Bitcoin Core, Classic, and Unlimited – What’s the Difference?
Some call it the Bitcoin Civil War!
Bitcoin may seem like an unstoppable technological phenomenon, with a futuristic and savvy community that takes pride in innovation and decentralization.
Underneath all the high prices, exchange trading, and programming jargon, there are thousands of miners and developers all over the world that are currently at a stalemate over deciding the future of Bitcoin’s long-term ability to scale for mainstream usage!
There are three main open source software clients who all have their own unique viewpoint on how Bitcoin should be run and how it should be scaled for worldwide usage. These are Bitcoin Core, Bitcoin Unlimited, and Bitcoin Classic.
From a zoomed-out perspective, they are quite similar, but the small differences they currently have could make or break the Bitcoin community!
Is it all just hype? Just a way to get Bitcoin in the headlines?
Some say it’s just a technical debate amongst developers who all harbour separate visons of how Bitcoin should be run and progress into the future, while others say it could make or break Bitcoin and have disastrous outcomes, like a hard fork or division in the community.
So what are the unique characteristics of Bitcoin Core, Unlimited, and Classic? Do they represent different types of Bitcoin, or just different opinions on the direction Bitcoin should take? Wouldn’t it split the blockchain…?
To answer these questions, let’s look at what each of these different types of software for Bitcoin actually represent!
Bitcoin Core wants to upscale Bitcoin, enabling it to handle higher global volume through an upgrade called Segregated Witness (SegWit). This is done by the updated software being used by miners. If more than 95% of Bitcoin’s hashing (digital mining) power adopts this, then the upgrade will be cemented into Bitcoin’s blockchain and become fully activated.
Segregated Witness is an upgrade to help Bitcoin scale for mainstream adoption, and it also paves the way for the Lightning Network to become activated, which makes for faster transactions and higher volume.
This has created a lot of controversy, as many believe it will centralize Bitcoin because the potentially new updated software would be in control of Bitcoin Core.
As you can see from the image of the comment section on CryptoCoinsNews below, there are many different opinions conflicting one another. As Bitcoin Core’s SegWit vote is only at 25%, it seems like the Bitcoin community wants to stay as decentralized as possible.
Bitcoin Core understands the essential need for Bitcoin to upscale as soon as possible. These solutions do offer a degree of centralization, but Core’s response to this is that there are already many centralized platforms in which Bitcoin functions, such as on Coinbase and most Chinese exchanges, where the Chinese government has issued rules and regulations on margin trading.
Core understands that mainstream adoption is impossible with the current predicament.
Because of the lack of agreement in the future of Bitcoin’s scaling, Bitcoin Classic is a type of middle ground between Bitcoin Core and XT while the debate/civil war of upscaling Bitcoin rages on.
As a stopgap measure, Classic uses a 2 MB block size until a better scaling solution can be implemented. Classic believes that their way of implanting things is better for Bitcoin’s decentralization in the long haul.
Classic is more preferred by the miners, and it matches Satoshi’s vision. Satoshi is the mysterious person or persons who created Bitcoin and the blockchain.
Many Bitcoin enthusiasts have taken to Reddit to vent their opinions, as the picture below demonstrates.
The big question for the Classic camp is if they don’t agree with SegWit, what will be implemented as a long-term solution to Bitcoin’s scaling? Currently, Bitcoin wouldn’t be able to adopt mainstream usage on par with the likes of VISA or SWIFT.
Would an increase in the block size help…?
Very similar to Classic, with its own slight differences, what sets Unlimited apart from the rest is it does what its name says.
As opposed to the current 1 MB block size, Unlimited allows users to determine their own, which is a more democratic approach to the scaling problems, rather than forcing a huge update on the software.
Ironically, of course, there are some limits regarding the block size with Unlimited, like the block creation limit, which is set to 1 MB by miners, but miners can still choose to manually break these limitations if they choose to do so.
Although the block size is for the user to decide, the miners using the Unlimited software usually process the regular size of blocks.
Unlimited and Classic are in the same corner when it comes to the future of Bitcoin and its long-term purpose.
Developers from both branches of software share the same vision for Bitcoin, but the same question hangs over as to how to fix the ever growing scaling problem.
What happens if no one comes to a resolution?
This is a very important question to consider, and the truth is that nobody really knows what exactly will happen because nothing like this has ever happened before.
If no solution that the overall majority can agree on arises, then it could prove to be a huge setback for Bitcoin, and perhaps even cryptocurrency as a whole. Some developers state that it isn’t meant to be scaled for mainstream usage, while others believe SegWit, and ultimately the Lightning Network, are a must for Bitcoin’s future.
From a neutral perspective, if certain elements of Bitcoin’s software are centralized, there could be a possibility of a small group of people manipulating Bitcoin to their own agenda.
On the other side of the coin (excuse the pun!), Bitcoin and other legitimate cryptocurrencies in the future DO need to scale for larger adoption, mainly for efficiency and to keep Bitcoin’s blockchain from becoming too congested.
There are valid points on either side.
So far, Bitcoin Core’s SegWit is only at a vote of 25%. A target of 95% is needed for activation, so there is clearly friction in the community, and if it doesn’t reach the target percentage by the end of 2017, then it is safe to say the community has spoken.
However, there is some hope, SegWit fans. Litecoin is going to be moving towards this upgrade, and the creator of Litecoin, Charlie Lee, has openly stated that Litecoin should be used as a test net for Bitcoin. If there are any bugs or unseen problems with SegWit that do get exposed on Litecoin’s blockchain, it won’t be as damaging as Bitcoin’s! Seeing as Litecoin is currently worth $3.80, while Bitcoin is currently $900, the risk and fallout is much less.
Will there be a hard fork of Bitcoin?
Could Bitcoin do what Ethereum has already done several times? A hard fork is when the blockchain splits into two (or, more simply, into another version, which is usually used for implementing upgrades to the software). For example, Litecoin is a hard fork of Bitcoin, with the obvious software updates to go with it.
Hard forks are quite blunt and happen fast. The number two cryptocurrency, Ethereum, implemented a hard fork that caused nothing but turmoil for the Ethereum community, and it also gave birth to Ethereum Classic.
On the contrary, a soft fork can be implemented slowly. One could say that what Bitcoin Core, Unlimited, and Classic are trying to do is a soft fork.
Bitcoin hard forking is unlikely, as nobody would want that to happen, but somehow, a middle ground based around decentralization seems to be the only viable option.