Thursday, December 1, 2022

‘I Don’t Plan on Returning to Bitcoin’ Says Early Developer Mike Hearn

‘I Don’t Plan on Returning to Bitcoin’ Says Early Developer Mike Hearn

Mike Hearn, a developer whose early work in Bitcoin was instrumental in driving adoption for less technical users, has said he doesn’t intend to return to the project — even post-Bitcoin Cash (BCH). The Corda distributed ledger project he leads for R3 more accurately reflects his more radical vision for a world of decentralized, peer-to-peer applications, he said, free of Bitcoin’s ideological battles and time constraints.

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Hearn, a confidant of Satoshi Nakamoto (though the two never met in person), was responsible for key early-stage Bitcoin projects like bitcoinj (the first Java library) and the popular MultiBit desktop wallet.

He also worked with Bitcoin developers Gavin Andresen and Matt Corrallo on other enhancements, with developed (with Andresen) the first popular alternative node software (Bitcoin XT) and pioneered the concept of smart contracts.

After taking a stance against the “small blockers” in Bitcoin’s years-long scaling war, Hearn infamously “rage quit” the project with a widely-covered 2016 article that claimed he’d sold all his BTC, and called Bitcoin a “failed experiment”.

Might Hearn Return for a Large-Block Bitcoin?

Given the August 1st hard fork that created Bitcoin Cash and drew the interest of a number of Bitcoin OGs like Andresen and Craig Wright, many speculated Hearn might consider returning also.

However like his friend Satoshi, Hearn has now… moved on to other things.

“The most common question I’m asked is whether I’d come back and work on Bitcoin again. The obvious followup question is – come back and work on what?” Hearn wrote in his introduction to a Reddit ask-me-anything (AMA) session earlier today.

“If you want to see some of the ideas I’d have been exploring if things had worked out differently, go read the Corda tech white paper.”

BCH Not Radical Enough

Hearn said Bitcoin Cash was “nowhere near radical enough”, and questioned its continued use of proof-of-work mining and old-fashioned Script commands. BCH “strongly resembles the Bitcoin community of 2014. This is not good,” he said, hinting it should be way past that stage by now.

Corda R3

Corda is a network similar in ideals to Bitcoin, but is capable of transferring all manner of data structures and digital assets rather than just currency, as well as record the changing state of those structures over time — e.g: contracts, loans, orders. Hearn claimed it offers better privacy features, improved scalability, and can accommodate extra layers and decentralized applications more easily via its “flow framework” of communicating with the main transaction chain.

Many questions on the AMA concerned Bitcoin Cash and the scaling debate, which Hearn was happy to accommodate. Bitcoin needs a better governance model to make key decisions, and hard-forking shouldn’t be used as a mechanism to make those decisions, he said.

While a planned hard fork for BCH next month isn’t likely to be controversial, there’s bound to be a split in opinions at some point in the future — and dissenting groups may be subject to all manner of attacks to enforce a point of view.

“Blockstream successfully took over Bitcoin Core and expelled anyone who opposed them,” he said, with Bitcoin XT nodes subject to regular DDoS attacks and supporters censored in online forums.

Very Different Ideas for Decentralized Assets

Mike Hearn
Mike Hearn

Hearn’s declaration of commitment to Corda, and the departure from mere cryptocurrency it represents, may dash the hopes of some BCH fans who wanted to see former developers reunite for the cause.

Corda’s purpose and functionality is radically different to Bitcoin — with no POW, mass transaction broadcasts or mining, and more formalized decision-making processes over Bitcoin’s relative anarchy.

It’s also a product of R3, a corporation many in the crypto community see (perhaps unfairly) as a bogeyman focused on developing blockchain-like networks for banks rather than saving the world.

But Hearn’s vision has definitely shifted away from payment methods, and has explored new perspectives in almost every aspect of the network — from verification techniques to governance and security. Whether you agree with that vision or not, it’s interesting to see where one of Bitcoin’s original thinkers has gone in the years since those early discussions.

What do you think of Mike Hearn’s latest comments and projects? Feel free to comment below.

Images via Mike Hearn, R3

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