The issue at hand is about the structure of bitcoin's blockchain (which is composed of "blocks" of data with each block referring back to the preceding chunk of information—thereby creating a chain). The community is arguing about how big the maximum block size should be: The current max is one megabyte, which only allows for about seven transactions per second—far too few for most businesses currently investing in the technology.
This speed is a "roadblock to bitcoin growth," Jeff Garzik, one of five bitcoin core developers who have taken over maintenance of the technology, wrote in a recent paper. (Visa, for comparison, says its network can handle more than 24,000 transactions per second.)
Read MoreWhy is it called the 'blockchain?'
"Any responsible business projecting capacity usage into the future sees the system reaching an absolute maximum capacity, with this speed limit in place," he wrote. "Increasing or removing this limit will encourage businesses to view bitcoin as scalable and capable of supporting millions of new users."
The block size limit may also negatively impact bitcoin's original currency use-case: As the number of transaction requests exceed the limit, the user experience degrades: The pools of "miners" who help inscribe data onto the global network will begin charging ever-higher fees for processing, eliminating some of the appeal over other payment methods.
But there are reasons for limiting the size of a block. For one, it provides security for the system by constraining available space, and therefore making it costly to maliciously flood the network with spam.
Miners are generally against increasing the size too much: They would have to do more work on each block, but they'd still reap the same benefit per block (while transaction fees remain negligibly low), said Pete Rizzo, the U.S. editor for cryptocurrency site CoinDesk.
Also, some early adopters who plan to hold bitcoin for extended periods of time as an investment may prefer to keep the block size limit low—unbothered by transaction fees or business prospects, Garzik explained to CNBC.