nChain Announces ‘Bitcoin SV’ Full-Node Implementation, Could Lead to BCH Schism
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) companies nChain and CoinGeek have announced the creation of “Bitcoin SV” — a new Bitcoin implementation that aims to prevent “unnecessary changes” to the original Satoshi Nakamoto protocol. However the move could further entrench current divisions within the BCH developer community, forcing miners to choose between different and soon-to-be incompatible versions of the full-node software.
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Release for Testing in September 2018
nChain said Bitcoin SV will be available for testing in the first week of September 2018. Based off Bitcoin ABC v0.17.2, it proposes to contain only minimal changes in preparation for at BCH protocol upgrade on November 15th, 2018. The company said it will make the code open source on its GitHub repository and license its use under the MIT License.
The announcement, posted on nChain’s company blog, listed three main changes for Bitcoin SV:
- Restoring more original Satoshi op codes: OP_MUL, OP_LSHIFT, OP_RSHIFT, OP_INVERT
- Removing the limit of 201 op codes per script
- Raising the maximum block size to 128 MB
Official news of Bitcoin SV comes days after CoinGeek, founded by BCH mogul Calvin Ayre, announced it would enter the mining hardware business as a significant player. It proposes to “lock” the Bitcoin (as in BCH) protocol after “restoring” it to something more closely resembling the original.
nChain said Bitcoin SV is based on CoinGeek’s feature requests. “SV” in this case refers to “Satoshi’s Vision” — implying that only the original, unaltered version of Bitcoin represents the true Bitcoin described in Satoshi’s 2008 white paper.
At its heart lie the following key philosophies: Use of bitcoin as peer-to-peer electronic cash; potential for massive on-chain scaling; and greater power for miners to decide how Bitcoin should function.
‘Big Blocks, Big Business, Big Growth’
In the announcement post, nChain Group CEO Jimmy Nguyen wrote:
“Once the Bitcoin protocol is fully restored and maintained, global businesses and developers can reliably build robust applications, projects and ventures upon it – just as they reliably build upon the long-stable Internet protocols. The future of Bitcoin is big blocks, big business, and big growth. Bitcoin SV is an important step toward that big future by advancing the professionalization of Bitcoin.”
nChain will employ a development team of seven, led by Lead Developer Daniel Connolly, who it said has contributed anonymously to Bitcoin for years, as well as the Electron Cash BCH wallet and BitcoinJ-Cash. Current employee Steve Shadders will serve as Technical Director, in addition to a pool of five other C++ developers. It has invited other C++ devs to apply for expected future expansion.
The project will also engage an external company to perform security audits, create development practices and processes, and provide ongoing review and threat analysis of future proposed changes.
It has proposed a bug bounty program and will offer a $100,000 reward (in BCH) to Cory Fields, the Bitcoin Core contributor who reported a critical vulnerability in the Bitcoin Cash protocol last week.
Bitcoin SV, Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Bitcoin (BTC)
It’s important to note that none of these developments will affect the Bitcoin blockchain that currently has the majority of mining hashpower and highest market cap: Bitcoin (BTC), which runs mostly on the Bitcoin Core protocol software.
Both Bitcoin (BTC) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) communities claim to represent the “true” Bitcoin and both often use the single-word “Bitcoin” to describe their preferred versions. This has often caused confusion for newcomers unaware of the original August 2017 split, or ongoing differences.
Is the BCH Community Due for a Schism?
The BCH community has regularly pointed to its family of protocol software developers as a symbol of cooperation and innovation. But it was perhaps inevitable that visions would diverge at some point, as the BCH community grew and use cases evolved.
Noticeable recently has been a public disagreement between nChain/CoinGeek and the Bitcoin ABC team, led by Amaury Sechet (a.k.a. “deadalnix”). The teams have posted contradicting articles on the benefits or risks of introducing Canonical Transaction Ordering (CTOR) to Bitcoin Cash.
Like the earlier split between Bitcoin BTC and Bitcoin Cash BCH, the argument often spilled over into the social media feeds of the sides’ supporter groups.
With CTOR due to be officially implemented into the BCH protocol via Bitcoin ABC in the November 2018 upgrade, nChain and CoinGeek have acted swiftly to nix the proposed changes, which they claim do not assist speed or scaling in a meaningful way — or at least need further examination.
CoinGeek has also promised to back the new protocol with its own mining operations, running Bitcoin SV exclusively.
However not all BCH fans and followers greeted nChain’s announcement with enthusiasm. Some have accused the company of attempting to steer BCH development via its technology patents and preferred partners, rather than foster competition:
Locking down #bitcoin so all your patented crap works, but projects devs have spent last 1 to 5 years working on will be locked out. Remember when core locked out @gavinandresen? now @nChainGlobal Is trying to lock out gavin’s project graphene. Can you say @Blockstream 2.0?
— My2Centrist [I ♥ BCH] (@toomuch72) August 16, 2018
The accusations echo those many BCH supporters have leveled against Blockstream and its support for small transaction blocks and sidechains, plus financial assistance to Bitcoin Core BTC developers over the past few years.
Others noted that the very nature of open source software means any team of any size is free to propose changes, fork the project, or attempt to win over a majority of miners, users and investors.
There’s no such thing as only one software being Bitcoin Cash, every derivative of Bitcoin has an opensource licence so anyone can make one, but in case of forks, the chain that the majority chooses to mine on keeps the hashpower support and the name.
— Reina Nakamoto ? (@mindstatex) August 16, 2018
The only thing for certain is debates over future development versus purity of original visions will continue for years to come, just as they have in the world’s major religions for thousands of years.
What’s your take on the best way to change, or not change, Bitcoin? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
Images via nChain, Pixabay