At its root, the blockchain is essentially a distributed ledger where every node in the blockchain keeps its own copy of this ledger. The idea here, is to minimise the chances of the ledger becoming corrupted by someone or group of people taking part in the network. This however, poses a challenge. As every service, computer or node has to keep its own copy, they all need to be synchronised at some point and, in order to do so, each node must process every transaction that occurs on the blockchain.
As the number of people using Bitcoin (or more specifically, the blockchain) increases, the amount of processing required to compute all these transactions increases. It is the ‘miners’ who process these transactions and, like most people, don’t do this for free. That’s why, whenever you send Bitcoin from one wallet to another, you must include a fee (or should). This fee is the payment a miner will receive when they process your transaction for you. Now, the user (you) is left to decide what that fee should be at the time of sending. Most wallets will calculate that value for you but it is possible to set it too low and end up waiting a very long time for your transaction to be confirmed. Many sites that accept Bitcoin require a number of ‘confirmations’ before they’ll accept that the Bitcoin you sent them is a) yours and b) arrived.
Unfortunately, calculating this fee isn’t always easy. The amount you should include as a fee will vary depending on a number of factors, such as how busy the network (blockchain) is at the time. Set the fee too low, and you’ll be stuck in a queue waiting for longer than you might like. This queue is known as the ‘mempool’ and is a list of Blockchain transactions awaiting confirmation/processing by miners.
To reduce this time, you should set a fee that is realistic and meets your expectations of how long you’re prepared to wait. What that fee should be is the subject of another article – for now, we’ll stick to talking about the Blockchain Scalability problem. Part of this problem has been alleviated by the Lightning Network but in reality, it’s rarely as fast as it sounds. If you end up including to lower fee for the current state of the network then you still end up waiting longer that you’d like. There are a few technical solutions to this but they do require an understanding of blockchain principles. These methods include RBF (or Replace By Fee) and CPFP (Child Pays For Parent). If you don’t want to get involved with the technicalities, and have already included a fee of at least 0.0001 BTC/KB, then BTC Nitro can help accelerate your Bitcoin transaction.