Bitcoin Segwit2x proposal gets alpha release

The working group behind the Segwit2x bitcoin scaling proposal has announced that the first version of its code is now ready for review and testing.

As such, the release provides the market with a first look at the technology underlying one of the most broadly supported bids to enhance the network. Announced in May as an “agreement” that united miners and startups, Segwit2x is an alternative technology roadmap to one proposed by Bitcoin Core, the network’s open-source developer group.

However, in what could be a promising sign, Segwit2x could become a moderate option that helps to avoid a contentious network split, and it looks like it could end up being somewhat compatible with an alternative proposal, the user-activated soft fork (UASF) BIP 148, which, as coded, will activate on 1st August.

By reducing that time, mining pools will have one (or maybe two) three-day periods in which they can lock-in a controversial code change called Segregated Witness (SegWit) by signaling support using the SegWit2x software before the UASF occurs. Though, it’s unclear if mining pools will decide to do so.

Firmer timelines

The alpha release of SegWit2x includes a working version of the software, which combines two changes, the scaling optimization SegWit and an increased 2MB block-size parameter.

The increase to 2MB is now scheduled for three months after SegWit activates, according to an email from BitGo CEO Mike Belshe. Prior to this, it’s been less clear (even to some SegWit2x participants) when the 2MB hard fork would take place.

However, SegWit2x has won the support of most major bitcoin companies and mining firms, in total representing over 80% of bitcoin’s hash rate. (Though it remains unclear how reliable this support will be owing partly to fatigue around the issue).

With the alpha version out, the wider community now gets to review and test the software. The release also includes a new bitcoin testnet that developers can use to put the software through its paces and identify any bugs.

Developers can trial the software using the new test network, called testnet5, for the next two weeks.

Some Bitcoin Core developers have also criticized Segwit2x’s development timeline as being too short, because it often takes a significant amount of time to catch all errors associated with bitcoin code changes. SegWit itself was tested for over a year before it was launched.

So far, though, SegWit2x developers haven’t skipped a beat, saying the project will continue to move forward along the original timeline, with the beta release scheduled for 30th June. On 21st July, users will be able to run and signal the fully vetted software, according to the group.

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