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Understanding Bitcoin's Scaling Debate: Politics Comes First

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Cato Institute's Jim Harper argues that, since the scaling debate is so political, the community has something to learn from Washington, D.C.

Source

Understanding Bitcoin's Scaling Debate: Politics Comes First

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Cato Institute's Jim Harper argues that, since the scaling debate is so political, the community has something to learn from Washington, D.C.

Source

Bitcoin Price Analysis: Recent Bull Run Calls for a Level Head

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin Price Analysis

Over the course of three days, BTC-USD managed to climb $1,100 in value — a near 60 percent growth. Shortly after reaching a local high in the mid $2,900s, it immediately retraced down to the mid $2,700s where, at the time of this article, it is currently sitting. Is this price growth sustainable? Is there more bull left in this rally? I’ll attempt to break down this recent market move from both sides of the fence and show why investors should or shouldn’t be wary of a move of this magnitude.  

Full disclosure: This analysis will not attempt to speculate on the value implications within this ongoing scaling debate. This will be an objective, raw analysis of the data at hand.

Figure_1.jpgFigure 1: BTC-USD, 12-hr Candles, Bitfinex, Macro Bull Run

If we put this entire bull run into perspective, we see that upon the completion of the Head and Shoulders Reversal Pattern, the market retraced down to the 50 percent Fibonacci Retracement values before ultimately bouncing and immediately climbing toward the previous all-time high.

At the moment, BTC-USD has yet to see any significant pullback from its latest move to justify any semblance of considerably strong support. The importance of establishing support levels is crucial for a sustained, healthy bull run. A support level sends out a signal to investors that basically says, “Hey, the market is not likely to drop below ‘x’ value — your risk is lowered by buying at ‘y’ price.”  

However, without these firm support levels, investors don’t know where the price currently stands in the grand scheme of the market. Thus, uncertainty can be injected into the market even in times of strong bull rallies. This uncertainty often leads to early profit taking, panic selling and long-position capitulation (also known as a “long squeeze”).

To play devil’s advocate, one can make an argument for a bullish continuation of yesterday’s massive bull run:

Figure_2.jpgFigure 2: BTC-USD, 30-min Candles, Bitfinex, Price Consolidation

If we take the current trend out of the context of the entire market, it would appear to display characteristics of a bullish continuation pattern known as a “Bull Pennant.” Bull Pennants are characterized by having lower highs, higher lows and decreasing volume along the length of the pennant. A pennant of this magnitude would have a price target somewhere around $3,400. (For the sake of time, I won’t explain why that’s the price target. You’ll just have to take my word for it.)  

However, when we put the Bull Pennant into the context of the entire market, we see signs of market divergence starting to form on the higher timescales:

Figure_3.jpgFigure 3: BTC-USD, 4-hr Candles, Bitfinex, Bearish Divergence

On the 4-hr MACD, we see bearish divergence during the market move to $2,900. Divergence is an indication that the market has begun to lose momentum and is likely to pull back before any more uptrending will continue.  

In regard to a bullish continuation of this rally, something to keep an eye out for are the tests of the key Fibonacci Retracement values shown in Figure 1. A retest and strong rejection of the Fibonacci lines will show strong market confidence in the eyes of investors who are currently sitting on the sidelines. Before any sustained, healthy uptrend resumes, the market will have to prove itself at the lower values to establish firm support.

During massive rallies it’s important to always keep in mind that large price movements often come with a large cost. It is still unclear what the immediate future of BTC-USD will be, but it’s important to remain levelheaded when entering trades and always look at the market objectively.  

Summary:

  1. Over three days, the BTC-USD market gained 60 percent in value.

  2. No firm support has been established to justify remaining at this price level.

  3. Because there is no firm support, volume is beginning to taper off while the market decides the next direction to head to next.

Trading and investing in digital assets like bitcoin and ether is highly speculative and comes with many risks. This analysis is for informational purposes and should not be considered investment advice. Statements and financial information on Bitcoin Magazine and BTC Media related sites do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BTC Media and should not be construed as an endorsement or recommendation to buy, sell or hold. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.

The post Bitcoin Price Analysis: Recent Bull Run Calls for a Level Head appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Here's one way hackers can be stopped from stealing millions in an initial coin offering

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Screen Shot 2017 07 21 at 12.09.00 PM

The recent hack of CoinDash's website during an initial coin offering was a big blow to the red-hot fundraising trend. But Can Kisagun, the cofounder and chief product officer of cryptocurrency startup Enigma, told Business Insider his firm has a simple solution that could prevent similar attacks from happening in the future. 

ICOs have raised $1.2 billion this year, according to Autonomous NEXT, a financial technology analytics firm. It is a trend that has sparked excitement across Wall Street.

The way an initial coin offering works is not as complicated as it may seem. A firm initiating an ICO has a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain network. Interested investors send ether to that smart contract's address and then in return they receive an ether token to participate in the protocol.

The CoinDash hack didn't occur because the blockchain system itself was compromised, but rather because the website on which the smart contract address was being advertised was compromised.

"Hackers got into the backend of the site and changed the address," Kisagun said. 

Thus, investors sent their money to the wrong Ethereum address. 

"Whether it’s on a website, or through social media, providing a funding address in a single location isn’t sufficiently secure," Guy Zyskind, CEO of Enigma wrote in a recent blog post. "Therefore, we need a more secure kind of proof of address."

Enigma's solution is to hard wire the address of the token sale contract into the Ethereum or bitcoin blockchains when it's created. Since information on the Ethereum or bitcoin blockchains can't be tampered with, hackers wouldn't be able to alter the address.

Of course, the people behind ICO could be scammers themselves. Therefore, to assure they're not just faceless crypto-scammers, Enigma is proposing to store two other pieces of information into a multi-sig contract to serve as further proof of address:

  • A picture of the team initiating the ICO holding a piece of paper with the smart contract address on it.
  • Social proof that trusted parties approved the address. This can be done by having the parties disclose their public keys on their Twitter feed. 

According to Kisagun, Enigma is looking at ways to employ similar strategies for its upcoming token sale.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Barclays strategist: You can expect a major department store to fail in the next 18 months

Bitcoin's long-overdue upgrade is all things to all people

Engadget, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Bitcoin backers have welcomed a code upgrade that will improve the virtual currency's usage and scalability. The upgrade, known as SegWit2x, represents a compromise between two competing schools of thought on Bitcoin's future. As its popularity has...

Crypto Asset Class Clears $90 Billion as Bitcoin Price Spikes

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The total value of all cryptocurrencies rose on Friday, crossing $90bn for the first time in weeks.

Source

Crypto Asset Class Clears $90 Billion as Bitcoin Price Spikes

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The total value of all cryptocurrencies rose on Friday, crossing $90bn for the first time in weeks.

Source

Op Ed: No Governance for Old Men: Coordinating Protocol Upgrades in the Future

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Jon Matonis OP ED

Make no mistake. We are witnessing a high-stakes protocol standards battle play out in real time. And it is just as important as last century’s battle for the internet’s TCP standard. 

Current capacity constraints on the Bitcoin blockchain have brought us to this impasse.

The Bitcoin protocol, as the dominant value transfer “network effect” leader, battles against upstart cryptocurrency protocols like Ethereum and Monero. But it also battles with itself as divergent forces push for either on-chain scaling or off-chain scaling, hard fork or soft fork, SegWit transaction format or original transaction format.

The so-called nuclear option is a prolonged, contested hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain because it risks splitting the network into two competing chains, which is to no one’s benefit. Therefore, it should be reserved as a planned formality or a last resort for extreme situations rather than a perpetual form of “live” dispute resolution.

With so much individual and institutional wealth essentially stored on the Bitcoin blockchain, it can be extremely disconcerting when others try to “fork” around with your money. Chronic forking is not synonymous with wealth management and prudent capital accumulation, which require stability and predictability. Importantly, smart contracts and non-monetary applications will also rely upon relative stability since the same native digital token also facilitates the proof-of-work security model.

This article will examine how open-source governance was designed to work within the Bitcoin protocol and how users, miners and developers are locked in a symbiotic dance when it comes to potential forks to the immutable consensus. Solutions will be proposed and analyzed that maintain the decentralized nature of the resulting code and the blockchain consensus, while still permitting sensible protocol upgrades. Governance is not only about the particular method of change-control management, but also about how the very method itself is subject to change.

kaboomLet’s not deploy the nuclear option for every protocol upgrade.

Open-Source Protocols and Bitcoin

Generally referred to as FOSS, or free and open-source software, this source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to use the software and to voluntarily improve its design, resulting in decreasing software costs; increasing security and stability, and flexibility over hardware choice; and better privacy protection.

Open-source governance models, such as Linux and BitTorrent, are not new and they existed prior to the emergence of Bitcoin in early 2009; however, they have never before been so tightly intertwined with money itself. Indeed, as the largest distributed computing project in the world with self-adjusting computational power, Bitcoin may be the first crude instance of A.I. on the internet.

In “Who Controls the Blockchain?” Patrick Murck confirms that Bitcoin is functioning as designed:

As a blockchain community grows, it becomes increasingly more difficult for stakeholders to reach a consensus on changing network rules. This is by design, and reinforces the original principles of the blockchain’s creators. To change the rules is to split the network, creating a new blockchain and a new community. Blockchain networks resist political governance because they are governed by everyone who [participates] in them, and by no one in particular.

Murck continues:

Bitcoin’s ability to resist such populist campaigns demonstrates the success of the blockchain’s governance structure and shows that the ‘governance crisis’ is a false narrative.

Of course it’s a false narrative, and Murck is correct on this point. Bitcoin’s lack of political governance is Bitcoin’s governance model, and forking is a natural intended component of that. “Governance” may be the wrong word for it because we are actually talking about minimizing potential disruption.

Where Bitcoin differs from other open-source protocols is that two levels of forking exist. One level forks the open-source code (code fork), and another level forks the blockchain consensus (chain fork). Since there can only be one consensus per native digital token, chain splits are the natural result of this. The only way to avoid potential chain splits in the future is to restrict the change-control process to a single implementation, which is not very safe nor realistic.

“Collaborate or fork” has become the rallying cry for Bitcoin Core supporters. L.M. Goodman, author of “Tezos: A Self-Amending Crypto-Ledger Position Paper,” writes:

Core development teams are a potentially dangerous source of centralization.

When it comes to Bitcoin Core, the publicly shared code repository hosts the current reference implementation, and a small group of code committers (or maintainers) regulate any merges to the code. Even though other projects may be more open to criticism and newcomers, this general structure reminds me of a presiding council of elders.

Making hazy claims of a peer-review process or saying that committers are just passive maintainers merely creates the facade of decentralized code. The real peer-review process takes place on multiple community and technical forums, some of which are not even frequented by the developers and Bitcoin Core committers. 

The BIP (Bitcoin Improvement Proposal) process is sufficient and it’s working for those who choose to collaborate on Bitcoin Core. Similar to the RFC (Request for Comments) process at the IETF, BIP debates about a proposed implementation can provide technical documentation useful to developers. However, it is not working for many involved in Bitcoin protocol development due to the advantages of incumbency and the false appeal to authority with core developers. If Bitcoin Core no longer maintains the leading reference implementation for the Bitcoin protocol, it will be 100 percent due to this intransigence.

Sensitive to the criticisms of glorifying Bitcoin Core, Adam Back of Blockstream recently proposed an option to freeze the base-layer protocol, but at the moment that will only move all of the politics and game-playing to what exactly the base-layer freeze should look like. It is a nice idea for separating the protocol standard from a single reference implementation and for transitioning the Bitcoin protocol to an IETF-like structure, although it’s extremely premature for now. 

Therefore, by default, that leaves us with several alternative Bitcoin implementations in an environment of continual forking.

Even Satoshi Nakamoto was critical of multiple consensus implementations in 2010:

I don’t believe a second, compatible implementation of Bitcoin will ever be a good idea. So much of the design depends on all nodes getting exactly identical results in lockstep that a second implementation would be a menace to the network.

That prevailing standpoint, however, may be changing, which Aaron van Wirdum addresses in “The Long History and Disputed Desirability of Alternative Bitcoin Implementations.” Wirdum cites Eric Voskuil of libbitcoin, who argues that there should not be one particular implementation to define the Bitcoin protocol:

“All code that impacts consensus is part of consensus,” Voskuil told Bitcoin Magazine. “But when part of this code stops the network or does something not nice, it’s called a bug needing a fix, but that fix is a change to consensus. Since bugs are consensus, fixes are forks. As such, a single implementation gives far too much power to its developers. Shutting down the network while some star chamber works out a new consensus is downright authoritarian.”

Multiple alternative implementations of the Bitcoin protocol strengthen the network and help to prevent code centralization.

Politics of Blockchain Forking (or How UASF BIP 148 Will Fail)

Contentious hard forks and soft forks all come down to hashing power. You can phrase it differently and you can make believe that two-day zero-balance nodes have a fundamental say in the outcome, but you cannot alter that basic reality.

BIP 148 fork will undoubtedly need mining hash power to succeed or even to result in a minority chain. However, if Segregated Witness (SegWit) had sufficient miner support in the first place, the BIP 148 UASF itself would be unnecessary. So, in that respect, it will now proceed like a game of chicken waiting to see if miners support the fork attempt.

Mirroring aspects of mob rule, if the UASF approach works as a way to bring miners around to adopting SegWit, then the emboldened mob will deploy the tactic for numerous other protocol upgrades in the future. Consensus rules should not be easy to change and they should not be able to change through simple majority rule on nodes, economic or not. Eventually, these attempts will run headfirst into the wall of Nakamoto consensus

As far as the network is concerned, it’s like turning off the power to your node.

There is no room for majority rule in Bitcoin. Those who endorse the UASF approach and cleverly insert UASF tags in their social media handles are endorsing majority rule in Bitcoin. They are providing a stage for any random user group to push their warped agenda via tyranny of the nodes.

The prolific Jimmy Song says that having real skin in the game is what matters:

Bitcoin doesn’t care if you post arguments on Reddit. Bitcoin doesn’t care if you put something clever in your Twitter name. Bitcoin doesn’t care if you educate people, write articles, or make clever Twitter insults. Bitcoin doesn’t care about your wishes, your feelings or your arguments.

Let’s keep “majority rule” antics out of Bitcoin. There is no protocol condition that activates “if we are all united” and that is a good thing.

With enough hashing power, the mob-induced UASF BIP 148 will lead to a temporary chain split. However, the probability of a Bitcoin minority chain surviving for very long is extremely low due to the lengthy difficulty re-targeting period of 2,016 blocks. Unlike the Ethereum/Ethereum Classic fork, that is a long time for miners to invest in a chain of uncertainty.

Responding to a Reddit post for newbies who are scared of losing money around the 1st of August due to UASF, ArmchairCryptologist explains:

Your advice is sound, but realistically, the most likely scenario is that the UASF either wins or dies. If it gets less than ~12% of the hashrate, it will not be able to activate Segwit in time, and it will almost certainly die. If it gets less than ~20% I also wouldn’t be surprised to see active interference with orphaning to prevent transactions from being processed.

If on the other hand it gets more than ~40% of the hashrate, the chance for a reorg on the other chain is large enough that most miners will likely jump ship, and it will almost certainly win. At over ~20% block orphaning attacks won’t be effective, as it would split the majority chain hashrate and risk tipping the scale. Which means that the only situation where you will realistically have two working chains for an extended period is if you get between ~20% and ~40% of the hashrate for the UASF.

The collectivist UASF BIP 148 strategy will ultimately fail and that’s a good thing. It is driven primarily by those with very little at stake expecting the miners to stake everything by supporting a minority chain. Pretty soon, you run out of other people’s money. This commenter on Reddit understands:

The entire premise was that it was very cheap to switch, but very expensive to stay. That’s when I realized the folly of it all; [it’s] only cheap because they’re not staking anything. But someone has to stake something.

And that’s what is going to cause it to fail. That and the lack of replay protection. People like this guy flip it around and genuinely believe the mining problem will be solved by massively increased value. If they do somehow put enough pressure on exchanges that list UASF, despite the lack of replay protection, and if we take his logic a step further, UASFers are going to be pushing everyone to “buy, buy, buy” UASF and “sell, sell, sell” Legacy Coin. But without replay protection, they’re going to be obliterated by a few smart people who realize there are huge gains to be had.

Alphonse Pace has an excellent paper describing chain splits and their resolution. He walks us through compatible, incompatible and semi-compatible hard forks, arguing that users do have power if they truly reject a soft-fork rule change:

… users do have power — by invoking an incompatible hard fork. In this case, users will force the chain to split by introducing a new ruleset (which may include a proof-of-work change, but does not require one). This ensures users always have an escape from a miner-imposed ruleset that they reject. This way, if the economy and users truly reject a soft fork rule change, they always have the power to break away and reclaim the rules they wish. It may be inconvenient, but the same is true by any attack by the miners on users.

The Future of Coordinating Protocol Upgrades

What group determines the big decisions in Bitcoin’s direction? Ilogy doubts that it is the developers:

Theymos almost completely foresaw what is happening today. Why? Because Theymos has a deep understanding of Bitcoin and he was able to connect the dots and recognize that the logic of the system leads inevitably to this conclusion. Once we add to the equation the fact that restricting on-chain scaling was always going to be perceived by the ‘generators’ as something that ‘reduces profit,’ it should be clear that the logic of the system was intrinsically going to bring us to the point we find ourselves today.

Years later these two juggernauts of Bitcoin would find themselves on opposite ends of the debate. But what is interesting, what they both recognized, was that ultimately big decisions in Bitcoin’s direction would be determined by the powerful actors in the space, not by the average user and, more importantly, not by the developers. 

The developer role can be thought of as proposing a variety of software menu choices for the users, merchants and miners to accept and run. If a software upgrade or patch is deemed unacceptable, then developers must go back to work and adjust the BIP menu offering. Otherwise, mutiny becomes the only option for dissatisfied miners. 

In “Who Controls Bitcoin?” Daniel Krawisz says that the investors wield the most power, and because of that, miners follow investors. Therefore, the protocol upgrades likely to get adopted will be the ones that increase Bitcoin’s value as an investment, such as anonymity improvements being favored over attempts at making Bitcoin easier to regulate.

In the future, miner coordination via a Bitcoin DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) on the blockchain could be the key to smooth and uneventful forking. Self-governing ratification would allow diverse stakeholders to coordinate protocol upgrades on-chain, reducing the likelihood of software propagation battles that perpetually fork the codebase.

Attorney Adam Vaziri of Diacle supports a system of DAO voting by Bitcoin miners to remove the uncertainty around protocol upgrades. He readily admits that he has been inspired by Tezos and Decred.

Prediction markets have also been proposed as a method to gauge user and miner preferences through public forecasting, the theory being that these prediction markets would yield the fairest overall consensus for protocol upgrades prior to the actual fork.

The question remains: Is coin-based voting based on allocated hash power superior to the informal signaling method utilized today? Are prediction markets or futures markets a viable method to gauge consensus and determine critical protocol upgrades?

I’m not optimistic. On-chain voting and “intent” signaling are both non-binding expressions while prediction and futures markets can be easily gamed. Therefore, while Tezos and Decred represent admirable efforts in the quest for complete resilient decentralization, I do not think Bitcoin protocol upgrades of the future will be managed in this way.

The Bitcoin ecosystem doesn’t need to achieve a social consensus prior to making changes to the protocol. What has clearly emerged from the events of this summer is that Bitcoin has demonstrated an even stronger degree of immutability.

There is no failure of governance and there is no failure of the market. The non-authoritarian forces at play here are functioning exactly as they should. Protocol upgrades in a decentralized environment are an evolutionary process, and that process has matured to the current six stages of Bitcoin protocol upgrading, with some optional variances for BIP 91:

(a) BIP menu choices competing for mindshare, strategic appropriateness and technical rigor;

(b) Informal intent signaling based on miners inserting text into the coinbase for each block mined;

(c) Block signaling period where miners formally signal a designated “bit” trigger for BIP lock-in, based on “x” percent over a “y” number of blocks period;

(d) Block activation period after BIP lock-in, which sets a secondary period of “x” percent over a “y” number of blocks for activation;

(e) Primary difficulty adjustment period (2,016 blocks) where “x” percent of miners must signal for the upgrade to lock in;

(f) Secondary difficulty adjustment period (2,016 blocks) required for the protocol upgrade to activate on the network.

Conclusion

This would not be the first fork in Bitcoin and it won’t be the last. If we believe in the power of Nakamoto consensus and probabilistic security, then the secret to uneventful protocol upgrades is smoother and more reliable signaling by miners.

July has been a tough month for Bitcoin, but it has also been pivotal. Even though I doubt the probability of success for UASF BIP 148, some may say that the threat of the reckless UASF on August 1 played a role in the rapid timeline for SegWit2x/BIP 91, and I agree with that. Game theory is alive and well in Bitcoin.

The design of Nakamoto consensus provides the ultimate method for decentralized dispute resolution by placing that decision with the hashing power and the built-in incentives against 51 percent attacks. In fact, Tom Harding considers miners to be the only failsafe in Bitcoin:

Nakamoto consensus for the win. See you in November.

The views expressed in this op ed are those of its author, Jon Matonis, and do not necessarily reflect those of Bitcoin Magazine or BTC Media.

The post Op Ed: No Governance for Old Men: Coordinating Protocol Upgrades in the Future appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Op Ed: No Governance for Old Men: Coordinating Protocol Upgrades in the Future

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Jon Matonis OP ED

Make no mistake. We are witnessing a high-stakes protocol standards battle play out in real time. And it is just as important as last century’s battle for the internet’s TCP standard. 

Current capacity constraints on the Bitcoin blockchain have brought us to this impasse.

The Bitcoin protocol, as the dominant value transfer “network effect” leader, battles against upstart cryptocurrency protocols like Ethereum and Monero. But it also battles with itself as divergent forces push for either on-chain scaling or off-chain scaling, hard fork or soft fork, SegWit transaction format or original transaction format.

The so-called nuclear option is a prolonged, contested hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain because it risks splitting the network into two competing chains, which is to no one’s benefit. Therefore, it should be reserved as a planned formality or a last resort for extreme situations rather than a perpetual form of “live” dispute resolution.

With so much individual and institutional wealth essentially stored on the Bitcoin blockchain, it can be extremely disconcerting when others try to “fork” around with your money. Chronic forking is not synonymous with wealth management and prudent capital accumulation, which require stability and predictability. Importantly, smart contracts and non-monetary applications will also rely upon relative stability since the same native digital token also facilitates the proof-of-work security model.

This article will examine how open-source governance was designed to work within the Bitcoin protocol and how users, miners and developers are locked in a symbiotic dance when it comes to potential forks to the immutable consensus. Solutions will be proposed and analyzed that maintain the decentralized nature of the resulting code and the blockchain consensus, while still permitting sensible protocol upgrades. Governance is not only about the particular method of change-control management, but also about how the very method itself is subject to change.

kaboomLet’s not deploy the nuclear option for every protocol upgrade.

Open-Source Protocols and Bitcoin

Generally referred to as FOSS, or free and open-source software, this source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to use the software and to voluntarily improve its design, resulting in decreasing software costs; increasing security and stability, and flexibility over hardware choice; and better privacy protection.

Open-source governance models, such as Linux and BitTorrent, are not new and they existed prior to the emergence of Bitcoin in early 2009; however, they have never before been so tightly intertwined with money itself. Indeed, as the largest distributed computing project in the world with self-adjusting computational power, Bitcoin may be the first crude instance of A.I. on the internet.

In “Who Controls the Blockchain?” Patrick Murck confirms that Bitcoin is functioning as designed:

As a blockchain community grows, it becomes increasingly more difficult for stakeholders to reach a consensus on changing network rules. This is by design, and reinforces the original principles of the blockchain’s creators. To change the rules is to split the network, creating a new blockchain and a new community. Blockchain networks resist political governance because they are governed by everyone who [participates] in them, and by no one in particular.

Murck continues:

Bitcoin’s ability to resist such populist campaigns demonstrates the success of the blockchain’s governance structure and shows that the ‘governance crisis’ is a false narrative.

Of course it’s a false narrative, and Murck is correct on this point. Bitcoin’s lack of political governance is Bitcoin’s governance model, and forking is a natural intended component of that. “Governance” may be the wrong word for it because we are actually talking about minimizing potential disruption.

Where Bitcoin differs from other open-source protocols is that two levels of forking exist. One level forks the open-source code (code fork), and another level forks the blockchain consensus (chain fork). Since there can only be one consensus per native digital token, chain splits are the natural result of this. The only way to avoid potential chain splits in the future is to restrict the change-control process to a single implementation, which is not very safe nor realistic.

“Collaborate or fork” has become the rallying cry for Bitcoin Core supporters. L.M. Goodman, author of “Tezos: A Self-Amending Crypto-Ledger Position Paper,” writes:

Core development teams are a potentially dangerous source of centralization.

When it comes to Bitcoin Core, the publicly shared code repository hosts the current reference implementation, and a small group of code committers (or maintainers) regulate any merges to the code. Even though other projects may be more open to criticism and newcomers, this general structure reminds me of a presiding council of elders.

Making hazy claims of a peer-review process or saying that committers are just passive maintainers merely creates the facade of decentralized code. The real peer-review process takes place on multiple community and technical forums, some of which are not even frequented by the developers and Bitcoin Core committers. 

The BIP (Bitcoin Improvement Proposal) process is sufficient and it’s working for those who choose to collaborate on Bitcoin Core. Similar to the RFC (Request for Comments) process at the IETF, BIP debates about a proposed implementation can provide technical documentation useful to developers. However, it is not working for many involved in Bitcoin protocol development due to the advantages of incumbency and the false appeal to authority with core developers. If Bitcoin Core no longer maintains the leading reference implementation for the Bitcoin protocol, it will be 100 percent due to this intransigence.

Sensitive to the criticisms of glorifying Bitcoin Core, Adam Back of Blockstream recently proposed an option to freeze the base-layer protocol, but at the moment that will only move all of the politics and game-playing to what exactly the base-layer freeze should look like. It is a nice idea for separating the protocol standard from a single reference implementation and for transitioning the Bitcoin protocol to an IETF-like structure, although it’s extremely premature for now. 

Therefore, by default, that leaves us with several alternative Bitcoin implementations in an environment of continual forking.

Even Satoshi Nakamoto was critical of multiple consensus implementations in 2010:

I don’t believe a second, compatible implementation of Bitcoin will ever be a good idea. So much of the design depends on all nodes getting exactly identical results in lockstep that a second implementation would be a menace to the network.

That prevailing standpoint, however, may be changing, which Aaron van Wirdum addresses in “The Long History and Disputed Desirability of Alternative Bitcoin Implementations.” Wirdum cites Eric Voskuil of libbitcoin, who argues that there should not be one particular implementation to define the Bitcoin protocol:

“All code that impacts consensus is part of consensus,” Voskuil told Bitcoin Magazine. “But when part of this code stops the network or does something not nice, it’s called a bug needing a fix, but that fix is a change to consensus. Since bugs are consensus, fixes are forks. As such, a single implementation gives far too much power to its developers. Shutting down the network while some star chamber works out a new consensus is downright authoritarian.”

Multiple alternative implementations of the Bitcoin protocol strengthen the network and help to prevent code centralization.

Politics of Blockchain Forking (or How UASF BIP 148 Will Fail)

Contentious hard forks and soft forks all come down to hashing power. You can phrase it differently and you can make believe that two-day zero-balance nodes have a fundamental say in the outcome, but you cannot alter that basic reality.

BIP 148 fork will undoubtedly need mining hash power to succeed or even to result in a minority chain. However, if Segregated Witness (SegWit) had sufficient miner support in the first place, the BIP 148 UASF itself would be unnecessary. So, in that respect, it will now proceed like a game of chicken waiting to see if miners support the fork attempt.

Mirroring aspects of mob rule, if the UASF approach works as a way to bring miners around to adopting SegWit, then the emboldened mob will deploy the tactic for numerous other protocol upgrades in the future. Consensus rules should not be easy to change and they should not be able to change through simple majority rule on nodes, economic or not. Eventually, these attempts will run headfirst into the wall of Nakamoto consensus

As far as the network is concerned, it’s like turning off the power to your node.

There is no room for majority rule in Bitcoin. Those who endorse the UASF approach and cleverly insert UASF tags in their social media handles are endorsing majority rule in Bitcoin. They are providing a stage for any random user group to push their warped agenda via tyranny of the nodes.

The prolific Jimmy Song says that having real skin in the game is what matters:

Bitcoin doesn’t care if you post arguments on Reddit. Bitcoin doesn’t care if you put something clever in your Twitter name. Bitcoin doesn’t care if you educate people, write articles, or make clever Twitter insults. Bitcoin doesn’t care about your wishes, your feelings or your arguments.

Let’s keep “majority rule” antics out of Bitcoin. There is no protocol condition that activates “if we are all united” and that is a good thing.

With enough hashing power, the mob-induced UASF BIP 148 will lead to a temporary chain split. However, the probability of a Bitcoin minority chain surviving for very long is extremely low due to the lengthy difficulty re-targeting period of 2,016 blocks. Unlike the Ethereum/Ethereum Classic fork, that is a long time for miners to invest in a chain of uncertainty.

Responding to a Reddit post for newbies who are scared of losing money around the 1st of August due to UASF, ArmchairCryptologist explains:

Your advice is sound, but realistically, the most likely scenario is that the UASF either wins or dies. If it gets less than ~12% of the hashrate, it will not be able to activate Segwit in time, and it will almost certainly die. If it gets less than ~20% I also wouldn’t be surprised to see active interference with orphaning to prevent transactions from being processed.

If on the other hand it gets more than ~40% of the hashrate, the chance for a reorg on the other chain is large enough that most miners will likely jump ship, and it will almost certainly win. At over ~20% block orphaning attacks won’t be effective, as it would split the majority chain hashrate and risk tipping the scale. Which means that the only situation where you will realistically have two working chains for an extended period is if you get between ~20% and ~40% of the hashrate for the UASF.

The collectivist UASF BIP 148 strategy will ultimately fail and that’s a good thing. It is driven primarily by those with very little at stake expecting the miners to stake everything by supporting a minority chain. Pretty soon, you run out of other people’s money. This commenter on Reddit understands:

The entire premise was that it was very cheap to switch, but very expensive to stay. That’s when I realized the folly of it all; [it’s] only cheap because they’re not staking anything. But someone has to stake something.

And that’s what is going to cause it to fail. That and the lack of replay protection. People like this guy flip it around and genuinely believe the mining problem will be solved by massively increased value. If they do somehow put enough pressure on exchanges that list UASF, despite the lack of replay protection, and if we take his logic a step further, UASFers are going to be pushing everyone to “buy, buy, buy” UASF and “sell, sell, sell” Legacy Coin. But without replay protection, they’re going to be obliterated by a few smart people who realize there are huge gains to be had.

Alphonse Pace has an excellent paper describing chain splits and their resolution. He walks us through compatible, incompatible and semi-compatible hard forks, arguing that users do have power if they truly reject a soft-fork rule change:

… users do have power — by invoking an incompatible hard fork. In this case, users will force the chain to split by introducing a new ruleset (which may include a proof-of-work change, but does not require one). This ensures users always have an escape from a miner-imposed ruleset that they reject. This way, if the economy and users truly reject a soft fork rule change, they always have the power to break away and reclaim the rules they wish. It may be inconvenient, but the same is true by any attack by the miners on users.

The Future of Coordinating Protocol Upgrades

What group determines the big decisions in Bitcoin’s direction? Ilogy doubts that it is the developers:

Theymos almost completely foresaw what is happening today. Why? Because Theymos has a deep understanding of Bitcoin and he was able to connect the dots and recognize that the logic of the system leads inevitably to this conclusion. Once we add to the equation the fact that restricting on-chain scaling was always going to be perceived by the ‘generators’ as something that ‘reduces profit,’ it should be clear that the logic of the system was intrinsically going to bring us to the point we find ourselves today.

Years later these two juggernauts of Bitcoin would find themselves on opposite ends of the debate. But what is interesting, what they both recognized, was that ultimately big decisions in Bitcoin’s direction would be determined by the powerful actors in the space, not by the average user and, more importantly, not by the developers. 

The developer role can be thought of as proposing a variety of software menu choices for the users, merchants and miners to accept and run. If a software upgrade or patch is deemed unacceptable, then developers must go back to work and adjust the BIP menu offering. Otherwise, mutiny becomes the only option for dissatisfied miners. 

In “Who Controls Bitcoin?” Daniel Krawisz says that the investors wield the most power, and because of that, miners follow investors. Therefore, the protocol upgrades likely to get adopted will be the ones that increase Bitcoin’s value as an investment, such as anonymity improvements being favored over attempts at making Bitcoin easier to regulate.

In the future, miner coordination via a Bitcoin DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) on the blockchain could be the key to smooth and uneventful forking. Self-governing ratification would allow diverse stakeholders to coordinate protocol upgrades on-chain, reducing the likelihood of software propagation battles that perpetually fork the codebase.

Attorney Adam Vaziri of Diacle supports a system of DAO voting by Bitcoin miners to remove the uncertainty around protocol upgrades. He readily admits that he has been inspired by Tezos and Decred.

Prediction markets have also been proposed as a method to gauge user and miner preferences through public forecasting, the theory being that these prediction markets would yield the fairest overall consensus for protocol upgrades prior to the actual fork.

The question remains: Is coin-based voting based on allocated hash power superior to the informal signaling method utilized today? Are prediction markets or futures markets a viable method to gauge consensus and determine critical protocol upgrades?

I’m not optimistic. On-chain voting and “intent” signaling are both non-binding expressions while prediction and futures markets can be easily gamed. Therefore, while Tezos and Decred represent admirable efforts in the quest for complete resilient decentralization, I do not think Bitcoin protocol upgrades of the future will be managed in this way.

The Bitcoin ecosystem doesn’t need to achieve a social consensus prior to making changes to the protocol. What has clearly emerged from the events of this summer is that Bitcoin has demonstrated an even stronger degree of immutability.

There is no failure of governance and there is no failure of the market. The non-authoritarian forces at play here are functioning exactly as they should. Protocol upgrades in a decentralized environment are an evolutionary process, and that process has matured to the current six stages of Bitcoin protocol upgrading, with some optional variances for BIP 91:

(a) BIP menu choices competing for mindshare, strategic appropriateness and technical rigor;

(b) Informal intent signaling based on miners inserting text into the coinbase for each block mined;

(c) Block signaling period where miners formally signal a designated “bit” trigger for BIP lock-in, based on “x” percent over a “y” number of blocks period;

(d) Block activation period after BIP lock-in, which sets a secondary period of “x” percent over a “y” number of blocks for activation;

(e) Primary difficulty adjustment period (2,016 blocks) where “x” percent of miners must signal for the upgrade to lock in;

(f) Secondary difficulty adjustment period (2,016 blocks) required for the protocol upgrade to activate on the network.

Conclusion

This would not be the first fork in Bitcoin and it won’t be the last. If we believe in the power of Nakamoto consensus and probabilistic security, then the secret to uneventful protocol upgrades is smoother and more reliable signaling by miners.

July has been a tough month for Bitcoin, but it has also been pivotal. Even though I doubt the probability of success for UASF BIP 148, some may say that the threat of the reckless UASF on August 1 played a role in the rapid timeline for SegWit2x/BIP 91, and I agree with that. Game theory is alive and well in Bitcoin.

The design of Nakamoto consensus provides the ultimate method for decentralized dispute resolution by placing that decision with the hashing power and the built-in incentives against 51 percent attacks. In fact, Tom Harding considers miners to be the only failsafe in Bitcoin:

Nakamoto consensus for the win. See you in November.

The views expressed in this op ed are those of its author, Jon Matonis, and do not necessarily reflect those of Bitcoin Magazine or BTC Media.

The post Op Ed: No Governance for Old Men: Coordinating Protocol Upgrades in the Future appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Arrested Hacker Claims $30 Million Bitcoin Theft – But Offers Little Proof

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

A Pennsylvania resident is claiming to have stolen millions in bitcoin, though he's offered police little in the way of evidence.

Source

Arrested Hacker Claims $30 Million Bitcoin Theft – But Offers Little Proof

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

A Pennsylvania resident is claiming to have stolen millions in bitcoin, though he's offered police little in the way of evidence.

Source

BIP 91 Has Activated. Here’s What That Means (and What It Does Not)

Bitcoin Magazine, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

BIP91.jpg

It looks as if Bitcoin is getting Segregated Witness.

Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 91 (BIP 91) just locked in. Up to 90 percent of all hash power signaled support for this soft fork, which implies miners intend, in turn, to trigger Segregated Witness (SegWit) activation. By extension, this should make BIP 148 obsolete and August 1 a non-event.

But SegWit is not certain. In fact, on a technical level, SegWit is not any closer to activation at all.

BIP 91

Segregated Witness, defined by BIP 141, locks in if at least 95 percent of miners (by hash power) signal support for the upgrade within a two-week difficulty period. To do so, miners need to embed a piece of data called “bit 1” in the blocks they mine.

Importantly, this is technically the only way for SegWit to activate right now. And this threshold has not yet been met.

But there are alternative strategies to try and reach this threshold “indirectly” — like BIP 91.

BIP 91 is a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal proposed by Bitmain Warranty engineer James Hilliard. It is compatible with the New York Agreement and backed by a number of Bitcoin companies and mining pools. It is also compatible with BIP 148, another strategy to meet the BIP 141 threshold indirectly.

Miners have been signaling support for BIP 91 over the past couple of days through another piece of data, “bit 4.” Once 269 blocks within a 336-block window include bit 4, this BIP 91 soft fork gets locked in. This threshold was just met.

This means that after another 336 blocks, a little over two days from now, all BIP 91–compatible nodes will reject any block that doesn’t include bit 1.

As long as a majority of hash power enforces BIP 91, this majority should eventually control the longest valid chain according to all Bitcoin nodes. And as this chain consists of SegWit-signaling blocks only, it would in turn activate SegWit on all SegWit-ready nodes.

In that case, BIP 141 should lock in by mid-August, and SegWit should be live on the Bitcoin network after a two-week “grace period” by the end of that month.

If all goes well …

What Could Go Wrong?

Although well over 80 percent of hash power has signaled bit 4 for BIP 91 activation, this doesn’t actually guarantee anything. Most importantly, it doesn’t in itself mean that these miners will signal bit 1 for SegWit.

Indeed, so far, most miners don’t. Currently, the proportion of miners signaling bit 1 is still far lower than BIP 91 activation would suggest. It is even lower than 50 percent.

Moreover, BIP 91 is probably being enforced by hardly any economically relevant nodes; that is, nodes operated by users that accept bitcoins as payment. Almost no Bitcoin users on the network recognize BIP 91 or its bit 4 signaling at all, and will therefore continue to accept blocks with or without bit 1.

BIP 91 is, instead, enforced by hash power alone. This in turn means that a majority of miners (by hash power) could back out of BIP 91 with little more than reputational damage. They could continue to mine blocks that do not signal bit 1, even after BIP 91 activates in a few days. As long as these miners are in a majority, they will still control the longest valid chain: valid according to most miners, and valid to most users.

Furthermore, any minority of miners and the few nodes that do enforce the BIP 91 soft fork would then be forked off the Bitcoin network. In a few days from now, these miners would mine (on top of) blocks that almost only they themselves would consider valid, while most of the rest of the entire Bitcoin network would completely ignore them. These miners would be wasting their own resources.

With this week’s bit 4 signaling, a majority of miners have effectively made a statement that they intend to start to activate the SegWit soft fork within a couple of days. But for now, that’s really all it is: a very public, blockchain-based statement of intent.

Actual SegWit activation should start next week, if miners stick to their stated intent.

The post BIP 91 Has Activated. Here’s What That Means (and What It Does Not) appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

BIP 91 Locks In: What This Means for Bitcoin and Why It's Not Scaled Yet

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

BIP 91 has officially locked in. At press time, more than 80% of bitcoin's miners, the network of computer operators that secure the blockchain, have now been signaling that they will upgrade to the code for 269 blocks in the same signaling period, a move that takes the software one step closer to changing its structure […]

Source

BIP 91 Locks In: What This Means for Bitcoin and Why It's Not Scaled Yet

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

BIP 91 has locked in. Before you celebrate, here's what you need to know about what's happening with bitcoin's code.

Source

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