As bitcoin heads into July, the protocol stands on the cusp of major changes to its code.
The result of years of heated discussion on how to expand the capabilities of bitcoin for greater transaction volumes, two key proposals now stand on the verge of potentially disrupting or upgrading the network.
While generally described as a “civil war,” the battle over bitcoin’s technical roadmap is more nuanced.
Yet, that’s not to say there couldn’t be real consequences.
To help readers understand this turbulent time, we’re assembling content, both new and old, to serve as a guide to the debate and a real-time way to track news and updates.
In the days to come, we’ll be updating this post as a resource. We’re happy to consider collaborations and improvements as we seek to inform the world about changes and movements in bitcoin code.
The Big Picture
“Either the $40bn economic network … is on the verge of the biggest change in its history, or the most advanced scaling compromise is headed toward its biggest political failure.”
Penned by CoinDesk’s Pete Rizzo and Alyssa Hertig, this articles gives a 10,000-foot view on bitcoin’s upcoming code changes.
The piece helps frame the debate, and serves as an introduction to the key concepts and timelines we’ll be covering in more depth in the coming weeks and months.
Other media outlets have since offered (and will likely continue to offer) their takes on the situation ahead. Below, is a list of the ones we think have done a good job overviewing the debate.
Guides & Explainers
Along the way, we’ll release new guides and explainers aimed at taking high-level looks at some of the more granular aspects of the code proposals.
First up, you may want to learn more about Segwit2x. The most widely supported (and most controversial proposal), Segwit2x has perhaps the greatest chance of being activated on the bitcoin blockchain.
In this explainer piece, Alyssa Hertig outlines (in simple terms) what the proposal aims to do, what inspired it and how it works.
By this time, you’ve probably noticed the term ‘forks’ getting thrown around quite a bit. Going deeper, there are even different kinds of forks (hard forks, soft forks) as well as specific ways they can be introduced to a blockchain network.
In this explainer, Amy Castor outlines what a bitcoin fork is, how they work and what can happen if they go wrong.
Apart from the Segwit2x scaling proposal, there’s also BIP148, which stands in stark contrast as perhaps its biggest rival.
A response to miners and startups pushing their view on the bitcoin roadmap, some bitcoin users have threatened revolt in the form of this bitcoin improvement proposal.
Here, Alyssa Hertig explains the proposal and its possible implications.
Analysis & Opinion
Once you’re past the 101, you may want to dive deeper to understand the cultural and intellectual underpinnings of the debate.
Like any good ‘Civil War’, should we go so far as to use the term, both sides are backed by evolving ideologies that continue to become more complex.
In the following article, Pete Rizzo wades into explaining the influence miners, startups and developers have on the bitcoin network, exploring what keeps these groups together, as well as the issues (personal and technical) keeping them at odds.
This isn’t to say the scaling debate is a new story.
In fact, disagreements have gone on so long, many have feared (or hoped) they would never come to any head. Below, Alyssa Hertig looks at some of the reasons why bitcoin has so far avoided a scaling solution.
But, who doesn’t want to scale? It turns out, there might be valid and well-reasoned arguments for this outlook.
In this feature piece, Pete Rizzo examines this question, highlighting how it’s quite possible bitcoin’s resistance to scaling could be considered a feature of the code, and proof of its strength and strong design.
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which helped organize the Segwit2x agreement.
Image via Alex Sunnarborg for CoinDesk