Netsplit! Uh, I mean Blockfork!

Posted on March 12, 2013

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While I slept, not only did a blizzard turn up, but a large backwardly-incompatible block seems to have been released, resulting in a block chain fork between 0.7 and 0.8 users: http://bitcoin.org/chainfork.html

Is it times like this that the Bitcoin Foundation has value, or will the community response be fast and strong enough to maintain trust in the system (at a technical response level)? The Bitcoin price has dipped slightly (right after I bought some, heh) but will carry on watching to see how this plays out.

Update: This yellow alert forum topic (was red) has more details – the fork came from a mix of updating the database used by the bitcoin software, with 0.8 able to handle larger block sizes. However, someone upped the maximum size more than was tested, causing the rift. By about 4am the issue was “resolved” so the blockchain was reconverging, as seen on this MtGoxUSD price chart captured for posterity:

Bounce!

Bounce!

Here’s what I said on Twitter. I think this is going to be taken as a sign of fallibility by the media, but really it’s a sign of how well a system deals with inevitable problems:

To answer my own question above, I don’t think you can just have a totally centralised or decentralised system. Like yin and yang, sometimes you need someone to make a decision (such as reverting people to 0.7) and sometimes you need a gradual network effect to confirm that as consensus. The fact that the blockchain is still “healing” isn’t a symbol of slow recovery in an age of instant tech. It’s a necessity for a global, semi-decentralised network.

I also thought this was pretty cool:

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