As the first week of March 2016 got underway, it became harder to miss reports of delayed confirmation of transactions by the bitcoin network. Apparently, not even attaching a fee is enough to fetch a transaction a quick confirmation on the Bitcoin network.
A process that usually takes about 10 minutes, throughout much of the week, required users to wait for an average of 43 minutes before their transactions could go through. As a matter of fact, some users have shared in online chat rooms and forums like the Bitcoin sub-Reddit quite a few extreme cases of waiting up to days.
The situation has been so bad that, at one point in the week, the number of pending transactions in the network memory pool reached a high of 30,000. To give you the idea of how huge that is, the number otherwise hardly crosses the 5000 mark in typical situations.
As the weekend approached, however, the figure eased to below 10,000. Nevertheless, the question as to whether finally Bitcoin’s worst nightmare was unfolding had caught up with the wider bitcoin community and even beyond.
The mainstream media, as expected when there is negative news to cover about bitcoin, has already pounced on the subject.
The mainstream media takes note
On Wednesday 2 March, Motherboard published the story under the title “The Dream of Buying a Coffee With Bitcoin Is Dying, If It’s Not Already Dead”. In the article, the writer, Jordan Pearson, drew a gloomy picture of the future of Bitcoin, especially as a medium of exchange.
This is on the backdrop of a consensus on scaling being far from conclusive and implementation of any solution looking to take longer to begin.
The Guardian soon followed suit and ran a similar story with the title “Could a bitcoin-style monetary system spell the end for Britain’s banks?” and Business Insider had it as “Bitcoin payments around the world are failing as the platform is overwhelmed.”
Most interesting, however, is the fact that a few altcoins seem to have seen this as an opportunity to be seized to let the world know how significantly better they are than Bitcoin. Bitshares, for example, on 29th February sponsored an episode on The Daily Decrypt by Amanda B. Johnson.
In the video, Amanda describes how Bitcoin is developmentally behind most cryptocurrencies, including Bitshares, of course. She points out slow confirmation time, lack of clear governance process, core development funded by fiat currency, security and, generally, poor user experience.
Another obituary to the growing list
All these negative coverage from mainstream media and competitor cryptocurrencies aside, is Bitcoin really going through the worst turmoil of its life? Is this its worst nightmare unfolding?
Of course, there is no question that any Bitcoin user who has had to wait for up to a couple of days before his or her a transaction is confirmed has a right to feel let down by the system. And the situation is even harder to rationalize when there are many of those cases.
It should be given that the Bitcoin community has been slow in agreeing on the way to scale. Nevertheless, the reason we are where we are is because of the growing adoption of the cryptocurrency. It is important to acknowledge this context because it then reminds us that this is a story of success and not failure per se.
Indeed with this in mind, any report that leads with a title like ‘Could a bitcoin-style monetary system spell the end for Britain’s banks?’ probably belongs in the Bitcoin obituaries list, which, by the way, is nearing one hundred.