Čvc 17

The Biggest Mining Pool is Now Signaling to Keep Bitcoin Whole

· July 17, 2017 · 11:00 am

BIP91 blocks have been successfully mined by BiXin and Antpool helping to allay fears that Bitcoin could split in the face of incompatibility between rival Segwit2x and BIP148 implementations.


BIP91 (or Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 91) is the work of software engineer James Hilliard, it addresses incompatibilities between the competing SegWit2x and BIP148 protocols. Both bring SegWit to Bitcoin, except that SegWit2x refuses communication with BIP148, which would effectively cause Bitcoin to split in two.

What’s BIP91?

BIP91 seeks to address this problem by enabling SegWit2x and BIP148 to communicate. However, in order for BIP91 to be successful it must also be adopted by a significant number of mining pools in order to successfully activate. Activation of any of these SegWit improvements to Bitcoin need to gain a significant proportion of the Bitcoin network hashpower (80%) to be generated by miners and mining pools.

Rival Improvements

SegWit2x was agreed by Bitcoin companies and large miners, whereas BIP148 came from an independent groundswell of Bitcoin users and developers. The two rival protocols looked set on forking Bitcoin until BIP91 joined the fray.

SegWit2x has been identified by Luke-Jr, amongst others, as essentially a power grab by large Bitcoin mining operations, primarily Bitmain, allowing them potential control of the whole Bitcoin network.

“By promoting BIP91 and Segwit2x as an alternative to BIP148, what miners are really doing is another power grab to try to take back their veto, which has no purpose other than to be used by Bitmain to block the whole thing at the last minute…,” warns Luke-Jr.

If too little of the economy has upgraded to BIP148 in time for August, it gives Bitmain the opportunity to perform a chain split attack, and fool outdated nodes into following their invalid chain, possibly becoming financially dependent on it before realizing the attack has occurred.

Mining Pools Rally to the Cause

With more pools now coming forward and signaling BIP91 it seems that the community and mining pools are realizing that action is needed to prevent any potentially catastrophic Bitcoin splits and forcing users to take matters into their own hands.

A coordinated effort like this is a rare thing to see, especially considering there is no central figure to oversee such efforts and negotiate with mining pools for adoption. With time also of the essence pools are being mobilized and standing up to the potential vested interests of SegWit2x.

BIP91 should reduce the possibility of a Bitcoin split, which most rational Bitcoin users, miners and operators will agree is a good thing.

Will this BIP91 announcement reassure Bitcoin Investors and users ahead of the August 1st segwit activation date? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter, xbt.eu

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Kvě 01

Adam Back: Blockstream ‘Has No Patents Related To SegWit’

· May 1, 2017 · 12:00 pm

Blockstream CEO Adam Back has refuted claims by Swedish Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge that the company “has patents in SegWit.”


 Pirate Party’s Falkvinge: Blockstream SegWit Support Driven By Patents

In a Twitter response Monday, Back stated Blockstream “does not have any patents, patent applications, provisional patent applications, or anything similar, related to segwit.”

Falkvinge, who is a staunch supporter of bigger blocks proposed by rival scaling solution campaigners Bitcoin Unlimited, had earlier Monday released a dedicated post on his website arguing Blockstream’s SegWit support was for its own interests.

“Based on Blockstream’s behavior in the Bitcoin community, I have become absolutely certain that Segwit contains patents that Blockstream and/or their owners have planned to use offensively,” he wrote.

Falkvinge Accuses Blockstream Of ‘Goalpost Moving’

The post accuses Blockstream of “classic goalpost moving” and employing behavior that “only makes sense” under a patent battle.

Falkvinge continues:

…Based on Blockstream’s behavior, I can say with dead certainty that I’ve seen this exact behavior many times in the past, and it’s always when somebody has a dual set of reasons – one for presentation and palate and another that drives the actual course of action.

Back’s Twitter retort appears to be lifted from previous comments on Reddit left by core developer Greg Maxwell.Maxwell

“As is the case for other major protocol features, the Bitcoin developers worked carefully to not create patent complications. Segwit was a large-scale collaboration across the community, which included people who work for Blockstream among its many contributors,” he continued.

Moreover, because the public disclosure of segwit was more than a year ago, we could not apply for patents now.

Maxwell reiterated that Falkvinge had previously made similar allegations, which he had addressed separately.

“In short, Rick Falkvinge’s allegations are entirely without merit and are supported by nothing more than pure speculation which had already been debunked,” he concluded.

A Clash Of Ideals?

Falkvinge meanwhile has remained bullish on Bitcoin publicly, telling RT in February he expected Bitcoin could take over up to 10% of the foreign exchange market.

In his post, however, a clear distinction is drawn between the classic Bitcoin ethos and that of Blockstream.

The owners of Blockstream are the classic financial institutions […] that have everything to lose from cryptocurrency gaining ground,” he wrote.

The conclusion is unescapable (sic) here: Blockstream’s constant goalpost shifting has had the underlying goal to have Blockstream’s owners effectively own bitcoin through patent encumbrance.

What do you think about Rick Falkvinge’s claims about Blockstream? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter

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Dub 25

Charlie Shrem: ‘It’s Not About The Technology Anymore, It’s About Power’

· April 25, 2017 · 9:00 am

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem shared his views on the scaling debate, stating that “it’s not about technology anymore, it’s about power.”


Shrem: ‘It’s About Power’

Charlie Shrem, Bitcoin entrepreneur and co-founder of Intellysis, was present in today’s episode of the  Double Down show, dubbed “Does Block Size Matter?” with the usual hosts Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert.

Hard Fork Wars

During the show, Shrem expressed his thoughts regarding the current state of the scaling debate or as Herbert called it, “the Great Blocksize War of 2017.”

Shrem stated:

In reality, it’s not a technical argument anymore. Everyone on both sides of the table say that SegWit is the best technology that we have.

According to Shrem, the scaling debate is no longer about the most viable technology or solution that can be used to scale Bitcoin. Instead, the scaling debate has become a power struggle between two development teams, Bitcoin Unlimited and Bitcoin Core.

“The other side of the debate, which is Bitcoin Unlimited, they agree that SegWit is a great technology,” he continued. “But to them it’s not about technology anymore, it’s about power.”

Shrem went on to say:

They want to remove [Bitcoin Core’s] ability to work on Bitcoin and instead have a closed-membership small group of four to five developers, who they think are the best for the job, run Bitcoin going forward.

A Test for Bitcoin

However, there is a silver lining in this development, which Shrem considers it as an “extremely bullish situation for Bitcoin.” The current block size “drama” is showcasing Bitcoin’s ability to resist a malicious attack on the network.

He noted:

Here you have a group of bad actors who are trying to overtake the Bitcoin network and essentially fork all of bitcoin and force all Bitcoin users to be able to use their developers and their codebase and their everything and it’s not a group of miners that’s preventing this.

Shrem sees the current hash power signaling as a “glorified poll” when it comes to hard fork given that nodes are the ones that validate blocks and they can discard the ones from the hard-forked chain at will, meaning that miners don’t have nearly as much power as they think they do.

This can be observed the UASF proposal, which would bypass the miners completely and leave it up to the nodes to force SegWit into activation.

However, it may not come down to a UASF, as mining pools like F2Pool are beginning to move to SegWit driven by demand from individual users that contribute hashrate to the pool.

Champagne Problem

Not all is gloomy for Bitcoin, however. Amidst all the tension and drama, one must also look at the bright side, which is the reason we’re having this heated debate at all: Bitcoin is growing at an exponential rate.

This is, as Shrem puts it, a “champagne problem,” one that gives us as much to celebrate as it gives us to fight about. 

Bitcoin 2016

“It’s a good problem to have. Bitcoin has grown really quickly. We never expected this to happen so quickly, to be honest. We’re getting towards what they call a ‘champagne problem,’ how do you scale?” he said.

This means that not only is Bitcoin working as intended, but there is also an urgent need for such a currency in the world. Now, it’s only a matter of making sure that Bitcoin can become that currency and still maintain its decentralized and immutable characteristics.

Shrem concluded:

There has always been research and conversations on scaling over the past three years but, to be honest, we didn’t think we’d see this exponential growth in Bitcoin and now it’s time to have that conversation.

Do you agree? Is the scaling debate actually about power and control? Share below!


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, alchetron.com, coin.dance

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Dub 19

ViaBTC Explains Why They Don’t Support SegWit

· April 19, 2017 · 12:00 pm

ViaBTC’s latest blog post sheds some light on why the mining pool is opposing the Bitcoin scaling proposal, SegWit.


ViaBTC, Bitcoin Core and SegWit

ViaBTC just published a blog post in which they explain the reason behind their opposition to SegWit, citing the concerns regarding the complexity of the soft fork, the irreversible damage it may and the introduction of second-tier networks like Lightning Network. The mining pool also mentions Bitcoin Core’s impact on Bitcoin and the community as a negative, claiming that they are “abusing their previous influence”. The post reads:

Today, Bitcoin is in urgent need of diversified dev teams and implementations to achieve decentralization in Bitcoin development.

As companies and mining pools choose their side of the debate, SegWit or Bitcoin Unlimited, most have released statements regarding which solution they are backing and why. While most companies favor the activation of SegWit, mining power has been on the side of BU. Among the pools that support BU, Antpool and ViaBTC have been two of the most vocal regarding Bitcoin Core and the Segregated Witness proposal. On ViaBTC’s transaction accelerator page, a popup service statement reads:

ViaBTC is of the opinion that the current “Bitcoin Core + Blockstream” Bitcoin development team is not taking satisfactory steps to ensure the growth and advancement of Bitcoin in accordance with satoshi’s original white paper, and is in fact actively harming the health of the Bitcoin economy by actively stifling efforts to solve some of Bitcoin’s most pressing problems.

“SegWit doesn’t solve the most urgent capacity issue”

In the latest blog post dubbed “Why we don’t support SegWit”, ViaBTC states that SegWit is a soft fork solution for transaction malleability and that it cannot solve the current network overcapacity problem which is currently the most urgent issue in the Bitcoin network.ViaBTC goes on to state that second-tier networks like Lightning Network cannot be considered as a block scaling solution. The blog post reads:

LN transactions are NOT equal to Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer on-chain transactions and most Bitcoin use scenarios are not applicable with Lightning Network. LN will also lead to big payment “centers”, and this is against Bitcoin’s initial design as a peer-to-peer payment system.

However, the SegWit is not Lightning Network (LN). SegWit introduces a much-needed fix for a pressing issue in Bitcoin, which is transaction malleability. This fix would allow LN to be implemented in Bitcoin.

Bitcoin network overcapacity

However, ViaBTC seems to be missing some very important points. The introduction of a patch to one of Bitcoin’s bugs should not be considered as harmful just because it allows developers to build a second network on top of Bitcoin. Bitcoin should be cleared of bugs like transaction malleability and developers should be free to build whatever they want (which is what has happened so far) on top of Bitcoin.

The fact that a mining pool would block an important fix like this due to the possibility of losing out on transaction fees is, at best, selfish. ViaBTC also seems to have missed the fact that some forms of second-tier networks are already possible in Bitcoin, even without the transaction malleability fix, and are being developed right now. Lastly, one should also note that without these channels, users that are looking for the advantages they would provide will find them elsewhere either through altcoins or centralized payment systems, which can only result in the loss of use cases for Bitcoin with nothing gained.

ViaBTC’s statement that “SegWit doesn’t solve the most urgent capacity issue” is, however, correct. While it may be considered as a “quick-fix” that will double the network’s capacity, further updates will have to be made in the future. This is where Bitcoin Unlimited seems to please its supporters, their Emergent Consensus protocol proposes a fix that is somewhat “permanent” as it allows the block size limit to change according to demand.

“SegWit makes it harder for future block scaling”

Here, ViaBTC cites some real concerns regarding the possibility for future scaling updates which are indeed made harder by SegWit’s changes. SegWit allows blocks to reach a 4MB limit due to the way witness data is accounted for. However, this limit is not meant to be reached, as the only data that is read differently is the witness data and not the tx. inputs and outputs. This results in a ~2MB block limit under regular circumstances.

This means that a possible attack vector is to create 4MB block which is a problem for the network. So, any future increases, for example from a ~2MB limit to a ~4MB limit, will theoretically allow a block that is four times bigger to be created, in the example above this would mean a ~16MB limit. This, however, is extremely unlikely and is not seen as a problem for Bitcoin Core developers.

The problem is that if a way to implement this attack did come along, SegWit could not be reversed. The blog post reads:

On technical terms, SegWit uses a transaction format that can be spent by those who don’t upgrade their nodes, with segregation of transaction data and signature data. This means SegWit is irrevocable once it’s activated, or all unspent transactions in SegWit formats will face the risk of being stolen.

While this may be a real concern to a certain degree, the prospect of an attack vector that is currently considered impossible and would theoretically become a problem once the network implements a second scaling update, which may never happen, doesn’t seem to be a valid reason for blocking SegWit.

“SegWit will deepen Core’s impact on the community”

In the last section of the blog post, ViaBTC states its concerns regarding the Bitcoin Core development team and its influence on the Bitcoin community, citing problems like the infamous censorship perpetrated by Bitcoin Core on Reddit and Bitcoin forums. This seems to be completely off from what Bitcoin is supposed to be, a global apolitical currency.

Bitcoin forums, boards and development teams are not part of Bitcoin. They are exterior to the network. If there is indeed censorship going on in these places, users should abandon them. If the Bitcoin Core team is trying to turn Bitcoin into a centralized payment system (or whatever), the community/miners should not approve their updates. However, rejecting an update based on the developer that proposed it, and not on the actual code, is childish. This reason could easily be turned around on the Bitcoin Unlimited development team, which has had its fair share of controversy.

Conclusion

While we do believe that both scaling proposals have their strengths and weaknesses, ViaBTC’s concerns regarding SegWit seem to be non-existent at best: Blocking transaction malleability is a malicious act on the network. Opposition to SegWit should be based on the problems it will cause the network and not on the problems it could theoretically cause if a currently-nonexistent attack vector is eventually found. Lastly, users should decide what is best for the network and not whom, that’s the beauty of Bitcoin.

Do you think that ViaBTC is right and that we are missing the point? If so, let us know in the comment section.


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Dub 14

Core Dev Maxwell: UASF ‘Does Not Measure Up To Standard’

· April 14, 2017 · 9:00 am

Bitcoin core developer Greg Maxwell has newly outlined why he “does not support” a user-activated soft fork (UASF) as it figures in BIP 148.


Maxwell: UASF ‘Guarantees Disruption’

In a circular to the Core mailing list Friday, Maxwell said that although he is not strictly against a soft fork, its incarnation in BIP 148’s UASF does not “really measure up to the standard set by segwit itself.”

The debate over whether to galvanize the entire Bitcoin ecosystem into Segwit activation via a UASF has gained considerable traction over the last month.

Proponents say it is the quickest way to move Bitcoin on from its current stalemate, yet detractors highlight its disruptive nature as a reason for caution. If a UASF occurred, for example, non-supportive miners would find their blocks invalid after the deadline, and would not receive rewards for their work.

Maxwell too notes that this “disruption” is a key difference between a UASF and segwit activation via miners.

“The primary flaw in BIP148 is that by forcing the activation of the existing (non-UASF segwit) nodes it almost guarantees at a minor level of disruption,” he continued. “Segwit was carefully engineered so that older unmodified miners could continue operating _completely_ [sic] without interruption after segwit activates.”

Time Still Not Of The Essence

Despite the increasingly slow and expensive nature of the Bitcoin network, Maxwell still advocates a measured approach without speed as a priority.

…The fastest support should not be our goal, as a community– there is always some reckless altcoin or centralized system that can support something faster than we can– trying to match that would only erode our distinguishing value in being well engineered and stable.

First do no harm.’ We should use the least disruptive mechanisms available, and the BIP148 proposal does not meet that test.

The developer has meanwhile found himself under fire lately from Bitcoin Unlimited proponents, notably Roger Ver, who released a dedicated presentation with quotes from Maxwell highlighting alleged errors.

“It’s important the users not be at the mercy of any one part of the ecosystem to the extent that we can avoid it– be it developers, exchanges, chat forums, or mining hardware makers,” Maxwell concluded.

Ultimately the rules of Bitcoin work because they’re enforced by the users collectively– that is what makes Bitcoin Bitcoin, it’s what makes it something people can count on: the rules aren’t easy to just change.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin’s recent price spike over $1,200 has been attributed by some to a sharp rise in the number of UASF-signaling nodes. Though this does not necessarily imply causation, the price has also dipped following the publication of Maxwell’s post.

What do you think about Greg Maxwell’s perspective on a UASF? Let us know in the comments below!


Images courtesy of uasf.org, twitter.com, shutterstock

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