The battle for Bitcoin intensified this week as the push for a user-activated soft fork (UASF) gained traction amidst an atmosphere of increasing hyperbole and toxicity.
Bitcoin Core contributor Eric Lombrozo, an outspoken voice in recent times, advocated for enabling BIP 148 UASF in a blunt Medium post, whilst flame wars erupted on Twitter over a series of questionable tweets from Bitmain’s Jihan Wu.
Until now, Lombrozo had been clear in his desire to see communication between warring factions take precedent over infighting. His post outlined two years’ worth of attempts to bring the mining, business and development communities together to implement a Bitcoin scaling solution via a series of meetings between parties.
Lombrozo, as facilitator, now feels he has reached a threshold where no further good can come from his efforts.
“I tried my best — I do not believe there are any positive results to be gained at this point from this diplomatic approach.”
Past Agreements Went Nowhere
The outcomes of the meetings Lombrozo helped organize — a signed agreement in Hong Kong, a handshake in Beijing and a gentlemen’s agreement in Palo Alto — have ultimately stalled. Lombrozo is blunt in his assessment of the reasons for this, specifically naming controversial Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu as the main antagonist in the long standing impasse. He said:
“At this point I have zero trust left for Jihan Wu and Bitmain.”
According to Lombrozo, Wu and Bitmain “continue to block progress on protocol development, fail to follow through, and keep on upping their demands, never satisfied with anything we deliver. They never come through on anything they’ve promised me.” Some of these promises include the path agreed to in Palo Alto, where miners would begin to signal for Segwit as soon as the code became production ready. Bitmain however “instead began supporting a fork of the Bitcoin Core codebase that deliberately breaks with consensus rules.”
Jihan Wu Responds
Wu’s recollection of the Palo Alto agreement is different. He told Bitsonline:
“I did not say that [agreeing to activate SegWit] as a kind of promise in Palo Alto.” His initial impression was that Core devs would work on a solution and possibly announce a proposal at the Milan scaling conference.
Sometime after, however, he decided his impression was wrong — and that he would only support the terms of the Hong Kong agreement, activating SegWit “if a block size increase was included in the production ready code.”
“I chose to stick to the Hong Kong agreement, no block size increase code in the release; no SegWit should be running in the production environment.”
In many instances Wu has not publicly given reasoning for his actions, especially for the English-speaking world — other than a number of Twitter posts. Wu has regularly retweeted or quoted posts that provide an alternative to the Bitcoin Core roadmap and refuted the suggestion that Bitmain are stalling development in order to maximize fees:
Limiting the block size is limiting the capability potential of a full node. Someone wants 2 make profit from it. https://t.co/eHK0gJQZ4L
— Jihan Wu (@JihanWu) May 14, 2017
But many of these become lost in the noise of Twitter, and any constructive content is often overshadowed by more controversial posts. A few days ago Wu labelled BIP 148 as ‘stupid’, inciting a torrent of criticism. He also went on to post a picture of the infamous Jonestown suicides, implying that activating BIP 148 would lead to the “death” of its followers.
— Jihan Wu (@JihanWu) May 28, 2017
Language and cultural considerations obviously play a part here, in the same way that many memes concerning China may be interpreted differently by Chinese.
It must be noted that despite this, Wu has many big supporters outside of /r/btc and Roger Ver’s Bitcoin.com. Software giant John McAfee, who through his company MGTI has a relationship with Bitmain, recently debated the merits of Wu’s stance on his Twitter feed, proclaiming that:
I support those users who know math and understand what's actually happening. I have never met a mathematician who disagrees with Jihan.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) May 29, 2017
We are no better than who we are. Jihan is trying to save Bitcoin. He has more to lose by a split than anyone
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) May 29, 2017
When a user asked if McAfee believed that using government power to enforce patents in Bitcoin was commendable (referring to ASICBOOST), McAfee stated:
I do. Bitcoin is either part of the business world or it isn't. If it is, patents are part and parcel of business. If not, abandon it now.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) May 30, 2017
This lies in opposition to many in the Bitcoin community who advocate open source solutions, and highlights just how much perceptions about business, regulation and technology influence individual thinking about the future of Bitcoin.
In the end, it seems increasingly likely that Bitcoin is headed for a split that will change the perception and function of the main chain heading into the future. On one hand, Bitcoin users feel they need to wrest control of the protocol from a powerful party like Bitmain — while others believe increasing the block size via hard fork will increase on-chain capacity and reduce the influence of a small number of influential developers.
Is there really a battle for Bitcoin’s soul? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Twitter, Pixabay, WeUseCoins.com