cost 37 cents and take over an hour to confirm.
User emsiak recently posted on Reddit in /r/Bitcoin about his troubles attempting to move a total of 0.05BTC that had accumulated from micropayments from web advertising revenue, but was unable to as the suggested fee was larger than the transaction amount.
User coinspace encouraged Bitcoin users to concentrate all micropayments, noting that “[d]ue to fees, any output worth about $0.1/0.1mBTC or less is worthless.”
More companies and users switching to other coins
As a consequence of Bitcoin’s scaling issues, more and more companies are exploring alternatives for payment methods of both reduced cost and faster transaction times.
Erik Voorhees of streamlined cryptocurrency exchange ShapeShift.io has publicly mused about the challenges presented by Bitcoin’s fees, stating that “the higher it gets, the less useful the system becomes.”
He has also admitted to holding Ethereum to use for payments because of Bitcoin’s issues:
I'm finding myself holding some extra ETH to use as payments, since Bitcoin is becoming too expensive/delayed :(— Erik Voorhees (@ErikVoorhees) February 10, 2017
Cryptocurrency exchange Nocks, primarily used as an accompaniment facilitating the use of Dutch-based coin Gulden, recently dropped Bitcoin support altogether.
This was partially because of issues surrounding Bitcoin’s purported reputation as a darknet market currency but also because of its untenable transaction fees and times, which stand in stark contrast to Gulden, which has attempted to make a name for itself as an everyday payment method.