I'm a lurker that's been following the block size debate for some time. I don't understand the fuss around transaction malleability, I don't understand how the Lightning Network is supposed to work or how it will scale, and I only have a vague, ELI5-type sense of the competing visions behind small and big block Bitcoin. Even the simplest technical details beyond the decentralization of nodes vs. of developers go over my head. I'm not stupid, however, and I am able to compare the things being said about the two (three?) products currently being offered to me. And I've noticed some intrinsic imbalances.
I remain agnostic about the best way to scale the Bitcoin network, because I am assessing products whose detailed inner workings I don't really understand. This said, it seems probable to me that Bitcoin Cash and Segwit2x are inferior to Bitcoin Core and will fail in their current forms. It's still quite possible in my mind that Bitcoin Core's scaling roadmap is suboptimal, is unduly beholden to certain interests, or departs from the original vision of Bitcoin, and that big blocks are in some contentious and nebulous sense Bitcoin's 'best hope for success'. However, even if I were convinced of this possibility and fundamentally ideologically opposed to the small blocker vision - in fact, especially if so - I think I'd support Bitcoin Core over its competing implementations at present. That's how weak I think Bitcoin Cash and Segwit2x are: that they might actually be actively harmful for Big Blockerism.
Here's a suitable analogy. I'm a huge believer in alternative energy, and adamantly opposed to fossil fuel interests and the climate change deniers on their payroll (they really all are if you look into it). Now suppose in the morning I wake up to an alternate-universe Earth 20 years ago. Researchers at company XYZ have announced a massive breakthrough in nuclear technology involving synthetic manufacture of a little-known isotope of iridium with ideal fuel cycles, safely disposed of, and huge energy yields. Its byproducts are way less toxic than plutonium waste and also much more abundant in nature. Price parity seems possible within a decade, plutonium mining companies are going bankrupt, etc. Now I'm not a chemist, but one day my chemist friend who knows one of the researchers informs me of a critical oversight: the manufacturing process releases a side compound which when combined with saltwater emits a gas that over time reacts toxically with trace gases in our atmosphere. Large acid rainstorms have started developing over coastlines adjacent to the production sites; several workers are already horribly ill, but the story hasn't reached the public. Clearly this new technology will be outlawed by every nation on earth. Well, I'd want the 'breakthrough' to fail as quickly and quietly as possible. This one piece of news would cause me to cease supporting these researchers in every way. Doing so would be in the interests of nuclear energy, while continuing to promote it, watching it crater and create a huge backlash against nuclear amongst the non-technical public and policy-makers - THAT would heavily be in the interests of the fossil fuel industry, ironically enough.
Without the ability to comprehend a single line of source code, I feel that's in fact the situation that we're in. This feeling is underscored by the sheer number of aborted attempts (by many of the same people, no less): Bitcoin ABC, Bitcoin Unlimited, Bitcoin XT, I can't even remember all the others. Of course, naming similarities alone aren't grounds for opposing a proposal. Here are some that perhaps are.
- Technical incompetence. This is by far my biggest problem with Bitcoin Cash and Segwit2x. NOTE AGAIN THAT THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM WITH BIG BLOCKS, BUT WITH BITCOIN CASH AND SEGWIT2X SPECIFICALLY. In Bitcoin Cash, we have the EDA issues. No altcoin I have ever heard of (or at least that I'd think of investing in) has had such instabilities with block times or hashrate. More concerningly, it seems that the idea was hastily slapped together at the last second and that the way it ultimately worked out was basically by accident. If I'm buying in to some Core conspiracy, please cite the evidence that this is a well thought-out plan by the BCH developers, or some intrinsic feature to big block or non-Segwit Bitcoin. With Segwit2x, things are even worse: Jeff Garzik added replay protection, then after Core coders pointed out a security bug, he removed it, and now there is none - and this was a couple weeks ago. (Though I have noticed some in this subreddit retconning this as a feature.) Both of these instances point to development teams that think they know what they are doing, but actually don't. In my opinion, there's basically nothing that spells worse for a fintech product. Personally, I don't know whether Segwit transactions are part of blocks or not, or if Segwit Coin doesn't follow the whitepaper ideology as closely as Bitcoin. I honestly don't know and don't have time to know. What I do know is that based on their very own words and actions I don't want these new development teams leading Bitcoin. What I also see is that this opinion is massively reinforced by the size and experience of said development teams compared to that of Core - only one quarter of which works for Blockstream, I read. Again, if any of these facts are based on some propaganda that's demonstrably false, well, freaking demonstrate it already. Show the puppet strings reaching from Blockstream's puppetmasters to the other 3/4 of Core. Show similar retractions of critical features one month before release deadline that the Core team has made in the past. Show other coins that started off with such a flimsy hashpower distribution before becoming more robust. Show some planning, any type of planning whatsoever, for either coin that suggests the level of sophistication of Core's roadmap, so we can rightly debunk these business takeover theories as part of the Core fake news echo chamber that says 'these developers have no plan except to do whatever Bad Actors A, B, and C want them to do'.
- Network effect. No matter how loudly Roger Ver shouts, the economy is not calling Bitcoin Cash Bitcoin. Nor is it calling Segwit2x Bitcoin; across three different platforms it's calling it an altcoin valued at between 0.12 and 0.15 Bitcoins. I'm not claiming that they SHOULDN'T be Bitcoin, I'm claiming that they AREN'T. Certain actors concentrated mostly in the USA are supporting 'the majority hashrate', but these actors do not represent the majority of exchange volume. Not even close. Bitfinex is sticking with Core, Kraken is sticking with Core, Bithumb is silent, presumably sticking with Core - OTCers, there's a lot of them, but my guess is the vast majority if not all of them are sticking with Core. Why wouldn't they? They are not interested in buying coffee, they are interested in making sure their million dollar trades are legitimate and can't possibly be replayed or unplayed by a conspiracy of nodes, miners or developers. This is the real, transaction value-weighted economy. It's tempting to characterize the 'economy' as a bunch of people like oneself, but it's not. In the libertarian wonderworld that we all want Bitcoin to serve, bigger transactors get more votes - sometimes because they in fact represent more transactors. And so, this being the case, even if the position of these big transactors is ideologically shortsighted - even if every single non-NYA business has a vested interest in NYA that they're too Core-blinded to see - the specific projects Bitcoin Cash and Segwit2x are STILL inferior as they are more likely to be compromised with their weaker networks. As another analogy, Betamax had better picture quality, but VHS was better able to cater to the needs of users at the time - until far superior technologies came along to replace them both. And Bitcoin's value depends much more heavily on people agreeing it has value than did that of VHS or Betamax stock. Which leads us to:
- Marketing incompetence. The spokespeople of today's big block camp: Jihan Wu with his Twitter tantrums, John McAfee with his penis bets, and Roger Ver yelling that Bitcoin Cash is the real Bitcoin, a claim that grants the entire movement a sheen of reality denialism no matter how morally justified it may be. These are people who start cults or star in memes, not businessmen with the temperament to guide a supposedly more user-facing product into everyone's dreamed-of mass adoption. Stop all this redditing for a moment and stare into outer space. Do you really see your typical Mom and Pop in Nebraska or Shenzheng following the investment advice of these nutjobs? Busting out their Bitcoin Cash smartwallet at Walmart simply because it's truer to Satoshi's original vision? No. Honestly, if you think about it to yourself, you don't see it, because it's ridiculous. Again, I'm making no comment on the flaws or merits of big blocks - a debate I have no technical qualifications for jumping into. What I am saying is that the two current big block proposals are being marketed terribly to the very people that are supposed to fuel these proposals to the moon.
[One tiny moderating factor, I will admit, is that reddit.com/btc
is a functioning and informative forum right now, whereas reddit.com/bitcoin
is not. It also seems very reasonable that the censorship policies of the latter have a lot to do with this. This one legitimate strength of the current big blocker camp is touted time and again in the comments on these very forums. But even this strength is often carried far beyond a rational reader's suspense of disbelief. Anyone who supports Core is a censorship-serving shill? From my understanding, the vast majority of Bitcoin users (not weighted by transaction value) are in the continent of Asia, whose residents are nowhere near this website. South Korea in particular has massive BCH trading volume. So how true is it that information in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cryptocurrency subforums are manipulated and controlled by Core-sympathetic censors? Not a single thread here has presented evidence to the effect. Like with many other conspiracy theories, I might be deadly wrong on the power of the Core Echo Chamber deluding the bulk of the economy, but I'm not holding my breath.]
Anyway, I hope the issues I've presented are based on information sources - developers, exchanges, industry leaders - that are sufficiently independent from Core and from Blockstream as to be credibly unbiased to those who are in disagreement with them, whether over governance policy, over long-term strategy or on near-term implementation (or all three). If not, for example if there are significant non-NYA-signatory businesses I haven't heard of who are supporting Segwit2x, or if BCH's EDA is a predictable and well-documented benefit to these specific players, or if Segwit2x has a workable replay protection plan whose commits Core is somehow maliciously sabotaging, or if Blockstream actually controls development of Ethereum's Plasma rather than independently inspiring it, or if there's any other factual misconceptions I've expressed in my analysis, please feel free to enlighten us in the comments below. Only no semantic wrangling about what constitutes the True Bitcoin or the True Block. I don't worship Bitcoin and I don't care.
Cliffs: It seems to me that information provided solely from non-Core/Blockstream outlets suffices to advise one to steer clear of non-Core implementations of Bitcoin at present, independently of whether the Bitcoin Core implementation is ideal. I am making this post to see if anyone will demonstrate biases about these facts or provide counter-facts showing even deeper problems with Bitcoin Core's current implementation or roadmap.
Cliffs of cliffs: Maybe Core is evil, but at least we're sure their code will work... for now.
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