By now, if you’re a regular bitcoiner you’ve probably seen UASF supporters appearing everywhere, online and in real life. They wear camouflage ‘UASF’ caps and add the letters to their names on social media. What are they doing, and why does it matter to Bitcoin?
‘UASF’ stands for ‘user-activated soft fork’. It refers to a number of scaling proposals for Bitcoin, of which BIP 148 is best known. Starting 1st August, miners and nodes will signal support for segregated witness (SegWit) transactions. If the network rejects a non-SegWit block between 1st August and 15th November, it will create a fork in the Bitcoin network.
From there, miners, nodes, wallets, exchanges and ultimately users will need to decide which arm of the fork to support.
This excellent article by Jimmy Song on Medium explains the issue in detail. He refers to “skin in the game”, the notion that supporting either side has a cost. Miners, he wrote, have the greatest skin in the game because they’re forced to choose one side (or a fork) or the other. Users can keep a bet both ways.
Song’s article is recommended reading for all stakeholders, and takes a neutral tone to explain what’s happening and why.
Wade back into the rest of the internet, though, and neutrality flies out the window. UASF gives real users what they want, say some. It avoids the potential damage of a hard fork to increase block sizes, say others.
Opponents claim UASF is a rushed proposal, designed to dodge other scaling proposals that have more widespread support. The most prominent of these is the “Silbert agreement” from the Consensus conference, which implements SegWit and later hard-forks to increase transaction blocks to 2MB maximum.
And because this is Bitcoin, and the internet, serious technical discussion is interspersed with provocation and outright trolling of opposing sides.
Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu, whose co-operation is imperative to any scaling plan, has described UASF supporters as a “cult”. Yesterday he tweeted a picture of the 1978 Jonestown tragedy with nothing but the hashtag “#UASF”.
Reality was telling them something, but they did not want to listen. Cult. https://t.co/WoinTMt5oZ
— Jihan Wu (@JihanWu) May 29, 2017
Wu said he would signal “based on the NY agreement”, and not consider other options.
Regularly controversial tweeter Samson Mow, now representing Core team supporters Blockstream, expressed his simple confidence that BIP 148 would activate:
— Samson Mow (@Excellion) May 29, 2017
Mow actually made and distributed the famous ‘UASF’ caps. In another post, he referred to Wu as a “cartel boss”. Then it was back to memes:
— Samson Mow (@Excellion) May 29, 2017
Satoshi Port and Bylls CEO Francois Pouliot (with added UASF) added he was glad to see more supporters joining in:
— Francis Pouliot ⚡️ (@francispouliot_) May 29, 2017
However it’s not as clear cut as supporters (or opponents would like. Many stakeholders support UASF in theory, but think the plan is too rushed. For example, one-time Core developer Peter Todd:
Speaking of, this calls for a selfie.
Though I still think BIP148's timeline was kinda crazy. But I'd love to be proven wrong! pic.twitter.com/HtpKT2r9cP
— Peter Todd (@peterktodd) May 29, 2017
On Reddit, another controversial figure and Core supporter expressed his concern. Theymos, super-moderator of Bitcointalk.org and /r/Bitcoin, said BIP 148 would fail for being too rushed. He pointed out that Mow merely made a prediction about BIP 148, and is not a developer.
Theymos added that he supports Core developers Greg (Maxwell), Matt (Corallo) and Pieter (Wuille) and preferred no action at all to a hasty and unproven one.
Even Blockstream CEO Adam Back has been more cautious about supporting the UASF:
— Adam Back (@adam3us) May 28, 2017
China-based Bitcoin consultant Jake Smith, who works regularly with Roger Ver’s company Bitcoin.com, condemned the UASF fans’ behavior. UASF, he said, is “based on fundamental misunderstandings about proof of work and why Bitcoin works the way it does.”
“So now, based on some tweets and some jackasses wearing their Blockstream-issue UASF hats at conferences, we are supposed to believe that ‘the majority’ is on their side because some nodes added a UASF flag to their signal?”
After the Silbert compromise agreement, in which “literally all the largest Bitcoin companies concluded” a hard fork is necessary, he said, he saw posts online saying those companies would “wake up when the economic majority speaks.”
“The ‘economic majority’ apparently is represented only by a handful of Twitter trolls and has no voice otherwise. Meanwhile the leaders of Bitcoin’s largest companies, who have been around for years and are responsible for bringing millions of new users into the fold, are being portrayed as clueless businessmen.”
The actual debate may be between those impatient to see Bitcoin’s scaling issues solved, and those who’d rather give it time. Users may experience stuck transactions and high fees, but is that the price they pay for a secure network?
BIP 148 fans may shout the loudest at the moment. But as things stand, it appears most economic support is for the Silbert agreement. Trying to rush a solution ahead of an existing consensus probably won’t go anywhere.
What’s your take on UASF and its alternatives? Let us know.
Images via Twitter, Samson Mow, Denarium Bitcoin