Extension Blocks Proposal Runs Into Trouble

By Amelia Tomasicchio
Published Apr 12th, 2017
Extension Blocks Proposal Runs Into Trouble

A few days ago, Purse, BitPay and Lightning suggested a new solution for the bitcoin block size debate called Extension Blocks. Andrew Lee, the CEO of Purse presented the solution officially. Lee published the proposal on April 2nd in a Medium blog post, with contributions from Stephen Pair of BitPay, Joseph Poon of Lightning and a developer named Fedor Indutny. In this blog post, Lee and his associates assert that “Extension Blocks enable larger blocks through an opt-in second layer for true on-chain capacity increase”.

The Original Extension Blocks Idea

This idea however, did not come originally from Lee and his associates. Core developer Johnson Lau first suggested the idea in August of 2013. According to Lau’s idea, Extension Blocks would be integrated at the end of regular blocks. This would make them visible only to miners and nodes, which would effectively make it similar to SegWit, insofar as they both are Soft Fork options. Extension Blocks would also push the signature towards the extension, which is close to the idea behind SegWit.

Lee’s Opt-in Soft Fork Controversy

In his Medium post, Lee explains that the Extension Blocks idea that Lau proposed back in 2013, got positive feedback. Therefore, he and his associates decided to go forward with the plan. Given that Lee and his associates declared that they are neutral when it comes to the SegWit vs Bitcoin Unlimited debate, they hoped to avoid getting caught in the cross-fire. To do so, they planned to propose the idea outside the framework of Core or Unlimited proposals. Unfortunately, according to Lee, someone made up a rumor about him getting $300,000 USD from Bitmain to develop the idea. The rumors hurt further development of the opt-in Extension Blocks soft fork, and might even taint the concept beyond repair in terms of network adoption. This is despite the fact that the opt-in solution allows people who want to keep on running their older clients would be able to do so.

Support for Extension Blocks comes in

Nevertheless, some in the Bitcoin Community see the advantages of this proposal. These community members are focusing on the value of the proposal instead of the politics. Some miners for example, have expressed their support for this proposal. F2Pool, mining firm ViaBTC and Bitmain are part of the miners who support Extension Blocks. This could mean that the proposal has a chance despite the controversy, or it could mean that politics already tainted it, even though Lee and his associates explicitly wanted to avoid the political pitfalls. Whichever it is, hopefully those members of the community who are busy politicizing these solutions, will consider all of them rationally rather than emotionally. Extension Blocks could well be a viable option that can garner the support of enough people from both camps to solve the problem.

Click here to read Lee’s Medium blog post.

Click here to read Lau’s original Extension Blocks idea.