A European Bitcoin exchange will be giving away 200 bitcoins to anyone who wants them on Thursday, amounting to approximately $48,000 USD. According to a Reddit post announcing the giveaway, the whole thing is a "gift to the community," but the real plan is to push the Bitcoin network to its limit with spam, and hopefully break it for a while.
The exchange in question—CoinWallet.eu—isn't planning on lifting a fiinger, or making any transactions at all. It wants Bitcoin users to do it all themselves.
"With the entire community sending coins from our wallets to themselves and fighting each other to take the coins as quickly as possible," James Wilson, COO of CoinWallet.eu, wrote me in an email, "the 'test' could actually be far larger than we had planned."
"The goal is to get the community to fix Bitcoin"
Initially, CoinWallet.eu had planned a "stress test" for Thursday, not unlike those it's undertaken in the past, except this time the exchange hoped it would create a month-long backlog of unprocesed transactions. These tests involve sending thousands of tiny Bitcoin transactions, called "dust," through the network in the hopes of preventing legitimate transactions from being processed immediately.
But why do all this? It has to do with a debate about the scalability of the Bitcoin network currently raging in the cryptocurrency community. While some of Bitcoin's oldest and most respected developers believe that a software fork is needed to introduce new code that would allow the system to handle large amounts of transactions, not everyone agrees.
"The goal is to get the community to fix Bitcoin," Wilson wrote. "It is broken right now. A small wallet startup should not be able to bring the network to its knees."
Watch more from Motherboard: Life Inside a Chinese Bitcoin Mine
The last time Bitcoin underwent a stress test, a Chinese mining pool created the biggest Bitcoin transaction ever in a ploy to clean up the network. Although it wasn't initially clear who was behind that test, CoinWallet.eu claimed responsibility—at least in part, since it's possible multiple spammers were involved—in an email to me.
Now, CoinWallet.eu plans on releasing thousands of private keys linked to the funds used in previous tests to users. The idea is that people will clamber to collect the Bitcoin each private key controls, and generate thousands junk transactions in the process. To prove that they're for real, CoinWallet.eu posted five wallet addresses containing half a bitcoin each to Reddit this morning.
There is one crucial flaw in CoinWallet.eu's plan to go all Joker from The Dark Knight on Bitcoin, though: if nobody takes the bait, then the whole thing falls apart.