At the Deconomy Conference in Seoul, South Korea, Blockstream’s Samson Mow, and Bitcoin.com’s Roger Ver engaged in a heated debate. Ostensibly it was about bitcoin scaling but quickly morphed into an argument on the merits of Bitcoin Cash and the Lightning Network.
In all, the debate was an ample showcase of the scaling philosophies of the two communities. Though both participants stressed that the views expressed were their own and not of their companies’ or any larger group.
Ver feels that scaling bitcoin must be done quickly, to keep the momentum going with crypto adoption. He also feels that with advances in hardware, blockchain bloat isn’t a real concern, regardless of block size. He also fears that the lightning network and sidechains will cause their own sort of centralization.
“Samson [Mow] personally and a lot of his friends, they say we need to build everything on top of layer two and will strangle layer one to do it. They don’t quite use that word, but we’ve seen exactly what the effect [has been] even if they had good intentions. The effect was that Bitcoin lost its first mover advantage. The market cap of altcoins has skyrocketed, the number of transactions happening on the Bitcoin core network today is about half of what it was in December of last year. Bitcoin core is having negative merchant adoption around the world [while] Bitcoin Cash is having positive merchant adoption around the world.”
Mow, on the other hand, feels that having a low barrier to entry for people running full nodes is important to Bitcoin’s decentralization. He feels that blockchain bloat could cause centralization and that a more cautious approach is warranted. In addition, he feels that larger blocks are not a long-term solution to the scaling problem. Rather, he advocates for a technological approach over a brute force one.
“I think [when] scaling Bitcoin, we have to take into consideration the computer science aspect of it. We can’t just make things up. […] When Bitcoin [Core] is scaling they’re actually making sync times faster so even though the Bitcoin blockchain is far bigger today […] we can still synchronize it, you know, in a day or so. If you’re running in exchange you actually need to validate all the transactions. If someone sends you a thousand Bitcoins you have to make sure it confirms before you credit them with a thousand Bitcoins to trade, you can’t just hope that it confirms. […] To do that, you actually need the software to scale and to function and blockchains inherently don’t scale because they are flood networks where every transaction goes out every node. So, the analogy I like to give is that if YouTube was decentralized, every time you post a video, everybody in this room would have to download that video, in order for everything to continue, and that is very burdensome. So, the way to scale the Bitcoin blockchain would be to move to layer two scaling solutions where everything is cryptographically linked to the main chain.”
He also had a strong showing during the question about which one is the “real” Bitcoin, Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash.
“If you look at all the markets, all the exchanges, Bitcoin is BTC and then Bcash is BCH so I think the name is clear what people have accepted right now. But the litmus test is this, if you want to be paid with a Bitcoin today and I give you something else, will you accept that as Bitcoin? I think that’s the easiest way to tell what is Bitcoin right? If you ask for payment in Litecoin and I send you Dogecoin you won’t accept that, right? So, the simplest test is just to ask someone if they want to Bitcoin then which do you want me to send you?”
What really got the audience going, however, was the tension between the two debate participants. Ver started by telling the audience how rude he felt Mow was after Mow walked out of a speech by Craig Wright and allegedly called him “Faktoshi.”
This moment somewhat backfired on Ver. Later in the debate, Ver praised Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, calling him one of the best minds in the business. This became problematic during the Q&A session when Buterin asked why “that fraud” Craig Wright was allowed to speak at the conference. That question drew cheers from the crowd and Mow.
Considering Ver attempted to publicly shame Mow for walking out of Wright’s speech, and then Ver praised Buterin so vehemently, it was a bad look.
Once the debate got going, the participants mostly stayed away from personal attacks but there were still some fireworks. At one point, Mow referred to Bitcoin Cash as “Bcash” something that Roger Ver took offense to. It is not clear why Ver hates the moniker “BCash” but he has a history of advocating against it.
The most bizarre moment in the debate came when Ver placed the death of babies at the feet of Bitcoin Core supporters. According to Ver, Bitcoin Core has slowed the rate of adoption and that resulted in less economic freedom for people in the third world. Ver stressed that he wasn’t exaggerating and that these deaths are what makes his support of Bitcoin Cash so fervent.
“Of course people that appreciate economic freedom are going to be upset, because we’ve delayed the adoption of cryptocurrencies around the world by several years because of the censorship and propaganda and the diversion of the Bitcoin scaling roadmap. So, that means more babies are dying in countries around the world because they have less economic freedom. More people are starving to death because they have less economic freedom. People are literally dying because of this, I’m not exaggerating. This is a life-and-death matter around the world and more people are dying because we haven’t been able to bring more economic freedom to the world as quickly as we otherwise would have been. And people like to make jokes about how Bitcoin isn’t for people that make less than $2 a day, well I have news for you, bitcoin is for everybody and bitcoin is alive and well in the form of Bitcoin Cash.”
When the initial baby death claim was uttered by Ver, it caused a few chuckles in the crowd. But when his rant ended, it did draw cheers from supporters. Mow’s response was that he believes bitcoin can be used by everyone but that it takes a while for new technology to become ready.
“Just like when email first appeared, not everyone was using email. People still used normal mail. Not everyone had a computer and I think that’s the part the Bitcoin Core developers are focused on, which is keeping the requirement low to participate in the network. If you don’t have a computer you cannot use email no matter how much I hope to help somebody right? But we can lower the barrier by making the computer requirement less strict.”
When pressed on the original question, which was why there is such animosity between the two groups, Mow focused on Ver’s insistence that his Bitcoin Cash is in fact, Bitcoin.
“Well I think now that you have your own coin [and] BCH people have their own chain to promote, they can talk about the benefits of that chain and extol the virtues of that chain. There doesn’t really need to be any animosity. I think people that are for Bitcoin, Bitcoin-airs, Bitcoin HODLers, they don’t like it because of how you branded it the same as Bitcoin. It’s like if you have the Deconomy [conference] and someone made Deconomy Cash and then started selling tickets, then I don’t think the organizers of the Deconomy would like that very much. I think that is where the animosity stems from.”
Mow was substantially calmer in his demeanor and interrupted Ver far less during the debate. That said, judging by the comments, who you feel won the debate will likely come down to your preexisting feelings on the subject and the men involved, rather than the actual content.
Unfortunately, I do not think this will be the end of the Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash debate.