Bitcoin surges 16% despite split over its future

HONG KONG • Bitcoin extended gains to a record yesterday, ignoring a split in the cryptocurrency over its future. It jumped as much as 16 per cent from last Friday to an unprecedented US$3,292.41, even after bitcoin's division last week.

The debate has revolved around how to upgrade its underlying technology, with a group of developers backing a solution called SegWit2x against miners - some of whom have created an offshoot called Bitcoin Cash - who want to raise the size of data blocks more drastically.

"The miner-orchestrated hard fork has had limited traction and will not impact the price or future development of bitcoin," said Mr Aurelien Menant, chief executive officer of Gatecoin, a cryptocurrency exchange in Hong Kong, referring to the split. "The activation of SegWit is a significant milestone in bitcoin's technological evolution."

At the heart of the dispute is an issue that has dogged bitcoin's development: as its popularity grew, transactions slowed because of a cap on the amount of data processed by the blockchain.

Under SegWit2x, some of that data will be moved off the main network while block sizes will be doubled to 2 megabytes in November - a quarter of that for Bitcoin Cash.

While the first step of SegWit2x has been locked in and the technology will probably be adopted at some point this month, infighting could disrupt the transition.

Still, the price of the original bitcoin has risen. Meanwhile, the price of Bitcoin Cash has plummeted 67 per cent from a record high reached last week, CoinMarketCap data shows. For now, Bitcoin Cash still pales in comparison to the original: the former has a capitalisation of US$4 billion (S$5.4 billion), compared with the latter's US$53 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

"The scaling debate is not over yet," Mr Menant added. "The promised 2 MB block size increase, due in November in accordance with the SegWit2x agreement, may still be rejected by certain stakeholders."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'Bitcoin surges 16% despite split over its future'. Print Edition | Subscribe