Bitcoin was expected to have as many forks as a full course meal by the end of the month, but an announcement Wednesday afternoon notified the community that what would’ve been Bitcoin’s third blockchain fork of the year—known as SegWit2x—has been postponed indefinitely.
SegWit2x, or Segregated Witness 2x, was a proposal for changing the way data was stored and doubling the size of data blocks on the Bitcoin blockchain.
“Unfortunately, it is clear that we have not built sufficient consensus for a clean block size upgrade at this time,” read a notice posted to the Linux Foundation mailing list on Wednesday that was signed by 6 lead developers on SegWit2x. “Although we strongly believe in the need for a larger block size, there is something we believe is even more important: keeping the community together.”
SegWit2x was proposed as a solution to the currency’s scaling problem and originally championed by major players in the Bitcoin community such as the Bitcoin infrastructure company Bitmain and heavyweight blockchain developer Jeff Garzik.
As the number of transactions occurring on the Bitcoin network have soared in recent years, the ability to effectively use the cryptocurrency has plummeted. Transactions on the cryptocurrency network can take hours—and sometimes days—to process, but a solution to the sluggish transaction speed was slow to emerge.
Implementing SegWit2x would have effectively created a third version of Bitcoin by creating a new branch of the public ledger that logs Bitcoin transactions, otherwise known as the blockchain. Creating a new branch of a blockchain is known as a ‘fork.’
The Bitcoin blockchain has forked twice before. Last August, a group of Bitcoin miners implemented a code change that effectively capped the size of blocks on the Bitcoin blockchain at 8 MB. This essentially created two versions of Bitcoin: the original (known as Bitcoin Core) and the newer Bitcoin Cash. Then in late October, the Bitcoin blockchain forked again to create Bitcoin Gold, which aims to decentralize Bitcoin mining.
The SegWit2x fork was the culmination of a long and acrimonious debate within the Bitcoin community about the best way to speed up transactions on the Bitcoin network. In July, the majority of Bitcoin miners voted to adopt a solution called “segregated witness,” which would change the way data was stored on the blockchain to make transactions more efficient.
This didn’t satisfy the miners who thought the most effective way to scale was by increasing the amount of data in each block on the chain, however. So on August 1 these miners didn’t implement the segregated witness code change and just bumped up the amount of data each block could store.
Read More: Bitcoin Has Forked
Despite speculation that the new Bitcoin Cash would fail, three months later it is still trucking along and trading at above $300 per token, comparable to other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum. Yet other Bitcoiners were still not satisfied and advocated a “best of both worlds” solution called SegWit2x. Like Bitcoin Core, this version of Bitcoin would implement the segregated witness code change. In a nod to Bitcoin Cash, it would also increase the size of the blocks of data, but only to 2MB rather than 8MB.
The change was scheduled to happen at block 494,784, which would’ve been sometime in November. But on Wednesday a notice was posted to the Linux Foundation mailing list that was signed by six of the lead developers for SegWit2x announcing that the fork will not be occurring as planned.
The SegWit2x developers noted that ever-slower transactions will hopefully incentivize the increase in block size they are advocating for, but to try to implement these changes without community consensus would “divide the community and be a setback to Bitcoin’s growth.”
It is unclear why the announcement was made today, so close to the scheduled fork. Motherboard has reached out to some of the SegWit2x developers and will update this post if they respond.
So until at least next week, it looks there will only be three versions of Bitcoin, two of which are so energy intensive and slow that they are hardly useable. Still, the SegWit2x developers remain optimistic about the future of the cryptocurrency and the news of the fork’s cancellation was greeted with enthusiasm from online Bitcoin communities.
“Bitcoin remains the greatest form of money mankind has ever seen,” the SegWit2x developers concluded in the notice. “We remain dedicated to protecting and fostering its growth worldwide.”