Access to economic resources is limited in the real world, by legislation and regulations governing their use. Overuse of economic resources can drain and even destroy them. Is it possible that the unrestricted access to the blockchain will lead to its demise?
Average block size of Bitcoin's blockchain has increased from 0.37MB in Feb-2015 to 0.74 MB in Feb-2016, a doubling of the capacity utilization. When asked about increased complaints at Blockchain.info, its CEO Peter Smith tweeted:
However, as I said in my post, it gave an early indication of trouble ahead. We need to plan for a successful future.— Peter Smith (@OneMorePeter) March 8, 2016
Overuse of a resource in the real world often leads to an increase in its cost and restrictions being imposed on its usage. There are similar mechanisms which kick in even in the digital, decentralized world in order to conserve resources. Mining rules have evolved to block dust (very small, uneconomical) transactions. Transaction fees impose a cost on those utilizing the blockchain. This in general prevents wanton misuse of the blockchain. Exceptions to this include the stress tests of the blockchain, when a large number of transactions were sent to test the capacity of the blockchain.
As we have seen in the case of every natural resource, dwindling amount of resources usually results in technological advancement to conserve it and extract the maximum out of it. In the case of Bitcoin, there is a debate (unhealthy, because of the passion it generates) on the blocksize. An increase in the block size will result in an increase in the number of transactions being included in a single block, effectively increasing the capacity of the blockchain.
The size of the blockchain also has an impact on those running full nodes. While the increasing number of blocks have resulted in the size of the blockchain crossing 60GB, the corresponding progress in hardware development (hard disk size, processor speeds) has ensured that running a full node is not impossible for the average user. As long as Moore's law holds good, the blockchain size is not expected to pose problems. Moreover, even if the blockchain does become unwieldy for an average user, methods like blockchain compression or using a truncated blockchain could be implemented.
By Jacob J