Bitcoin Scaling War Intensifies as Antpool Backs 'Bitcoin Unlimited' - Investors Flee Into Alternative Cryptocurrencies, Ethereum Hits $30

The rejection of Winklevoss’ Bitcoin ETF on Friday by the SEC, caused some of the more well-capitalized altcoins like Ether and DASH to appreciate in value over the weekend.

However, the escalating tension surrounding the ongoing debate regarding the transaction capacity of Bitcoin’s blockchain network intensified further on Monday when BITMAIN co-founder, Jihan Wu, announced on Twitter that Antpool - one of the largest mining pools in the world, owned & operated by BITMAIN - will be directing all of its hashing power to mine Bitcoin Unlimited blocks.

Wu’s unexpected announcement had an even more noticeable impact on the altcoin market than the Bitcoin ETF rejection. The market capitalization of the entire altcoin market surged to a new record of $5 billion, according to figures by CoinMarketCap.

Ether, which hit a 6-month high last Friday against Bitcoin, rallied even higher on Monday to a 10-month high of 0.0253 on Poloniex, a U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange. And on Bitfinex, the ETH/USD pair hit an all-time high of $30.60:

Other top alternative cryptocurrencies like Monero (XMR), Litecoin (LTC), MaidSafeCoin (MAID), Factom (FCT), Storj (SJCX) and Zcash (ZEC) appreciated by double-digit percentages on Monday.

The only exception was DASH, which declined more than 14% on Monday from a daily high of 0.06583 down to approximately 0.05644 by 1:30 p.m. EST.

Other less-known digital currencies also saw significant gains on Monday; GNT, the token of the Golem distributed computing network, spiked to more than 20%; REP, the token of the Augur prediction marketplace, which run on the Ethereum blockchain, spiked close to 18%; Namecoin, a cryptocurrency focusing on DNS decentralization and censorship resistance, which has been in a downtrend since 2015, spike more than 250% today.

After Wu’s Tweet, many Bitcoin evangelists, proponents and supporters, took to Twitter & Reddit to express their disapproval. Vinny Lingam, CEO of blockchain identity startup, CivicKey, said on Twitter:
“Danger on the horizon. If Bitcoin forks, all bets are off and we can kiss $3k BTC in 2017 goodbye…”
While some cryptocurrency investors have begun divesting some of their BTC holdings due to mounting risks of a split in Bitcoin’s network (also known as a hardfork), the price of Bitcoin remained quite stable on Monday, trading in a tight range between $1216 and $1247.

It should be noted that the risk of a hardfork in the Bitcoin blockchain is low at the present time, but the amount of nodes supporting Bitcoin Unlimited (BU) has been steadily growing over the past two months.

Data compiled by NodeCounter shows the amount of pro-BU nodes on the Bitcoin network climbed to a record high of 775 on Saturday, March 11:

NodeCounter charts also show that as of today, BU miners have mined more blocks than pro-Segwit miners on the network: 308 vs. 256 over the last 1000 blocks, respectively.

Bitcoin Unlimited and Bitcoin Classic miners currently account for 31.3% of the hashing power on the Bitcoin network (1000+ Ph/s on March 12, 2017, vs. 568 Ph/s on February 28, 2017):

Bitcoin Core supporters who disagree with the BU proposal and back the Segwit soft-fork upgrade path, currently have the majority of the nodes on the Bitcoin network.