Vitalik Revisits Bitcoin’s Block Size War, Backs Technology

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin reflects on Bitcoin’s block size war.

A portrait of Vitalik Buterin made out of colourful squares.
Created by Gabor Kovacs from DailyCoin
  • Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has revisited Bitcoin’s block size war.
  • The prominent mid-2010s conflict had split the community into two.
  • Buterin has called for a more technology-forward approach to tackle similar problems in the future.

Bitcoin, the largest crypto by market capitalization, is beloved by many for several reasons, including its predictability and rigidity to change. However, these features, which form so much of the technology’s lore, have also made it difficult to address complex problems over time.

One instance of this is the block size wars of the mid-2010s that saw the community split into two over the question of whether Bitcoin’s block size should be increased to allow the network to process more transactions at lower fees at the cost of making the chain more challenging to verify.


Recently revisiting this debate, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has called for a less rigid approach that favors technological advancement.

The Bitcoin Block Size War

The Bitcoin block size war spurned multiple Bitcoin forks, including Bitcoin Cash, and two books, Jonathan Bier’s “The Blocksize War” and Rojer Ver’s “Hijacking Bitcoin,” that told the story from the perspective of the two respective factions: the small blockers and the big blockers. Reading these books brought Buterin’s mind back to this tense period in Bitcoin’s history, per a Friday, May 31 blog post.

The stance of the small blockers was simple: increasing Bitcoin’s block size was a significant change that required community consensus. They advocated for scalability woes to be addressed with Layer 2 solutions like the Lightning Network as an alternative to increasing the block size.

Conversely, the big blockers maintained that miners were enough to make the decision. At the same time, they argue that increasing the block size was part of Satoshi‘s original plan, citing forum posts and the creator’s vision for the asset as digital cash. Further, they contended that the bulk of the small blockers were being led by financial incentives as they ran a firm that would build said Layer 2s.


Reminiscing over the events of these times, Buterin asserted that he was largely sympathetic to big blockers. However, he did not believe that their stance was not infallible. He contended that big blockers focused on being right so much that they ignored the technical details like the maximum block size they would like to set, which caused them several difficulties down the line.

Similarly, Buterin criticized the actions of small blockers, such as dodging the definition of consensus and engaging in censorship. Still, he hailed them for their technical acumen and attention to detail.

So, what was Buterin’s solution?

“Less Conflict, More Technology”

According to the Ethereum co-founder, both books made one critical omission in search of potential solutions: “the word ‘ZK-SNARK.'”

ZK-SNARKs are zero-knowledge proofs like zk-STARKs that allow one party to prove a statement is true without revealing the underlying data. Both have been used in privacy protocols like Zcash and Monero and zkVMs like Polygon zkEVM and StarkNet.

Buterin argued that excluding ZK-SNARKs, which hold significant scalability and privacy potential, in consideration of solutions to the Bitcoin dilemma was inexcusable at the time. According to the developer, the technology’s potential was already well known, citing the launch of Zcash in 2016.

In a section titled “less conflict, more technology,” he posited that the solution to political tension was typically new technology.

“The ultimate diffuser of political tension is not compromise, but rather new technology: the discovery of fundamentally new approaches that give both sides more of what they want at the same time.”

The developer noted that ecosystems like Ethereum are strong because of their ability to embrace new technologies. However, he questioned whether Bitcoin would be able to do the same.

Buterin’s reflections poke holes at the maximalist ethos, which often argues that Bitcoin is perfect as is and that its rarely changing and predictable nature is a strength rather than a weakness.

On the Flipside 

  • Bitcoin Cash, the response of big blockers to the block size debate, has yet to rise to the same level of prominence as Bitcoin after nearly seven years.
  • Buterin maintains that his blog is not a jab at Bitcoin but rather an effort to learn valuable lessons from the sociological complexity surrounding the technology.

Why This Matters

The block size war represents one of Bitcoin’s most dramatic and impactful times. Buterin’s critique of the period holds up a mirror and raises questions about Bitcoin’s maximalist ethos.

Read this for more from Buterin:
Why Ethereum’s Vitalik Wants AI To Develop at a Slower Pace

See whether Polygon’s new milestone can impact MATIC’s price action:
Polygon Hits New Daily Active Addresses High: Can MATIC Follow?

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice. Trading forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs pose a considerable risk of loss.

Okoya David

David Okoya is a crypto news reporter at DailyCoin based in Nigeria. He covers various topics related to the cryptocurrency industry, including exchanges, regulations, and price movements, and strives to bring fresh angles to breaking news. With experience as a freelance crypto news writer, David upholds the highest journalistic standards, telling complete stories and answering lingering questions whenever possible.