Embrace The Coming Bitcoin Fork (1 of 4)
The great bitcoin fork is coming and I for one believe both sides will be better off when it does
Dear Friends & Fellow Bitcoiners,
I have been on this amazing journey with many of you since 2012 and so I want to write to you openly about where we are headed as a community.
First, The Good News. We Are Winning!
Lets take a moment to pause and just appreciate how far we have come.
Its hard to believe this time 4 years ago when I joined this community, 1 bitcoin was only worth $11. There were only a few hundred thousand wallets at the time and the big push in the community was to get the first major merchants to start selling their products for bitcoin.
Despite huge challenges and setbacks the past 4 years, we have come an incredibly long way since those early days. As I write this article 1 bitcoin is worth $618. There are now 9 million + wallets on Blockchain.info alone, with more than 15 million wallets ecosystem wide. And most importantly 100,000 merchants now accept bitcoin for their products, among them many of the largest brands in the world.
Beyond its use as a currency, Blockchain technology (Bitcoin’s immutable ledger) is now getting adopted in many of the world’s most valuable enterprises, institutions and even the legacy financial system. Along the way unexpected innovations have popped up almost weekly, from securing assets on the blockchain, to publishing virtually any kind of immutable data you can imagine.
Now, The Bad News, We Have Different Visions
However, despite all this amazing progress. The mood and energy in the community has shifted to one of frustration and negativity.
When I joined in 2012 there was this energizing feeling that permeated every conversation between bitcoiners. The feeling that together we could accomplish the impossible. Through sheer perseverance and hard work by a huge number of people, we made a non governmental, non inflationary, peer to peer currency and global payment network a $10 Billion reality.
Unfortunately as we have grown, we have also grown apart. The community has diverged into two very different visions of what bitcoin is and should be.
Tension has built up as these two views fundamentally conflict with each other. Censorship in many forums is wide spread, and personal attacks common. Good developers and community members who made enormous contributions early on, have now quit or even been pushed out. I can hardly recognize this community as the same one I joined in 2012.
The Fork Is Coming, Lets Embrace It, Not Fear It
Serious and well intended efforts have been made the past 2 years to mediate this conflict over the block size limit. Long discussions have been held, conferences attended, talks given, research conducted, and even agreements signed, all to try and bridge the gap between the diverging views.
However I think we ought to admit to ourselves that this conflict stems from a fundamental and irreconcilable difference in what each side believes bitcoin is.
Some big block folks believe bitcoin’s description in the original whitepaper as a “Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System” should translate into Bitcoin primarily serving as a global payment network competing with the likes of Visa and WeChat by clearing tens of thousands of small transactions every second.
Some small block folks believe bitcoin’s description in the original whitepaper as a “Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System” should translate into Bitcoin primarily serving as a secure store of value and a global settlement network for clearing large sums of digital money.
While obviously this description is a simplification, I think it fairly captures the basic difference in how the purpose of Bitcoin is interpreted by the two sides.
It seems clear at this point that these two views of the world can not both exist simultaneously in the same software project. We have to face the reality that different software design and functionality choices have to be made and coded, in order to serve these different specifications for what the Bitcoin software should do.
Neither side is going to back down on their beliefs, neither side is going to quit and join a different project. The only means by which we can make peace between these intractable beliefs and settle this war, is by means of a fork. And I think neither side should fear that outcome, we should all welcome it as the best means of resolving this conflict.
The Sooner The Bitcoin Community Forks The Better
Lets imagine for a minute the post Bitcoin fork world.
The new “Bitcoin Unlimited: The Decentralized Payments Network” has: 1. Code that supports more transactions, 2. Lower fees accommodating new growth in small value transactions 3. Focuses on supporting the mass market.
The new “Bitcoin Core: The Digital Money Network” has: 1. Code that minimizes the resources to run a full bitcoin node, 2. Higher fees in a competitive “fee market”, 3. Focuses on long term storage of large amounts of digital cash.
I’d say in this future world everyone is better off. Developers on both sides are focused on coding toward a clear vision, instead of wasting endless hours arguing on the internet. Bitcoiners can decide to hold value in both of these projects if they wish or trade value in one for value in the other, depending on their view of each project.
Lets allow individual bitcoiners to decide the value and future of each of these projects for themselves.
This Has Happened Before And It Will Happen Again
Specialization happens all the time in the broader economy and any student of economics will tell you it brings enormous benefits to everyone. These two projects, Bitcoin Digital Cash and Bitcoin Payment Network if you will, each create a different type of value for different people.
In the world of open source software this solution is common. If software can’t serve a purpose someone wants it for, then the code is forked and the a new version of software can serve a new purpose. Entire programming languages are developed to serve different developer needs. No programming language can ever hope to serve all possible use cases and neither can the Bitcoin Network software.
Bitcoiners will be better off in world where they can select and support the Bitcoin Network of their choice. The only alternative is to continue this endless war of politics and destructive personal attacks and I don’t think either side wants that.
I acknowledge there are plenty of challenges to forking Bitcoin successfully, however the work to do so seems far less than the cost of continued conflict and it ought to be something both sides should work toward sooner than later.
Lets not wait for a crisis to force a fork in a rushed and risky way.
A Path Toward Prosperity
Let us each work toward our vision for Bitcoin, instead of working against one another.
We started building this project as friends fighting for a common cause, I believe if we part ways, perhaps we can be friends once more, this time fighting for related causes.
I say we choose individual freedom and embrace the fork as the best solution.