Starting January 24 around the same time as the news announcement on exchange fees, the mempool reached 25MB in size, and even a 50 US cent worth of a transaction fee was not pushing transactions through quickly, with some taking up to 18 – 24 hours to confirm. This is likely the result of many people panic selling, complete with a network spam attack which took place on the network around the same time. This was further compounded by low ‘network luck’ at the time, with up to an hour between blocks in the early hours of the morning on January 25.
The situation persisted from January 24 to January 26 where the transaction count finally dropped to a more manageable level, and normal transaction speed has resumed. This however is signs that the 1MB block size is not cutting it and it is likely that high fees are going to be needed if adoption increases, although the limit on transaction size could be the very thing which hinders further adoption of Bitcoin.
With the mempool now back to ‘normal’ levels for the time being, transaction confirmation times have returned to normal, although more situations like this are likely to be a possibility unless more is done to increase the block size limit through implementation of SegWit, for instance. Segregated Witness would allow lightning networks to be deployed on top of Bitcoin, while at the same time allowing for an increase in the amount of transactions stored per block, resolving the issue. For now however there has been no miner consensus and unlike proof of stake coins, the other nodes owned by the likes of coinbase and general users do not get a vote.
It is likely that traffic will switch to altcoins with capacity, and mainstream adoption will be hindered by the scaling problem, as Bitcoin will not physically be able to handle large volumes of users in the present climate and consensus rules. Due to the amount of money mining farms have invested, they are likely to not want to fork, but staying where they are will mean Bitcoin inevitably falls behind where adoption is concerned, so the line must be drawn somewhere.
If your Bitcoin transaction is stuck, then do not worry, your coins are not lost. If your fee is too low wait for the transaction to be dropped from mempool and try again, the coins will not have ‘left’ the sending address truly until they are confirmed in a block. An alternative is to use the ViaBTC transaction accelerator. By inserting the transaction ID into here, ViaBTC will strive to include it in the next block they mine. They will not do this for zero-fee transactions, but will do it for at least 0.0001/kB transaction fees transactions. This is a good way to try and get your funds confirmed quickly if you are in need of it. We will update as more information becomes available on the mempool size.