A recent study by BitMex shows that software improvements have made it easy for Bitcoin node synchronization. The study calculated Bitcoin Core’s Initial Block Download times of software released between 2012 and 2019. These are the number of times required to download and verify the blockchain. The comprehensive report on the study was published on November 29.
According to the report, it was impossible to synchronize using the older Bitcoin Core software version. The improvements in the newest version of the software have made it easy to operationalize the network.
Bitcoin Core software versions before 0.8.6 could not synchronize in the period between 2015 and 2016. When the research team tried to run older versions of the software in significantly powerful hardware, they were not operational. They run Bitcoin Core 0.7.0 in a new machine with 8 intel i9 processor and a 64GB RAM, but the node still could not synchronize past the year 2016.
“Were it not for the software enhancement, Bitcoin would be dead by now due to the inability of older versions to synchronize and the significant reduction in IBD times,” the team reported.
The major improvement was on speed after developers of version 0.12.0 employed a signature verification library for Bitcoin instead of using the standard one. However, this version could not support Segregated witness (SegWit) and therefore failed to validate signatures for such transactions, further leading to a cut on sync times.
When Bitcoin Core version o.14.0 was launched, speed and sync times significantly increased due to the scalability improvements. It was after this particular node version that Bitcoin network popularity began to grow faster than scalability updates made to the software. This imbalance resulted in longer synchronization times. The research team came to the conclusion that the blockchain is growing faster than the technological innovations can keep up with and that there is a possibility of IBD times increasing.
Bitcoin developers are focused on decentralization and keeping requisite hardware specifications necessary to run Bitcoin Core software seamlessly. They have maintained a block weigh limit of 4MB with SegWit and a block time of 10 min in order to lower requirements and check the blockchain’s growth.
The blockchain currently has a size of 293.37GB, with 1MB as the average block size. According to Bitnodes, a monitoring resource, Bitcoin Blockchain has more than 9.5 thousand nodes around the world.
Bitcoin Core version 0.19.0.1 is the latest software update, and it supports Segregated Witness transactions using Bech32, further improving on scalability.