Forking a Network — Medium

Muneeb Ali of Onename has a thoughtful article which explains why Bitcoin is not like a traditional open source software project.

 

Forking a stand-alone software, like a browser or OS, and implementing changes is quite different from pushing changes to a networking protocol.

Historically, we’ve seen that pushing updates to networking protocols is a slow and tedious process; IPv4 to IPv6 comes to mind. You can upgrade, but other nodes also need to understand the new protocol that you’re using.

The Bitcoin network is not a typical computer network. It has built in economic incentives for people to switch to the largest network. An attempt to make nodes upgrade can result in either:

a) the network quickly converging on a single version or

b) splitting into two separate networks that use different currencies.

 

Read the rest at  Forking a Network — Medium

Erik Voorhees Believes that Bitcoin Core Developers can end Civil War

Erik Voorhees, a Bitcoin Entrepreneur and CEO of Shapeshift.io has a reddit post that calls of Core Developers to end the Civil war by meeting  two demands.

Move 1) Core clearly commits to a hard fork block size increase, by adding it to its formal roadmap. The specific plan should probably be the 2-4-8 plan, as proposed initially by Adam Back, and which achieved widespread consensus after the scaling conferences. The time to add it to the roadmap is now, and the time to execute the HF should then, within reason, be up to Core’s stewardship. This needn’t interfere with, and is certainly not a replacement for, the much beloved SegWit.

Move 2) Core formally, publicly, and clearly denounces the censorship that has plagued community discussion, and should apologize for not having done so earlier. Core is not responsible for the censorship, but stood silently by as it happened, allowing widespread mistrust to grow out of control.

Sadly this post in misguided in several ways;

Adam Back proposed a hard fork to scale Bitcoin over a period of several years, called the 2-4-8.  While there is no doubt that Back’s proposal was sincere, the reality is that any hard fork of Bitcoin as we have argued in the past will ultimately fail, and the results could be catastrophic.  At this stage no credible roadmap  should propose hard forking of Bitcoin short of an emergency flaw with the protocol.  The reason is simple, Bitcoin is practically un-forkable, there is no way at this size of the network to coordinate a full network upgrade across the globe without experiencing serious problems that in the end will undermine the stability of the coin.  Either Bitcoin is a global decentralized consensus-network in which case a hard fork would be contentious and un-workable or Bitcoin is a semi-centralized coin whose entire network can be coordinated by reddit and a few round tables in china.  The reality is that Bitcoin is the former and as such an attempted hard fork will probably result in severe disruptions to the ecosystem.  Finally, any developer who plans on forking Bitcoin would really be a full time politician as almost 99% of their time would be spent convincing the network to fork, as opposed to actual development.

On the 2nd request, asking Core developers to formally denounce something they have no control over can be construed as a backhanded smear tactic. Like asking a man who has never hit his wife, to formally denounce ever beating her.  Greg Maxwell lead developer for Bitcoin Core responded as follows:

 

On the topic of “denouncement”, I think this note is regrettable: It is both unprofessional and a crass move of disrespect towards fellow human beings.

I called out Theymos on the moderation policy and counciled against it. Yet the poster here claims there was only silence; this is flat out untrue.

At the same time, when moderation was temporarily discontinued before aggressive moderation was first instituted the flooding attacks on the /r/bitcoin were so bad that you could flip three pages before seeing something that wasn’t an (often untrue) advertisement for Bitcoin XT along with a myriad violent insults and conspiracy theories. That same embarrassing non-professionalism and near zero SNR now plague the alternative subforum today.

How loud can I continue to oppose when the “uncensored” alternative is both uselessly bad and, yet, also “censored” itself? I still think the aggressive moderation is a bad move, but would we be better served by turning /r/bitcoin into/r/btc? Absolutely not: And even to someone who believed that the /r/btc way was better: it already exists. Probably the most essential element of free speech online– where the ability to speak at all is nearly a physically inalienable right– is being able to have your own space, where attacks can’t bury your words in tripe. In that sense the constant bragading attacks on /r/bitcoin and against the Bitcoin Core project’s own communication tools are some of the worst kind of censorship possible online.

Against this backdrop; people from the bigger-blocks-at-any-cost community run with smears and insults against myself and the longstanding developers of the Bitcoin software and protocol the network uses today. Though that community mostly acts through pseudonymous throwaway accounts, some of the attacks are by well known names. Does the poster here denounce it? No, not that I’ve observed. Do they denounce the threats against my lives of myself, my family and other Bitcoin developers? Do they denounce the lies being spread to attack my reputation and others who have supported Bitcoin so many years? Do they denounce the flooding of the Bitcoin Core communications channels and github by sock accounts? No, seemingly not.

Of course, there are an effective infinitude of things going on in the world that any reasonable person finds reprehensible. Waging a campaign of disagreement with most of those things has no effect beyond wasting time that could instead be used to inform or make the world a better place. So, I don’t expect the poster to have denounced all the vicious and sometimes unlawful attacks performed in the name of his interests. But I do find it ironic that he criticizes others on the basis of a higher standard than he seems to hold himself to.

Emotionally, the argument that Bitcoin Core has an affirmative responsibility to denounce a social networking forum choosing a foolish moderation policy makes the lack of his own opposition to all the vile attacks against us conspicuous by omission. Was it the intent to suggest a degree of implicit support for the parallel attacks that he hasn’t denounced? I doubt it, but I can’t deny feeling a little bit that way. But if I really expected it done, I would have asked in private; not via an unprofessional public list of demands.

Much of what drives the Bitcoin “civil war” is due to a mis-characterized perception of what Bitcoin is.  Bitcoin is not a standard open source software project,  Bitcoin is a decentralized consensus system, a global political system composed of voluntary participants.  Developers do not manage bitcoin, instead they provide code which the network is free to adopt or not.

This “civil war” is really an attempt for some to try and wrest back control of a system that has evolved past any group of developers, communities, or companies.  It is interesting to note that today Bitcoin trading occurs all over the globe in every language, yet the epicenter of discussion is two message boards which at any time have a combined 500-800 active users.  This shows how out of touch most in the Bitcoin ecosystem are.

 

*edit* Corrected Mr. Voorhees name.

Classic? Unlimited? XT? Core?

Gavin Andresen former Lead Bitcoin Developer, posted his thoughts on all the new Bitcoin implementations that have been proposed recently.

Almost two years ago, when I stepped down as lead maintainer for Bitcoin Core,

I wrote: I’m pleased to be able to focus more on protocol-level, cross-implementation issues and less on issues specific to the Bitcoin Core software.

I’d still like to focus on protocol-level, cross-implementation issues but lately I’ve been distracted and have generated a lot of controversy (and hurt feelings) by helping out with some other implementations (first XT, latelyBitcoin Classic, maybe Bitcoin Unlimited soon.

Madness! Chaos! ANARCHY! … I hear some people say, but there is a method to my madness.

 | Gavin Andresen | Bitcoin developer. All-around geek.

Read the full Post  Source: Classic? Unlimited? XT? Core?

Bitpay working with Chainalysis, Is Bitcoin Fungibility at Risk?

A post on reddit’s /r/bitcoin brings up concerns that Bitpay maybe  working with the company Chainalysis.

user /u/dnale0r posted:

I just asked Marcel Roelants, general manager of BitPay at the bitcoin meetup in Amsterdam if they actively cooperate with a company like chainalysis. It turns out they do.

They check incoming payments for suspicious transactions. They also collect consumer data, certainly for some kind of transactions like buying / selling gold and actually are in favour of putting identity in a bitcoin wallet.

I hope the video will be released soon so we can share this on r/Bitcoin

Chainalysis was one of the first companies created to specifically data-mine the bitcoin ledger. Wherein different analytical tools are used to compile a possible history of the inputs and outputs that comprise  a bitcoin account. This analysis can be used to construct a picture of where bitcoin transactions may have originated prior to being spent at a bitpay merchant.  In effect, creating a blacklist/redlist system where bitpay may reject certain transactions.

The rise of companies like Chainalysis has been an extremely controversial development.  One which has been warned about in the past by people like Adam Back the father of Hash Cash and a Bitcoin Developer.  Back has been very outspoken about the risks, that these tools could be used to attack the  fungibility of bitcoin. As far back as November 2013 Back posted on bitcointalk.org  his concerns with redlist/blacklist services:

Its based on significant misunderstanding about bitcoins value proposition – destroy its fungibility and the costs float up to meet credit cards and paypal..

Fungibility has long been considered a key characteristic of money, the concept that one dollar or bitcoin is the same as any other.   In order to protect Bitcoin’s fungibility Back has expressed the need for stronger privacy tools in bitcoin, to make it harder or impossible to conduct these types of data mining.

Here is a talk Adam Back gave in February of 2014 regarding, Fungibility, Privacy and Indentity in Bitcoin.

 

Clearly if it turns out that Bitpay, the larget Bitcoin payment processer, is working with Chainalysis it would bring into question bitcoins fungibilty in consumer transactions.

However one interesting development is that Segrated Witness which is a proposal to scale bitcoin, may also enable new privacy measures in bitcoin, diminishing or negating Chainlsysis business model.

A recent proposal appeared on the Bitcoin Development List piggyback on Segragated Witness to enable confidential transactions.

 

The segregated witness[2] proposal by Pieter Wuille allows to reduce the
blockchain to a mere utxo changeset while putting all cryptographic proofs
(redeemscript/pubkeys/signatures) for the inputs into a witness part.
Segwit also allows upgradable scripting language. All can be done with a
soft fork.

We propose an upgrade to segwit to allow transactions to have both
witnessIns and witnessOuts.

We also propose 3 new transactions types: blinding, unblinding and
confidential. Valid blocks containing any of these new transactions MUST
also include a mandatory special output in their coinbase transaction and a
new special confidential base transaction.

Hopefully these new developments will bring about stronger privacy and anonymity in Bitcoin and insure its future fungibility remains intact.