Bram Cohen Segwit

During a conversation with Muneeb Ali of Blockstack at Blockstack Summit 2017, BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen shared some of his thoughts on the current state of the Bitcoin development process. Key viewpoints shared by Cohen included a preference for soft forks over hard forks, blaming bitcoin miners for blocking Segregated Witness (SegWit), and what he views as unwarranted vitriol aimed at the Bitcoin Core contributors.

Compatible Changes in P2P Networks

In an early part of the conversation, Ali asked Cohen for his thoughts on how to make changes to P2P protocols that are already deployed on a massive scale. Cohen’s response illustrated a preference for backwards compatible changes, which generally come in the form of soft forks in Bitcoin.

“You have two peers that are talking to each other and a compatible change [or] soft fork is where, if you have a new peer talking to an old peer, they will talk to each other happily and it will continue to work,” explained Cohen. “And you can have incompatible changes where if a new peer tried to talk to an old peer the communications just won’t happen.”

Cohen added that, in his view, compatible changes should be preferred “all the time” because incompatible changes “just kind of don’t work.”

The BitTorrent inventor also clarified that there can be situations where incompatible changes are rolled out over many years. He provided an example of changes in BitTorrent that took place over the course of a decade.

“You really, really want very long time periods of compatibility before you allow incompatibility to happen,” Cohen added.

Pointing the Finger at Bitcoin Miners

In Cohen’s view, the current issues with the development of the Bitcoin protocol are “pretty easy to identify.”

“It’s the miners being butthurt,” claimed Cohen.

Here, it appeared Cohen was referring to bitcoin miners not updating their software to activate SegWit until many months after it had been included in a version of Bitcoin Core.

In Cohen’s view, SegWit was a remarkably good proposal from the contributors to Bitcoin Core. He described it as a bug fix and noted that SegWit should have been included in Bitcoin from day one. The improvement also added a de facto increase in the block size limit, which is a change specific segments of the Bitcoin user base had been clamoring for, in a backwards compatible manner.

“The expectations were that this would just go through quickly because there wasn’t any objective, good reason to block it,” said Cohen. “And then the miners just kind of started throwing a tantrum and held it up.”

Cohen pointed to the ASICBOOST controversy as a possible reason for the holdup.

“They still seem to have this delusion that they can just like do a hard fork and people will follow them, and I think it’s very important for just the health and viability of Bitcoin generally that the community at large tells them to take a flying leap and understand their place in the world,” added Cohen.

Comments on the Criticisms of Bitcoin Core

In Cohen’s view, the “vitriol” that is thrown at many of the contributors to Bitcoin Core is unwarranted because they’ve been doing normal development and “getting stuff done.” He noted that the source of this criticism for Bitcoin Core contributors seems to come from those developers not wanting to implement bad ideas.

“You came to them with a proposal and they told you it wasn’t a good idea: What more do you want from them?” Cohen asked.

“Almost everyone with a clue is behind [Bitcoin] Core’s general roadmap,” added Cohen.

  • Zac Sand

    The spamming to force an unnecessary hardfork to benefit miners is BS.

    We need to start a Mining Cooperative.
    Let’s start coming up with ideas.

    I appreciate the miners attention to self interest, but it getting out of hand.

    Certain parties have noticed how much influence the miners are having on the Bitcoin ecosystem.
    We want to secure that, before it gets out of hand.

    • JAFO

      Maybe join your local anarchosyndicalist group?

      • Zac Sand

        Syndo-narcoleptic is more my style.

  • BobbyLarken

    It’s more like the unwillingness to compromise with a block size increase with the stipulation that it would be decreased back to 1mb once LN and side chains could take over. This unwillingness to compromise along with the censorship split the community. The miners offered multiple times to go 2x but Core/BlockStream refused or reneged on the agreement. What’s more is the censorship has pushed out all those who questioned the move by BlockStream. What should have happened is that the main forums would have allowed people battled it out until a rational compromise could be created where everyone could agree. The result of the censorship is a divided and toxic community where those in the middle
    have moved on to alt’s and people have stopped promoting bitcoin. The whole ecosystem is now anemic to possible government regulation because no-one cares. Everyone is battling over this stupid block size issue instead of trying to keep the banks from sabotaging bitcoin and crypto in general.

    To the conspiratorial minded, the toxic results would look quite intentional. The reason being is that when people see actions and explanations that don’t make sense, they try to explain them with theories as to why. This usually invokes explanations of: stupidity, or conspiracy. In either case, the result is the same. The community is divided and there is no center.