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Could somebody comment on how "future proof" the bitcoin technology really is? How large can the trading volumes become, and is there a limit? What advances have been made in crypto-currencies that will replace bitcoin?



Bitcoin is in constant development, so it's a hard question to answer.

If Bitcoin core development suddenly stopped right now it wouldn't be very future proof. Trading volumes are irrelevant from a scaling perspective, what matters is number of transactions per second (tps). Right now Bitcoin has a really low capacity, just 7tps, way below VISA for example.

However, progress is underway on creating the Lightning Network [2], which will enable billions of transactions per day. Just 11 days ago a major requirement of the Lightning network was merged into Bitcoin core, and things are moving fairly quickly in the right direction.

[1] https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Scalability

[2] https://lightning.network/

I doubt anything will replace Bitcoin, further crypto-currency advances will likely be built on top of it (like the Lightning Network and sidechains). Ethereum is looking incredibly promising (has been dubbed Bitcoin 2.0), but I think it will be used primarily as a blockchain programming framework instead of as an alternative currency.


Most of the things you can do with smart contracts in Ethereum involve some kind of currency...crowdfunding, smart locks, prediction markets, etc. It's possible to implement subcurrencies with Ethereum contracts, but native ether is more efficient, a little easier to work with, and is the one currency you can be sure everyone on the network has.


Lightning isn't going to happen any time soon. Bear in mind it's not even block chain based, nodes are stateful and control signing keys, and no existing software works with it.

Lightning will require entirely new wallets to be created for it, and those wallets will be very complicated. It's a multi-year project at most.

The reality is that Bitcoin will fall apart if too much load is placed on it, and it's getting closer to its (entirely arbitrary) 1mb scale ceiling too fast for comfort.


The good news is that support for BIP 101 is growing fast, so we should see larger blocks sooner rather than later. If the tps limit is reached before then, we will likely see increased adoption of micropayment channels, since most transactions at the moment are quite small.


To be clear, Lightning does request transactions on-blockchain to open a channel and to close a channel. The magic is what happens in between those two events. As such, it is not a gateway to infinite scalability, but it does offer the potential to greatly amplify the number of transactions on the network and having them consolidate down into occasional on-blockchain settlements.


Bitcoin is still actively changed, and they've been trying to push up the volume because, well, they have to at some point.

What they choose to set as the minimum amount of throughput for each node is ultimately dependent on the lowest common denominator in terms of bandwidth for every node on the network. With a truly distributed network like this, you need everyone on the same page.

This is a valid criticism of bitcoin IMO. For example, there was talk about forking the network in August because of disagreements about what was reasonable to expect for the network-- Internet in China is expensive.

http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21661404-...




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