In an attempt to improve Bitcoin Core, Bitmex has been doing some research on the project to constantly monitor its performance. In its latest publish, the group found out how long it takes for a node to “synchronize with the network.”
Interestingly, what they’ve found is that there is a lot of variation as to the time frame here. Even those who are on very modern hardware older versions of Bitcoin “struggled to get past the pickup in transaction volume which occured in the 2015 to 2016 period.” According to the study, this means that if there weren’t the network updates we enjoy today, “an initial synchronization today could be almost impossible.”
To find this information, BitMEX downloaded 35 “initial block downloads” (IBDs) and noted down just how long each download took. After an upgrade introduced in 2016, BitMEX noted that Bitcoin saw improvements from there, but these were only “clearly visible” after multiple attempts.
The blog post continues, stating:
“Of course, IBD time is only one metric, and there are plenty of other angles and considerations that one can use to evaluate the performance and capabilities of Bitcoin Core. While the IBD time may not be the perfect or complete measure of overall software performance, it is highly resource-intensive and therefore potentially a good metric to benchmark.”
Especially notable is the fact that even with very powerful hardware, the BitMEX team still struggled with some different versions of Bitcoin, which is quite surprising. At that point, the solution isn’t something they can just “throw more hardware” at.
“The large reductions in IBD times and the inability of old nodes to fully synchronize indicates that if it were not for these scalability enhancements, by now Bitcoin would be essentially dead, even if users had the highest specification hardware available. The data also shows that technological innovation is unlikely to keep up with the growing blockchain going forward and that IBD times will increase,” concludes the post.
That last part is especially fascinating, noting that these scalability improvements are the reason Bitcoin is still alive. If not for those, who knows if cryptocurrencies and blockchain would have ever seen any mainstream attention at all.