Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash are confusing, especially to newbies. They are likely unaware of the history and reasoning for the existence of these two coins. This ignorance is likely persisted by the censorship practised at r/bitcoin and Bitcointalk.org for several years. (r/rbitcoinbanned includes examples of the censoring.)
Most of the following is an explanation of the history of Bitcoin, when there was only one Bitcoin. Then it explains the in-fighting and why it forked into two Bitcoins: 1) Bitcoin [Legacy] and 2) Bitcoin Cash, which happens in the last section (THE DIVORCE).
BITCOIN WAS AN INSTRUMENT OF WAR
For Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator, and the initial supporters, Bitcoin was more than just a new currency. It was an instrument of war.
Who are they fighting against?
The government and central banks.
There is an abundance of evidence of this, starting with Satoshi Nakamoto’s original software.
BATTLE FOR ONLINE GAMBLING
Governments around the world ban online gambling by banning their currency from being used as payment. The original Bitcoin software included code for Poker. Yes, Poker.
Here is the original code: https://github.com/trottier/original-bitcoin/blob/master/src/uibase.cpp
Search for “Poker”, “Deal Me Out”, “Deal Hand”, “Fold”, “Call”, “Raise”, “Leave Table”, “DitchPlayer”.
Bitcoin gave the middle finger to the government and found a way to get around their ban. In the initial years, it was mainly gambling operators that used Bitcoin, such as SatoshiDice. Was this a coincidence? Gambling is one of the best, if not, the best application for Bitcoin. It was no wonder that gambling operators embraced Bitcoin, including gambling mogul Calvin Ayre.
Bitcoin enabled people to rebel against the government in other ways as well, such as Silk Road, which enabled people to buy and sell drugs.
ANTI-GOVERNMENT LIBERTARIANS AND CYPHERPUNKS
Libertarians seek to maximize political freedom and autonomy. They are against authority and state power. Cypherpunks are activists advocating widespread use of cryptography as a route to social and political change. Their common thread is their dislike for the government.
Bitcoin was created by libertarians and cypherpunks.
Satoshi Nakamoto used cryptography mailing lists to communicate with other cypherpunks such as Wei Dai. Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared after 2010, but we can refer to his writings. He wrote:
“It’s very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain it properly. I’m better with code than with words though.”
Satoshi Nakamoto was rebellious to government control. Someone argued with Satoshi by stating: “You will not find a solution to political problems in cryptography.” Satoshi replied:
“Yes, but we can win a major battle in the arms race and gain a new territory of freedom for several years.
Governments are good at cutting off the heads of a centrally controlled networks like Napster, but pure P2P networks like Gnutella and Tor seem to be holding their own.”
Nakamoto was critical of the central bank. He wrote:
“The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust. Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve. We have to trust them with our privacy, trust them not to let identity thieves drain our accounts.”
It is no wonder that the first supporters of Bitcoin were libertarians as well, who agreed with Satoshi’s ideology and saw the potential of Bitcoin to fulfill their ideology.
One of the biggest benefits that Bitcoin supporters want, is “censorship resistance”. What does this mean? It means: to be able to spend your money any way you want. It means: how to get around government regulations and bans. It means: how to do something despite the government.
Roger Ver, an early Bitcoin supporter, heavily criticizes the government for engaging in wars around the world that kills civilians and children. When he ran as a Libertarian candidate in an election against the Republicans and Democrats, he criticized the ATF and FBI for murdering children in their raid in Waco, Texas. At the time, Ver and many other merchants were selling fireworks on eBay without a license. The ATF charged Ver and sent him to prison, but did not charge any of the other merchants. (https://youtu.be/N6NscwzbMvI?t=47m50s) This must have angered Ver a lot.
Since then, Ver has been on a mission to weaken and shrink the government. When he learned about Bitcoin in February 2011, he saw it as his weapon to accomplish his goal…his instrument of war.
Ver was already a multi-millionaire entrepreneur. He sold his company, bought Bitcoins and was the first to invest in Bitcoin startups, such as Bitpay, Blockchain.info, Kraken, Bitcoin.com, Bitcoinstore.com and others. Then he worked full-time to promote Bitcoin. Bitpay became the largest Bitcoin payment processor. Blockchain.info became the largest provider of Bitcoin wallets. Much of the growth of Bitcoin since 2011 can be attributed to Ver’s companies.
More evidence of Ver’s anti-government sentiment emerged when he recently announced that he is working to create a society with no government at all (FreeSociety.com).
HOW TO WIN THE WAR
To win the war, Bitcoin must be adopted and widely used by the masses. When people use Bitcoin instead of their national fiat currency, the government becomes weaker. The government can no longer do the following:
- steal wealth from its citizens by printing money (When a government prints money, it is no different than when a criminal counterfeits money. Both are stealing wealth from the other people holding the same currency.)
- tax wherever it pleases (and then squander the money or spend it on activities that the population does not agree with, such as wars)
- continue exploding the size of government
It is not only important to get the masses to adopt Bitcoin, but it is also important to get them to adopt it quickly. If it takes a long time, governments will have more time to think twice about allowing Bitcoin to exist and will have more justifications to ban it. They can claim that Bitcoin is used for ransomware, terrorism, etc. If Bitcoin is adopted by the masses to buy everyday goods, such as food and clothing, then it will be harder for them to stop it.
IS BITCOIN WINNING?
Yes and no.
Bitcoin has definitely become more popular over the years. But, it is not achieving Satoshi Nakamoto’s goals.
Satoshi defined Bitcoin and his goal. The title of his white paper is:
“Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”
Is Bitcoin being used as cash? Unfortunately, it is not. It is being used as a store of value. However, the title of Satoshi’s white paper was not:
“Bitcoin: A Store of Value”
There is utility in having a store of value, of course. People need it and Bitcoin has superior features to gold. Therefore, it is likely that Bitcoin can continue gaining in popularity and price as it continues to compete and take market share away from gold.
However, both gold and Bitcoin are not being used as currency.
If Bitcoin does not replace fiat currencies, will it weaken governments? No, because no matter how many people buy gold or Bitcoin (as a store of value), they do not weaken governments. To do so, Bitcoin must replace fiat currencies.
BITCOIN LOSING TO FIAT
In the initial years, Bitcoin was taking market share from fiat currencies. But, in the past year, it is losing market share. SatoshiDice, Yours.org and Bitmain switched to Bitcoin Cash. According to Businessinsider:
“Out of the leading 500 internet sellers, just three accept bitcoin, down from five last year.”
Why is Bitcoin losing market share to fiat? According to Businessinsider:
“when they do try to spend it, it often comes with high fees, which eliminates the utility for small purchases, or it takes a long time to complete the transaction, which could be a turn-off.”
Why are there high fees and long completion times?
Because of small blocks.
SCALING DEBATE — THE BIG MARITAL FIGHT
Why isn’t the block size increased?
Because Core/Blockstream believes that big blocks lead to centralization to fewer people who can run the nodes. They also believe that off-chain solutions will provide faster and cheaper transactions. There are advocates for bigger blocks, but because Core/Blockstream control the software, Bitcoin still has the original, one megabyte block since 8 years ago. (Core developers control Bitcoin’s software and several of the key Core developers are employed by Blockstream, a private, for-profit company.)
Businesses, users and miners have asked for four years for the block size to be increased. They point out that Satoshi has always planned to scale Bitcoin by increasing the block size. For four years, Core/Blockstream has refused.
The Bitcoin community split into two factions:
- Small Blockers, who did not want to increase the block size
- Big Blockers, who did
This scaling debate and in-fighting went on for several years. During this time, the controllers of r/bitcoin and Bitcointalk censored big blockers. Comments that criticized small blocks or supported big blocks, were deleted. You can read more about it here:
SMALL BLOCKERS VS BIG BLOCKERS
Why has Blockstream refused to increase block size? There are a few possible reasons:
- They truly believe that big blocks means that fewer people would be able to run full nodes, which would lead to centralization and that the best roadmap is with off-chain solutions. (However, since 2009, hard disk space has exploded. A 4TB disk costs $100 and can store 10 years of blocks. This price is the equivalent to a handful of Bitcoin transaction fees. Also, Satoshi never planned on having every user run full nodes. He envisioned server farms. Decentralization is needed to achieve censorship-resistance and to make the blockchain immutable. This is already accomplished with the thousands of nodes. Having millions or billions of nodes does not increase the censorship-resistance and does not make the blockchain more immutable.)
- Blockstream wants small blocks, high fees and slow confirmations to justify the need for their off-chain products, such as Liquid. Blockstream sells Liquid to exchanges to move Bitcoin quickly on a side-chain. Lightning Network will create liquidity hubs, such as exchanges, which will generate traffic and fees for exchanges. With this, exchanges will have a higher need for Liquid. This is the only way that Blockstream will be able to repay the $76 million to their investors.
- They propose moving the transactions off the blockchain onto the Lightning Network, an off-chain solution. By doing so, there is a possibility of being regulated by the government (see https://www.reddit.com/r/btc/comments/7gxkvj/lightning_hubs_will_need_to_report_to_irs/). One of Blockstream’s investors/owners is AXA. AXA’s CEO and Chairman until 2016 was also the Chairman of Bilderberg Group. The Bilderberg Group is run by politicians and bankers. According to GlobalResearch, Bilderberg Group wants “a One World Government (World Company) with a single, global marketplace…and financially regulated by one ‘World (Central) Bank’ using one global currency.” Does Bilderberg see Bitcoin as one component of their master plan?
- They do not like the fact that most of the miners are in China. In this power-struggle, they would like to take away control and future revenues from China, by scaling off-chain.
Richard Heart gives his reasons why block size should not be increased, in this video.
He cites latency as a limitation and the reason for doing off-chain scaling. However, latency has been dramatically reduced since 2009 when Bitcoin started with 1MB blocks. Back then, most residential users had 5–10 Mbps internet speed. Now, they have up to 400 Mbps up to 1 Gbps. That’s a 40 to 200X increase. Back in 2009, nobody would’ve thought that you can stream 4k videos.
He implies that 10 minute intervals between block creations are needed in order for the blocks to sync. If internet speed has increased by 40–200X, why can’t the block size be increased?
He claims that bigger blocks make it more difficult for miners to mine the blocks, which increases the chances of orphaned blocks. However, both speeds and the number of mining machines have increased dramatically, causing hashing power on the network to exponentially increase since 2009. This will likely continue increasing in the future.
Richard says that blocks will never be big enough to do 2,000 transactions per second (tps). He says that all of the forks in the world is only going to get 9 tps. Since his statement, Peter Rizun and Andrew Stone have shown that a 1 core CPU machine with 3 Mbps internet speed can do 100 tps. (https://youtu.be/5SJm2ep3X_M) Rizun thinks that visa level (2,000 tps) can be achieved with nodes running on 4-core/16GB machines, bigger blocks and parallel processing to take advantage of the multiple CPU cores.
Even though Rizun and Stone are showing signifiant increases in tps with bigger blocks, the big blockers have never been against a 2nd layer. They’ve always said that you can add a 2nd layer later.
CORE/BLOCKSTREAM VS MINERS
According to Satoshi, Bitcoin should be governed by those with the most hashing power. One hash, one vote. However, Core/Blockstream does not agree with this. Due to refusals for four years to increase block size, it would seem that Core/Blockstream has been able to wrestle control away from miners. Is this because they want control? Is this because they don’t want the Chinese to have so much, or any, control of Bitcoin? Is this because they prefer to eventually move the revenue to the West, by moving most of the transactions off chain?
It would seem that Businesses/Users and Core/Blockstream have very different agendas.
Businesses/Users want cheap and fast transactions and see this as an immediate need. Core/Blockstream do not. Here are some quotes from Core/Blockstream:
Greg Maxwell: “I don’t think that transaction fees mattering is a failing — it’s success!”
Greg Maxwell: “fee pressure is an intentional part of the system design and to the best of the current understanding essential for the system’s long term survial. So, uh, yes. It’s good.”
Greg Maxwell: “There is a consistent fee backlog, which is the required criteria for stability.”
Peter Wuille: “we — as a community — should indeed let a fee market develop, and rather sooner than later”
Luke-jr: “It is no longer possible to keep fees low.”
Luke-jr: “Just pay a $5 fee and it’ll go through every time unless you’re doing something stupid.”
Jorge Timón: “higher fees may be just what is needed”
Jorge Timón: “Confirmation times are fine for those who pay high fees.”
Jorge Timón: “I think Adam and I agree that hitting the limit wouldn’t be bad, but actually good for an young and immature market like bitcoin fees.”
Mark Friedenbach: “Slow confirmation, high fees will be the norm in any safe outcome.”
Wladimir J. van der Laan: “A mounting fee pressure, resulting in a true fee market where transactions compete to get into blocks, results in urgency to develop decentralized off-chain solutions.”
Greg Maxwell: “There is nothing wrong with full blocks, and blocks have been “full” relative to what miners would produce for years. Full blocks is the natural state of the system”
Wladimir J. van der Laan: “A mounting fee pressure, resulting in a true fee market where transactions compete to get into blocks, results in urgency to develop decentralized off-chain solutions. I’m afraid increasing the block size will kick this can down the road and let people (and the large Bitcoin companies) relax”
Why don’t Core/Blockstream care about cheap and fast transactions? One possible reason is that they do not use Bitcoin. They might own some, but they do not spend it to buy coffee and they do not use it to pay employees. They aren’t making hundreds of transactions per day. They do not feel the pain. As engineers, they want a technical utopia.
Businesses/Users on the other hand, feel the pain and want business solutions.
An analogy of this scaling debate is this:
You have a car that is going 50 kph. The passengers (Bitcoin users) want to go 100 kph today, but eventually in the future, they want to go 200 kph. The car is capable of going 100 kph but not 200 kph. Big blockers are saying: Step on the accelerator and go 100 kph. Small blockers are saying: Wait until we build a new car, which will go 200 kph. Meanwhile, the passengers are stuck at 50 kph.
Not only do Big blockers think that the car can simply go faster by stepping on the accelerator, they have already shown that the car can go even faster by adding a turbocharger (even bigger blocks) and making sure that every cylinder is firing (parallel process on multiple CPU cores). In addition, they are willing to use the new car if and when it gets built.
CORE/BLOCKSTREAM VS USERS
If you watch this debate from 2017–02–27 (https://youtu.be/JarEszFY1WY), an analogy can be made. Core/Blockstream is like the IT department and Bitcoin.com (Roger Ver and Jake Smith) is like the Sales/Marketing department (users).
Core/Blockstream developers hold, but do not use Bitcoin. Blockstream does not own nor use Bitcoin. Roger Ver’s companies use Bitcoin every day. Ver’s MemoryDealers was the first company to accept Bitcoin. Johnny seems to think that he knows what users want, but he rarely uses Bitcoin and he is debating one of the biggest users sitting across the table.
In all companies, Marketing (and all other departments) is IT’s customer. IT must do what Marketing wants, not the other way around. If Core/Blockstream and Roger Ver worked in the same company, the CEO would tell Core/Blockstream to give Roger what he wants or the CEO would fire Core/Blockstream.
But they don’t work for the same company. Roger and other businesses/users cannot fire Core/Blockstream.
Core/Blockstream wants to shoot for the best technology possible. They are not interested in solving short term problems, because they do not see high fees and long confirmation times as problems.
BLOCKSTREAM VS LIBERTARIANS
There are leaders in each camp. One can argue that Blockstream is the leader of the Small Blockers and Roger Ver (supported by Gavin Andresen, Calvin Ayre, businesses and some miners) is the leader of the Big Blockers.
Blockstream has openly called for full blocks and higher fees and they are preparing to scale with Lightning Network. As mentioned before, there is a possibility that Lightning hubs will be regulated by the government. Luke-jr tweeted “But State has authority from God”. According to this video, Luke-jr believes that the government should tax you and the government should execute heretics. Luke-jr’s values are diametrically opposed to libertarians’.
Roger Ver wants Bitcoin to regulate the government, not the other way around. He wants to weaken and shrink the government. In addition to separation of church and state, he wants to see separation of money and state. He felt that Bitcoin can no longer do this, so he pushed for solutions such as Bitcoin Unlimited.
MIKE HEARN EXPLAINS BLOCKSTREAM
Mike Hearn is one of the first Bitcoin developers. He explained how Core/Blockstream developers (source):
- never want to increase block size
- required consensus to stop other people’s changes, but not their own
- hijacked control of Bitcoin
- are incentivized to sell their off-chain product called Liquid
- “work for a company that makes more money the worse the block chain gets”
To prepare for off-chain scaling, Core/Blockstream forked Bitcoin by adding Segwit, which I will refer to as Bitcoin Legacy. This is still referred to by the mainstream as Bitcoin, and it has the symbol BTC.
After four years of refusal by CoreBlockstream, the big blockers, out of frustration, restored Bitcoin through a fork, by removing Segwit from Bitcoin Legacy and increased the block size. This is currently called Bitcoin Cash and has the symbol BCH.
Bitcoin Legacy has transformed from cash to store-of-value. It had a 8 year head start in building brand awareness and infrastructure. It’s likely that it will continue growing in popularity and price for a while.
Bitcoin Cash most resembles Satoshi’s “peer-to-peer cash”. It will be interesting to see if it will pick up from where Bitcoin Legacy left off and take market share in the fiat currency space. Libertarians and cypherpunks will be able to resume their mission of weakening and shrinking the government by promoting Bitcoin Cash.
Currently, Bitcoin Cash can fulfill the role of money, which includes medium of exchange (cash) and store-of-value functions. It will be interesting to see if off-chain scaling (with lower fees and faster confirmations) will enable Bitcoin Legacy to be used as a currency as well and fulfill the role of money.
This is an example of the free market and open competition. New companies divest or get created all the time, to satisfy different needs. Bitcoin is no different.
Small blockers and big blockers no longer need to fight and bicker in the same house. They have gone their separate ways.
Both parties have what they want. Blockstream can store value and generate revenue from their off-chain products to repay their investors. Libertarians (and gambling operators) can rejoice and re-arm with Bitcoin Cash to take on the government. They can continue with their mission to get freedom and autonomy.