What was Bitcoin Classic?

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  • Bitcoin Classic was one of three Bitcoin forks launched during the block size war
  • The fork came between Bitcoin XT and Bitcoin Unlimited and presaged Bitcoin Cash
  • Bitcoin Classic temporarily overtook Bitcoin Core when it launched, but its success didn’t last

Bitcoin Classic is a name that will, if you recognize it, immediately age your cryptocurrency experience – if you know it, you were around for the Bitcoin block size wars, and if you don’t you’re probably quite lucky. The block size wars were a battle over Bitcoin’s block size that lasted primarily from August 2015 to November 2017, with three forks trying, and failing, to dislodge BTC as the ‘real’ Bitcoin. Today, we’ll look at Bitcoin Classic.

Bitcoin Classic Wanted 2MB Blocks

Bitcoin Classic came about in early 2016 just as the block size was really heating up. The heavily political debate had already seen Bitcoin XT and its proposed 8MB block size upgrade forced out, but many in the community still wanted the block size to be increased.

Bitcoin Classic was therefore intended to be a compromise between those who wanted smaller blocks for security reasons and those who wanted to realize Bitcon’s full commercial potential and let it run free, with a 2MB block size implemented through a hard fork.

Bitcoin Classic came hot on the heels of Bitcoin XT’s failure to get consensus among the Bitcoin community, amid claims of DDoS attacks and other dirty tricks aimed at preventing its adoption. Its backers, which included early developers Gavin Andresen and Jeff Garzik, hoped that, as a more feasible increase, it could gain acceptance and carry the protocol forward. Bitcoin Classic developers called it “the last, best, offer for peace”.

Early Success

Bitcoin Classic launched in February 2016 and had early acceptance from some miners, leading many to believe that it could eventually unseat Bitcoin as the preferred chain. If this had happened, exchanges would have adopted Bitcoin Classic as the ‘real’ Bitcoin, with the BTC ticker.

Just weeks after its launch, the number of Bitcoin Classic nodes surged past the number of Bitcoin Core nodes. However, this proved to be just a temporary spike, and progress against Bitcoin Core stagnated over the following months. Bitcoin Classic’s node count steadily diminished after April, and the percentage of blocks mined stalled, eventually falling sharply as 2016 went on.

By mid-June, Bitcoin Classic had only 563 nodes operating compared to 2,887 for Bitcoin Core, with users clearly having made their decision, regardless of what the miners wanted.

Closure and Bitcoin Cash Shift

Bitcoin Classic staggered on for another year and a half, but the efforts of those supporting it were pointed towards Bitcoin Cash in 2017. When the 2x part of the SegWit2x agreement was scrapped in November 2017, Bitcoin Classic closed down, with release manager Tom Zander throwing all his weight behind Bitcoin Cash:

…Classic has fulfilled its promise. It is now up to you which chain will gain the most traction. It is now up to the next billion people to start to use Bitcoin Cash. In at most 6 months I’m sure we’ll just drop the “Cash” and call it “Bitcoin”.

Of course, this didn’t happen, and although Bitcoin Cash continues today, its forebear Bitcoin Classic is now considered a long-forgotten piece of Bitcoin history.