The Bitcoin Cash civil war: Chain split or consensus?

10 Nov, 2018
by Will Heasman
News
The Bitcoin Cash civil war: Chain split or consensus?

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is nearing a very real fork in the road. The two warring factions within the BCH development teams are no closer to a consensus that could potentially salvage a future for the cryptocurrency as we know it.

Ironically a little over a year since the chin split that granted independence from Bitcoin (BTC), BCH now faces a similar predicament and a familiar story, littered with disagreements over fundamentals and infighting between developers and mining groups. So what’s the story this time? and will it result in another chain split? 

Our tales begins back in August of this year when the lead developers of Bitcoin ABC – one of BCH’s main client software – announced the release of a network upgrade for BCH: 

There were several improvements within the proposed upgrade including:

1) “introducing A new opcode called OP_CHECKDATASIG” 

 - An operation code (surprise, surprise) which, amongst other things, would enable the use of smart contracts onto BCH enabling the creation of Dapps and other non-cash transaction services.

2) “The introduction of canonical transaction ordering”

- This would change the format in which transactions are ordered with the aim to condense the amount of information needed to communicate between nodes thus enabling fast transactions and further scalability.

BCH is scheduled to hardfork every 6 months as per its protocol, something which can often happen without a hitch - and without a chain split; with this in mind these proposals would seem fairly routine, however, the upgrades can only go smoothly if there is a clear consensus, unfortunately for bitcoin ABC developers, this was not the case… `

Cue our antagonist, Dr. Craig S. Wright. *thunder claps* 

Dr. Wright, known to some as Faketoshi - a nickname foisted upon him after he outed himself as, (you guessed it) Satoshi Nakamoto – Is a large proponent of BCH as well a the chief scientist of nChain, a prominent blockchain research firm.

Wright disagreed with the Bitcoin ABC upgrade, specifically believing BCH shouldn’t forsake the “cash” part of its name for the non-cash transactions that the reintroduction of that particular OPcode (OP_CHECKDATASIG”) would bring.

Instead, Wright (backed by Coingeek miners, currently in control of 20.14% BCH hashpower) proposed a counter upgrade known simply as Satoshis Vision (SV). SV - as the sharper ones amongst you may have guessed – alleges to be in line with the creator of Bitcoin’s original vision for BTC. SV was originally designed at the behest of mining enterprise Coingeek along with some other miners.

SV changes to BCH include:

1) “Restoring more original Satoshi opcodes:  OP_MUL, OP_LSHIFT, OP_RSHIFT, OP_INVERT”

2) “Removing the limit of 201 opcodes per script”

- Many opcodes were created, and subsequently disabled, in the initial release of BTC, with Satoshi citing too many exploits. Interestingly the code used for Bitcoin – known as Script – was made intentionally restrictive, utilizing only a few particular opcodes which perform various functions. The intention behind this restriction was to exclude the more dangerous functions, such as the ability to loop code, something which was a key element to the infamous DAO hack on the Ethereum network. However, these opcodes were disabled with the aim to activate at a time where the kinks could be ironed out, allowing for further functionality within BTC.

3) “Raising the maximum block size to 128 MB”

- The fundamental benefits of raising the blocksize are twofold: An increase to the number of transactions per second, and - in turn - a reduction to transaction fees. However, many critics state that one key issue with the increase of blocksize lies in centralization. The argument goes that a larger blocksize will result in nodes becoming expensive to operate and thus disincentivizing smaller miners and enabling a select few with the required resources to gain control of the entire network.

However, the blocksize of BCH has been increased in the past, and was, in fact, the very catalyst for the hardfork which birthed the cryptocurrency in the first place.

So, there's Wright's side of the coin, but what good would an antagonist be without an opponent to antagonize? …

The ABC proposals are firmly approved by Jihan Wu co-founder of mining firm Bitmain and operator of two large BCH mining pools, Antpool and BTC.com, sharing cumulative control of 10.42% of the total network hashrate.

Wu made his feeling particularly clear in a leaked private message, calling Wright, a “fake Satoshi” and fervently disagreeing with SV proposals:

to which Wright responded, in the mature and reasonable way you’d expect from a grown man:

Ultimately the decision between the proposals will come down to a majority vote, with miners hashrate acting as their voting privilege. Judging by the latest figures between Coingeek and Bitmain things look to be in favor of Coingeek - and thus Wright and BTCSV.

Still, one mustn’t undermine (pun intended) the power of smaller pools in their ability to sway the vote. If ViaBTC, Bitcoin.com, and BTC.top were to vote in favor of BitcoinABC it could outweigh SV proponents Coingeek and SVPool.

These figures, however, are in stark contrast to the pre-fork trading results from Poloniex, which shows huge user support for BitcoinABC showing it to be currently trading at $469 with BitcoinSV at a comparatively smaller $69:

BTCABC

BTCSV

Will there be a happy ending to this story? Only time will tell. For now, all eyes are fixed on the 15th of November.

(All data correct at the time of writing.)

Read more: "Bitcoin Cash may introduce fatal errors" says crypto core developerHitBTC exchange follows Poloniex and open BCH Pre-fork trading; Binance announces support for Bitcoin Cash fork

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