Bitcoin Classic, a product challenging some of the key technology the cryptocurrency is based on, has been released, bringing to reality a split within the community.
There has been a major battle raging at the heart of the Bitcoin community ever since key developer Mike Hearn very publicly quit working on it, saying that "the fundamentals are broken".
The division is over the size of the blocks in blockchain – the technology that the Bitcoin cryptocurrency is built upon, which Hearn said is "full" due to "an entirely artificial capacity cap of one megabyte per block" imposed by a very small number of extermely powerful bitcoin miners in China who dominate the ecosystem
This week some developers went some way to trying to redress this issue. On 10th February 2016, developer Gavin Andresen put out the first release of Bitcoin Classic, which he writes "is focused on doubling the transaction capacity of Bitcoin."
Critically, the release "includes a consensus rule change that increases the block size limit from one megabyte to two megabytes," dealing with the key issue, laid out by Hearn.
In comments reported by the Financial Times, Andresen said: "Getting Bitcoin to scale up is the most important thing right now. I’m not interested in shutting anybody out. I think we can scale up and keep it just as open as the internet is."
Meanwhile, Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, a Bitcoin wallat and platform firm that is backing the development, told the paper "We’re not going to split in two, we’re going to upgrade. It’s the first time the world has seen a global financial system that can be upgraded in real time."
Beta versions of Bitcoin Classic were revealed in January 2016, but this week’s release marks the first full one of the product.
In a roadmap published out the developer site Github outlining the future of the Bitcoin Classic, Andresen said: "Our next release will be based on Bitcoin Core version 0.12, and is expected to be ready in the next weeks."
He said that "in parallel, we will focus development on features that have been requested by miners and companies for a long time now, and that will help Bitcoin scale on-chain."
The team will try and move towards with both faster block validation and faster block propagation, which he said "will help alleviate bandwidth issues tremendously, and will make sure nodes & miners can continue to operate properly, without requiring super fast connections."
The key though is facilitating "Bitcoin to scale to a much higher transaction volume."
Andresen had previously worked with Hearn on a project could Bitcoin XT which tried to solve some of these existing problems. It did not receive sufficient backing, and Hearn no longer works on Bitcoin related projects.
The current row risks undermining the establishment of Bitcoin, which has grown rapidly, and been named the world’s sixth reserve currency.
Firms in a variety of sectors, includign finance, are increasingly interested in deploying blockchain technology. A whitepaper released by Deutsche Bank recently said that blockchain and digital currencies "will be needed to extend beyond simple money transfers to modernise the entire financial system infrastructure."