The Bitcoin network has dealt with congestion before on multiple occasions. In every single case, the network seems to suffer from major backlogs when it comes to processing transactions. Previous mempool issues have often been the result of spam attacks, but things are very different right now. With over 160,000 unconfirmed transactions at the time of writing, things are not looking all that great for Bitcoin. The network hashrate also continues to drop, which isn’t helping matters much.
Bitcoin Mempool Issues Surface Again
Most people know all too well how the Bitcoin network often gets clogged up. Every time this happens, people try to include higher transaction fees in the hopes of getting their transfers picked up by miners a lot quicker. Right now, that seems to be pretty futile, as there isn’t enough hashpower on the network to make things go quicker. A lot of miners have switched over to Bitcoin Cash in the past few days.
This issue has been brooding for several days, mind you. While the Bitcoin network hashrate was high enough a week ago, things have certainly changed in favor of BCH right now. More specifically, this change has been present for a full day already and will only grow worse over time. Right now, this altcoin’s absolute hashrate is over twice that of Bitcoin itself. Without sufficient miners, the block difficulty will remain extremely high until the next automatic change occurs.
Given that the Bitcoin mining difficulty changes every 2,000+ blocks, this problem may persist for some time to come. It is far too profitable to mine Bitcoin Cash right now, which means there is no reason for people to switch back to Bitcoin right now. In fact, it may provide them with an extra incentive to keep mining BCH, depending on their political orientation. At the time of writing, Bitcoin Cash was 165% more profitable to mine than Bitcoin, and it will continue to be for some time to come.
It is doubtful anything can be done to alleviate these mempool concerns either. There is no point in paying higher fees right now, as it will only make the situation worse. Miners have always been rather selective when it comes to processing transactions, and that situation will only become more prevalent. In fact, diehard Bitcoin Cash supporters will gladly point out that Bitcoin Core developers created this mess in the first place. Sadly, they are not entirely incorrect in that assessment.
Over time, the mempool will continue to grow unless either miners return to Bitcoin or the block difficulty is lowered significantly. Forcing the adjustment is a last-ditch resort, but it may be warranted before things really get out of hand. Some people may argue the 2,000 block retarget mechanism is vastly outdated anyway, as we have seen several altcoins introduce novel approaches in this regard as of late. It will be interesting to see what the Core developers have up their sleeves in this regard.
All of this goes to show there is a need for big changes as far as Bitcoin is concerned. While Bitcoin Cash may not necessarily have all of the answers from a long-term perspective, it is evident that it is doing some things right. It will be very interesting to see how this entire debacle plays out in the long run, as the current situation is not sustainable whatsoever. If both communities came together to create a better Bitcoin, the world would look very different. Unfortunately, that is a highly unlikely outcome.