Countdown to SegWit: These Are the Dates to Keep an Eye On
Bitcoin’s very public scaling debate is entering a crucial phase. Two of the most popular scaling proposals available today — BIP148 and SegWit2x — both intend to trigger Segregated Witness (“SegWit”) activation within a month, which means that the protocol upgrade could be live within two.
At the same time, there is a very real risk that Bitcoin “splits.” Both BIP148 and SegWit2x could diverge from the current Bitcoin protocol, which could in turn lead to even more splits.
Here is a list of dates for July, August and beyond to keep an eye on.
Recap: Segregated Witness Activation
First, a brief recap on Segregated Witness, and its potential activation methods.
SegWit is a backwards compatible protocol upgrade originally proposed by the Bitcoin Core development team. It has been a centrepiece of the scaling roadmap supported by Bitcoin Core since the protocol upgrade was first proposed in December 2015, and it is implemented on many active Bitcoin nodes on the network today. SegWit is now also part of the “New York Agreement”: an alternative scaling roadmap forged between a significant number of Bitcoin companies, including many miners. And Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 148, or BIP148, a user activated soft fork (UASF) scheduled for August 1st, also intends to activate SegWit.
The difference lies in how the activation should happen.
The first and original option was proposed by the Bitcoin Core development team. Their SegWit code, defined by BIP141, activates if 95 percent of hash power within a single difficulty period of about two weeks signals readiness, before November 15th. Assuming that the miners who signal readiness are actually ready to support the upgrade, risks of a split in Bitcoin’s blockchain and currency are minimal.
However, currently only some 40 to 45 percent of hash power is signaling readiness for BIP141. This is why a segment of Bitcoin users plans to activate SegWit with the BIP148 UASF. Starting on August 1st, their nodes will reject all blocks that do not signal readiness for BIP141. If this proposal is supported by any majority of miners (by hash power), these miners should always claim the longest valid chain, which should activate SegWit on all SegWit-ready Bitcoin clients and avoid a split. But if this proposal is only supported by a minority of miners, a “BIP148 chain” could split off from the current protocol.
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