Hard forks, miner wars, AsicBoost. It’s all noise. Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere, no matter how hard people try to hijack or replace it.
AsicBoost: a ‘Clear and Present Danger’
In recent weeks and months, the Bitcoin community has been awash with drama surrounding miners. The current 1MB block size limit and how to properly scale the network beyond that size has provided the central focus of the infighting.
Until now, the debate has been mostly stagnant; the strongest attempt at overtaking Core and forking the blockchain, Bitcoin Unlimited, is going nowhere fast.
But all that changed yesterday when Core developer Gregory Maxwell reported his discovery of a mining exploit dubbed “AsicBoost.” After a letter from Maxwell to the bitcoin-dev mailing list got published on the Linux Foundation website, the community immediately began pointing fingers, accusing certain bitcoin miners of attempting to leverage this exploit to increase their profits.
Bitmain founder and director Jihan Wu has taken the brunt of these accusations so far. A Bitmain patent from 2015 surfaced shortly after Maxwell published his findings on AsicBoost. That patent appears to claim exclusive rights over the method used to exploit AsicBoost, creating a firestorm directed towards Jihan and his company.
Conspiracy, Bickering, or War: Bitcoin Can Survive
Another conspiracy theory, another escalation in the years-long block size debate. And it’s all meaningless, no matter what happens to Bitcoin as a result.
The Bitcoin community has created a lot of boogeymen in the past, and whether the threats posed a real risk to the technology or not, we survived them all. Remember: Mt. Gox robbed the Bitcoin economy of millions; Josh Garza scammed us and tarnished our reputation, GHash.io briefly had the power to bring down the entire Bitcoin network; and the Bitcoin Foundation once tried to sell us out to the world’s governments.
We overcame, we conquered, we flourished.
Now, bitcoin miners supportive of Bitcoin Unlimited — or at least skeptical of SegWit — pose the latest existential threat to our technology and community. Forgive me for yawning.
The blockchain will either fork or it won’t, and we will deal with the aftermath either way. It doesn’t matter who plays the villain or the hero, the outcome will be the same. The community will rebuild, developers will pick up the pieces — be it Core, Unlimited, or a new group — and our technology will continue to grow and benefit from its network effect.
So instead of making a big deal over who may or may not have Bitcoin’s best interests in mind, let’s focus on what to do in the unlikely event of a hard fork — because that’s where the real work awaits.
Bitcoin Forks, so What?
If we fork, we will have two Bitcoin blockchains on our hands, each competing for the privilege of being the “official” Bitcoin. What will come of this competition, undoubtedly passionate and rife with conflict?
In the immediate term, the Bitcoin price will probably fall, and the mainstream media will flood the pipelines with negative news and a fresh batch of Bitcoin obituaries.
In the medium-term, the community will fight over which blockchain warrants the “official” status, and the miners will go back and forth in choosing one client over the other. Eventually, the conflict will come to a resolution and the community will declare a winner.
Then, in the long-term, it will be as if a hard fork never happened. The user base will continue growing, and the network will continue to appreciate in value.
This is the resilience of the blockchain. It’s all we talk about when facing outside threats, such as regulators or zealous naysayers. But we seem to forget about it when the conflict comes from internal factors. Bitcoin is resilient, and it will take more than a little hard fork to kill it.
Besides, isn’t the health and longevity of the Bitcoin network in the miners’ best interest? If Bitcoin dies — or even suffers a big price crash like at the beginning of 2015 — they suffer. So wouldn’t everyone come to a compromise eventually, if not for anything other than to save their own hides?
Cryptocurrency Spreads Far and Wide: If Bitcoin Dies, Let’s Learn From Our Mistakes and Move on
Even if we assume the worst case, it still doesn’t seem so bad. Say the miners do destroy Bitcoin because of greedy self-interest, we have hundreds of other cryptocurrencies to choose from. Some of them are even pretty good. Look at Dash, Ethereum, Monero — they all skyrocketed a few weeks ago (the last time we thought the Bitcoin apocalypse was imminent).
And what of the miners in this scenario? As Redditor “chris101sb” put it: “If Bitcoin dies they will move on to mine something else.”
If Bitcoin dies, that is, miners will move to the next big cryptocurrency along with the rest of the community. Their profits will still take heavy damage due to the cut in the market cap of their network, but they will survive. And hopefully, just maybe, they will learn from their mistakes and start to play nice with developers and miners with opposing views.
So, in short, Bitcoin probably isn’t going anywhere. If it does, cryptocurrency as a whole definitely isn’t going anywhere. Even if Core and Unlimited don’t come to their senses and agree to a compromise, we have a lot of other great coins to choose from.
Are you concerned about the latest drama in Bitcoinland? Is Bitcoin really in danger of death? Let us know your thoughts below.
Image via Pixabay.