Is Bitcoin Going to Split in Two?

Two prominent bitcoin gurus Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn decided to release their own software distribution of bitcoin and ALTER the specification of bitcoin!

There will be a possibility to mine blocks with a new version number and new rules. This is meant to make bitcoin more democratic: larger blocks, more transactions per second, lower fees, wider adoption. Current bitcoin has reached near its capacity limits (not much more than 3 transactions per second) in the recent months and bitcoin developer community has FAILED to solve this problem. Bitcoin developers have typically adopted a conservative “wait and see” approach on almost all major issues (speed, centralization, some crypto and crypto engineering issues, etc..) and frequently failed to embrace the necessary reforms and fixes to be standardized and implemented in time, before it is too late. It takes some courage for two guys to split from the bitcoin community and to try to tackle the elemntary yet necessary reforms of bitcoin, which questions a larger group of developers has somewhat failed to take seriously so far.

It will be now for bitcoin adopters and miner pools to vote with their feet to show if this important modification of rules which govern the whole of bitcoin is going to be adopted. A lot is at stake:

  • The fork called Bitcoin XT is initially compatible, but soon likely to become incompatible.
    • The main modification update is known as BIP 101, the block size is increased to 8 megabytes on 11 January 2016 and will then double every two years for many years to come.
    • There are also other proposals, mainly BIP 100/101/102 to solve the same problems.
    • If there is enough people who adopt the new BIP101 rule for block formatting, this could result in monetary loss for people who hold their bitcoins on the wrong side of the divide.
    • More specifically the new version is adopted inside Bitcoin XT software if 75% of miners accept it.
    • If so, Bitcoin XT could become the main software distribution of bitcoin and dictate the rules in the future.
  • A divorce or a fork in bitcoin community should lead to additional very hard to predict consequences, like further updates by both groups and a sort of divorce in bitcoin blockchain, and possibly emergence of two bitcoins which would NOT have the same market price.
  • These events also reflect growing divisions inside the bitcoin community, for example bitcoin core developers and the bitcoin foundation do no longer agree.

Very clearly a majority of renowned bitcoin crypto currency and infosec technical experts and developers view this is a hostile takeover of bitcoin by just two guys who decided to seek popular support for their sudden and unilateral fork of bitcoin core software AND of the bitcoin specification.

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Speaking to CoinDesk Mike Hearn compared their move to creating a political party. It appears that unlike Bitcoin Core, the new software distribution will not seek to achieve consensus inside the bitcoin dev community, as the two trouble makers in question became frustrated with this process, but this distribution will simply apply the decisions of the maintainer, yet people will also be invited to fork and modify the software. Thus moving the question of consensus to a later decision, well essentially by miners. So rather “Chinese miner oligarchy” than real democracy, yet somewhat more democratic and a lot more flexible than now.

Some links:

  • Here is a coindesk account of the controversy around this bid.

 

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