Gigablock Testnet Initiative

The Gigablock Testnet Initiative is a project designed to explore the limits of block sizes on the blockchain.

Bitcoin Cash has demonstrated that larger bitcoin blocks are a proven scaling method. Bitcoin Cash has used larger blocks to achieve higher transactional capacity with lower fees. While Bitcoin Cash (BCH) has a default block size limit of 8MB, allowing for lower fees and higher transactional capacity, Bitcoin (BTC) has been stuck with a 1MB blocksize limit, leading to higher fees and slower transaction times.

Bitcoin Cash’s 8MB limit is just the beginning. To achieve higher transactional capacity, we may one day need block sizes of up to 1GB.

How big can we make bitcoin blocks? That’s what the researchers behind the Gigablock Testnet Initiative want to find out.

What to Expect from the Gigablock Testnet Initiative

The Gigablock Testnet Initiative project is also known as BUIP 065. The goal is to create a global test network for bottleneck analysis under high levels of stress. Developers can use this information to analyze bottlenecks – including where and why bottlenecks occur on the network.

Both bitcoin and BCH have testnets. However, neither testnet is capable of being stress tested in the way we’re seeing with the Gigablock Testnet Initiative.

Here’s one of the cool parts of the Gigablock Testnet Initiative: the testnet is built to support blocks up to 1 GB (!) in size. That may seem like an outlandishly large blocksize. However, if the bitcoin network ever scales up to rival credit cards, then we may need a blocksize that large.

With that in mind, the Gigablock Testnet Initiative aims to mimic sustained Visa-level throughput of 3,000 transactions per second.

Using the platform, the team can run experiments with that blocksize limit, then identify potential bottlenecks. The team can solve these bottlenecks, then use that information to push forward development on the core bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash blockchains.

Right now, the focus seems to be on improving the Bitcoin Cash chain. Bitcoin Cash has already implemented an initial default block size of 8MB, with plans to lift that block size even further with appropriate testing. The main Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain, meanwhile, has adopted solutions like SegWit that defer the capacity problem instead of addressing it.

Goals of the Gigablock Testnet Initiativie

Some of the specific goals of the Gigablock Testnet Initiative include:

  • Setup and maintain a global test network capable of supporting blocks up to 1GB in size and sustained Visa-level transaction throughput (3,000 transactions per second) on the bitcoin network
  • Add mining nodes in Beijing, Bangalore, Sao Paulo, Sydney, and Vancouver to add to the network of existing nodes in Toronto, Frankfurt, Munich, and Washington state, allowing the network to be stress tested globally at high levels of transaction throughput to analyze on-chain scaling solutions in a bitcoin testnet environment
  • Identify bottlenecks and find ways to fix those bottlenecks based upon the results of those experiments, providing a safe path to larger block sizes for the bitcoin network
  • Communicate their work to the broader bitcoin community

Who’s Behind the Gigablock Testnet Initiative?

The Gigablock Testnet Initiative is a collaboration between Bitcoin developers, nChain, and researchers at the University of British Columbia. Professor Victoria Lemieux at UBC will provide further research support.

The project was initially designed to be a Bitcoin Unlimited team. However, it appears they’re going to partner with Bitcoin Cash going forward. There’s some debate over whether or not Bitcoin Unlimited has been absorbed by Bitcoin Cash, so it’s not totally clear how the collaboration is working out.

In any case, the group plans to present their findings to the bitcoin community over the coming years. The project is scheduled to run for five years, testing various on-chain scaling solutions.

News about the initiative first came online in September 2017. On September 23, 2017, Bitcoin Unlimited members voted to approve the initiative. nChain and BU have both committed funding (50% each) of up to $1.5 million USD over five years for the project.

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