There is always so much happening around digital currencies, especially bitcoin. A new term, ‘Bitcoin Unlimited’, has been floating around for some time now. So what exactly is Bitcoin Unlimited? Will it result in a hard fork (forced splitting off of the currency)? (Related: Does Ethereum's Hard Fork Undermind Smart Contracts?)

The issue revolves around the size of the blocks which are added to its blockchain. Blocks are files where data pertaining to the bitcoin network is permanently recorded. A block records some or all of the most recent bitcoin transactions that have not yet entered any prior blocks. Thus a block is like a page of a ledger or record book. Each time a block is ‘completed’, it gives way to the next block in the blockchain. A block is thus a permanent store of records which, once written, cannot be altered or removed. (Related: Bitcoin is Money, Rules Federal Judge in Landmark Case.)

Bitcoin blocks have a limited ‘storage’ capacity of 1MB since the beginning and under the current popular system of Bitcoin Core. However, Bitcoin Unlimited argues that the size of these blocks should be increased as it would enable smoother running by decongesting the blocks. Unlike the present rigid size of 1MB, Bitcoin Unlimited advocates complete freedom and flexibility to increase the size of blockchain and this will be done by miners. So, if there is a consensus on this, we will have a new bitcoin blockchain with large-sized blocks. Opponents feel that increasing the size of blocks can result in a hard fork in the code which would split the network. They also believe that such flexibility can result in miners opting for bigger and bigger blocks – making it harder for miners with limited resources to mine, thereby concentrating the ‘mining power’ in the hands of few miners. Such concentration will essentially result in centralization which is opposite to the idea of decentralization which is core to bitcoin.

While proponents of Bitcoin Unlimited claim that they will not fork the blockchain, they do say that “If some other entity causes a fork, if for example miners start producing > 1MB blocks, then Bitcoin Unlimited nodes will follow the most-work (generally the longest) fork. This means that your BU node will track the mining majority rather than a specific choice.” In the current situation, if Bitcoin Unlimited wants to have its way, they need majority nodes on their side or else, any attempt to change the size of the block will be rejected by ‘majority’ nodes.

Commenting on the situation, Mahin Gupta, co-founder and CTO, Zebpay told Investopedia that, “For a hard fork to happen in bitcoin, Bitcoin Unlimited miners needs to increase the block size on their own. At the moment majority of network will reject such blocks, so until the Bitcoin Unlimited miners are in majority it does not make sense, and they will not do a hard fork till they don’t get consensus as it is detrimental to the entire ecosystem. Right now, at around 10% they are far from a consensus. So there is a very remote possibility of a hard fork.”

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