Bitmain, the mining giant headed by Jihan Wu, has released a blog post detailing its contingency plans to activate a privately mined user-activated hard fork (UAHF) in the event the “SegWit2x” compromise is not activated by August 1.
Hard Fork to Take On UASF Campaign
The hard fork plan is in response to the threat of the BIP148 UASF, a proposal that does not require the majority of miner hashpower support, something Bitmain labeled “Wipe Out” and a “51% attack on the blockchain that has the majority of economic activity”.
Bitmain, as the unofficial spearhead of the so-called New York Agreement, sees the UASF as “dangerous for exchanges and other business. There is no sign of significant economic support behind BIP148 and when it is alive as a blockchain, the economic support would most likely be based on speculation”.
The blog post noted that activation of a UASF will invalidate “certain kinds of previously valid blocks after a flag day”, and so the proposed Bitmain UAHF will offset this by validating those previously invalid transactions. It will also enforce a “must be big” rule, where blocks must be larger than 1MB.
Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu confirmed to Bitsonline that the UAHF supporters do not want to see BIP148 activated, saying “it is promoted by Blockstream, with the censorship helping force.”
A spokesperson for Bitcoin.com, which also supports a hard fork, called it “a good defensive reaction to the threat of UASF causing a chain re-org.”
Bitmain to Begin Mining UAHF Privately
As a contingency, Bitmain will begin mining its UAHF privately, without broadcasting blocks to the public network, and only release the blocks if BIP148 succeeds in splitting the network — or if there is an economic rationale to mine bigger blocks. If Bitmain decides to release the blocks to the public, they “will mine it persistently and ignore short-term economic incentives.”
According to Bitmain, it has taken these steps because “a significant economic majority, more than 80% of the entire hashing power and 80% of transactions’ source software or service” supported a SegWit2x solution to the scaling impasse, known as The New York Agreement.
This agreement did not include the majority of Bitcoin Core contributors. Bitmain says they declined the invitation, while some of the individual developers like Eric Lombrozo refused to attend, seeing a behind closed doors type meeting as against the spirit of Bitcoin.
My own issues with the NY agreement are:
1) Signing of pieces of paper in private meeting
2) Making SegWit conditional on it
— Eric Lombrozo (@eric_lombrozo) June 1, 2017
Scaling Debate Rages on Despite SegWit2x Agreement
Since its announcement last month, there has been ongoing controversy over ‘SegWit2x’, largely due to the proposed speed of activation and modification of existing code. Many within the community believe it is unsafe to implement changes without thorough vetting and testing.
On Twitter, many have pointed out that the lack of commits to the GitHub repository for SegWit2x mean it would be way behind schedule. However Bitmain insists that “a software project, btc1, has been under active development and will likely deliver a consensus rule change plan called SegWit2x. The testnet5 for SegWit2x is already alive. Alpha version of the software will be released on June 16th and everything is still on time.”
Bitmain’s UAHF will also activate a modified version of SegWit, despite it being almost universally lauded, as long as there is no patent risk in play. The Segwit modification revolves around what Bitmain labels as “arbitrary discount rate of witness data segment”, something they see as essential: “A SegWit without the artificial discount rate will treat legacy transaction type fairly and it will not give SegWit transactions an unfair advantage.”
Disdain for Bitcoin Core, Blockstream
So, on the face of it, Bitcoin is headed towards a disruptive hard fork, but the reality is it serves to highlight the worst-kept secret in Bitcoin — that a large majority of miners and businesses dislike the influence that the loose affiliation of Bitcoin Core developers have over Bitcoin. This is especially so with a smaller number of Core contributors who are paid by Blockstream.
The blog post did not hide its disdain for those developers, adding “The New York agreement is also continuously and intentionally sabotaged by a group of software developers working on Bitcoin Core.” It referred to BIP148 UASF as an “astroturfing movement” and, like Wu, lamented the support it receives on “censored forums”.
The contention then is largely political. SegWit is almost universally accepted as a positive development, yet the ramifications from its implementation affect the economic incentives of the whole industry.
That seems to be the main point to take away — does guardianship of the Bitcoin software adapt to the needs of to the businesses that run it, or do the businesses adapt to what developers see as the safest, most secure version of the software?
Do you think the UAHF is a good idea? Let us know in the comments.
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