Bitcoin Developer Mike Hearn’s departure from the project last month created many stories in the mainstream press about how the end of Bitcoin may be near, but pretty much everyone left in the Bitcoin community has disagreed with Hearn’s overall position. The former Google employee, who is perhaps best known for his work on Bitcoinj and Bitcoin XT, claimed that the centralization of development power in Bitcoin Core, the centralization of bitcoin mining in China, and a myriad of other issues led him to come to the conclusion that Bitcoin is a failed experiment.
The Bitcoin community’s overall response to this declaration was likely best summarized by Bittorrent Creator Bram Cohen, who called Hearn’s exit from Bitcoin a whiny ragequit. In other words, Hearn quit Bitcoin because he couldn’t implement the changes he wanted to see in the protocol.
It appears that even Gavin Andresen, who was Hearn’s main partner in the development and promotion of the failed implementation of BIP 101 in Bitcoin XT, agrees with Cohen’s assessment of the situation. In a recent interview with Let’s Talk Bitcoin, Andresen stated:
“I agree with some of Mike’s points — some of them I don’t agree with — and I don’t like the way Mike went about it. I think it was a whiny ragequit.”
Taking a Long-Term View on Bitcoin
While expanding on his thoughts related to Hearn’s decision to leave the Bitcoin community, Andresen talked about the long-term view he takes with Bitcoin:
“Well that’s the 89th time or something that Bitcoin has been declared a failed experiment. I take the long-term view with Bitcoin, which I think frustrates people. I tend to take the twenty year view of — technologies take decades to catch on and really become really big mainstream things.”
Bitcoin Obituaries has become a popular website in the community due to all of the inaccurate predictions of Bitcoin’s ultimate failure from the past five or six years. As of today, various individuals and organizations have claimed Bitcoin is dead on at least 93 separate occasions.
While many other online cash systems and digital currencies have failed in the past, it’s important to remember that Bitcoin does not rely on the support of any one company or government. This feature has provided Satoshi Nakamoto’s creation with more resilience than any other attempt at digital cash from the past. One example of this phenomenon in action is Valve’s apparent embrace of Bitcoin after originally dismissing it almost two years ago.
The Future of Bitcoin is Bright
During his Let’s Talk Bitcoin interview, Andresen also touched on the fact that many people take a short-term view of Bitcoin. He noted:
“I think Mike [Hearn] takes a shorter perspective. I think there are a lot of speculators in the Bitcoin world that don’t look more than ten minutes out on what the price of bitcoin is doing.”
One possible reason of the short-term outlook on Bitcoin from some of the general public is the focus that is often placed on the currency application of the technology. Many people dismiss Bitcoin entirely after seeing the dollar price of a bitcoin drop below a certain level, but this ignores the fact that the Bitcoin network is useful as more than just a store of value. Bitcoin’s ability to survive many booms and busts in the past should be an indication that the success of this technology is measured by much more than the daily price swings.
Sticking to his long-term view of the peer-to-peer digital cash system, Andresen added, “I don’t think it’s a failed experiment. I think the future is actually pretty bright for Bitcoin.”
Bitcoin Still Needs to Scale
Although his outlook for the future of Bitcoin is bright, Andresen did not claim that there are no problems that still need to be solved. The Bitcoin Foundation Chief Scientist claimed there are Bitcoin companies dealing with issues related to scalability right now, which is why he has joined the Bitcoin Classic project, an initiative to increase the block size limit by 1 MB via a hard fork , which activates with 75 percent support of the overall network hashrate.
Coinbase Director of Engineering Charlie Lee has echoed Andresen’s statement in regards to the real problems with Bitcoin scalability affecting some companies right now. Bitcoin Core has published their own roadmap, but a majority of the hashing power controlled by mining pools would like to see the development team create a more specific timeline for an increase in the block size limit. Up to this point, Bitcoin Classic does not appear to have gained much more overall support than Mike Hearn’s Bitcoin XT. It seems as though Bitcoin Core will continue to operate as the reference implementation of the Bitcoin protocol over the near term.