The divide between bitcoin mining company Bitmain and Bitcoin Core contributors is stronger than ever. In recent interviews, Bitcoin Core contributor Eric Lombrozo and Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu have accused each other of making false promises in private settings.
Multiple attempts at coming to a mutual understanding have been made by both parties, but at this point, there may be no hope in cultivating any sort of cooperation between these two camps — at least not anytime soon. While Bitmain has now thrown its support behind the SegWit2x proposal, some Bitcoin Core contributors have drawn a line in the sand with their support of BIP 148, which is an attempted user-activated soft fork of Segregated Witness (SegWit).
The inability for these two sectors of the Bitcoin ecosystem to work together could eventually lead to a split of Bitcoin into two separate cryptocurrency networks either on August 1st or (more likely) later in the year when a hard-forking increase of the block size limit is attempted by way of SegWit2x.
An Agreement During the California Meeting?
During a recent interview with Bitsonline reporter Theo Goodman, Wu covered a variety of meetings that have taken place between the development and mining communities.
Wu noted that the infamous Hong Kong Agreement from early 2016 was a decision among various miners, exchanges, and Bitcoin Core contributors to bundle SegWit with a hard-forking increase of the non-witness data limit to 2MB (effectively a 4 to 8MB block size limit).
To get an update on the status of the agreement, bitcoin miners from China met with contributors to Bitcoin Core in California in the summer of 2016.
“At that [meeting], we got kind of the impression that the block size was about to be increased after SegWit,” said Wu during his recent interview with Bitsonline. “Based on that context, I said, ‘Okay, let’s do SegWit and increase the block size [via a hard fork].’”
Wu added that, although he didn’t view the discussions in the California meeting as a “hard promise”, he felt there were “good intentions” behind the meeting. From Wu’s point of view, those indications of good faith dissipated after seeing comments made by Blockstream CTO and Bitcoin Core contributor Greg Maxwell on Reddit.
“You could see that he was so [supportive of] small blocks, even after the California meeting,” Wu told Bitsonline. “I think that [Maxwell’s] behaviour were more aligned with what he said publicly than what he said privately because in the California private conversations Greg Maxwell is generally very okay with increasing the block size. But when it comes to the public, he is very, very [much a] small blocker.”
Wu also told Bitsonline that there was an indication that a hard-forking increase to the block size limit would be announced at Scaling Bitcoin Milan, but such an announcement never materialized.
According to Lombrozo, there was never a promise to implement a hard fork in Bitcoin Core made by any of the contributors.
“Code for a hard fork was all that was asked for, and it was provided,” Lombrozo told CoinJournal when reached for comment. “But getting people to run it is a different matter. I honestly don’t know how to satisfy Jihan [Wu’s] demands at this point. There seems to be either a clash of cultures or some ulterior motives.”
Lombrozo clarified that the clash of cultures is not necessarily just caused by some entities residing in the western world and some operating in China. In his view, there is also a clash between Bitcoin businesses and the cypherpunks who work on the open-source Bitcoin protocol.
“I think we should stick to the Hong Kong agreement,” said Wu in his Bitsonline interview. “If there’s no block size increase, then there’s no SegWit.”
This is the same stance shared by Wu in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine back in May of last year.
What Happens Next?
For now, there are indications that SegWit will activate by August 1st by way of SegWit2x, but some Bitcoin users are still running the BIP 148 code in case there are delays with the SegWit2x proposal.
“The UASF, I think, does not have any traction in this community,” Wu told Bitsonline. “I think the recent implementation of btc1 is doing the UASF guys a favor that will have saved them from forking to their own smaller chain.”
Lombrozo, on the other hand, has become one of the most notable proponents of the user-activated soft fork for SegWit.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. In addition to the possibility of SegWit2x not leading to the activation of SegWit before BIP 148 users implement it on their own, there is also the issue of the hard fork portion of SegWit2x. However, over 60 percent of the network hashrate is now signalling for the activation of SegWit by way of BIP 91, which was implemented in the SegWit2 codebase.
“My opinion is that everything is possible right now,” said Wu when asked for his prediction on the next few months of Bitcoin protocol development by Bitsonline. “It’s very hard for me to make a kind of prediction, but we should pay attention to that SegWit2x has lots of economic players [in support] of this agreement.”