Stick a fork in BCH, the network is splitting again

BCH is headed for another messy divorce in November 2020 as the network seeks to officially remove its latest group of heretics. At the core of the dispute is a change to their protocol software that diverts 8% of newly “mined” coins to a development fund called the Infrastructure Funding Proposal (IFP), also commonly called the “Coinbase Rule” or “Miner Tax.” The issue highlights the inherent insecurity in having a protocol that may alter fundamental incentives at its developers’ will, and BCH’s determined effort to gain mass appeal while remaining the currency of choice for voluntaryists and anarcho-capitalists.

As it did with the split from Bitcoin (BSV) in November 2018, the debate has pitted prominent members of the BCH community against each other to the point where a consensus solution is impossible. The best-known of these outside the BCH world are ABC lead developer Amaury Sechet, who supports the IFP, and entrepreneur Roger Ver, who opposes it. Ver, as shown in the recent Bitcoin.com post and his own Twitter post, is back to his old bag of tricks as he gears up to once again lead his BCH Cartel by delegating to others—just like when he initiated the hash war ambush of Dr. Craig Wright. Then again with the coordinated exchange BSV delisting attack after the hash war plan to cut Dr. Wright out of his invention did not materialize as he planned. Now, the Bitcoin.com chairman is cutting his former partner Sechet out in much the same way that he tried to cut out Dr. Wright during the November 2018 hash war, by doing character assassination against the ABC protocol developer—similar to Ver’s organized commercialized attacks against Dr. Wright but to a much lesser extent with Sechet.  

The issue is currently in the news because BCH protocol developer’s at ABC “freezes” its code three months in advance of final release, a security measure to make sure the code receives adequate testing before going live.

Forking terminology and market tickers

Supporters from each camp have painted ABC’s decision as either an “upgrade” to the BCH network, or as a decision to “fork away” from it. Just who is forking from whom will be decided in November 2020, when the smoke clears and the data shows which software version has the most user nodes. A “hash war” to produce the longest transaction chain will likely ensue, with the “winner” gaining community approval to use the BCH brand, logo and identifying market ticker (the initials BCH) on exchanges.

What is clear is that Bitcoin—as envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto in the original Bitcoin whitepaper—does not fork. The so-called “forks” are essentially new systems developed by groups that they try to pass off as Bitcoin. All protocol forks are no longer Bitcoin so by continuing to fork while still using the Bitcoin name is a form of fraud by everyone involved in the ruse of “passing off” their inferior technology and is similar to counterfeiting. The only platform in existence today that follows the original Bitcoin Protocol is BSV and its also the only one that massively scales for the same reason.

Meanwhile, IFP proponents say funding is necessary to fund a team of protocol developers and others building vital infrastructure, without whom BCH cannot succeed. Opponents claim it is a dictatorial imposition on miners that will affect their profits, driving them to hash on other networks—namely, Bitcoin (BSV) or BTC.

Miners have already begun to signal support or opposition to the IFP. According to Coin.dance, ABC runs on 532 BCH nodes, while rival implementation BCH Node (BCHN, essentially the same code as ABC but which opposes a compulsory development fund) runs on 127. However, the BCH Unlimited implementation is currently running on the most nodes with 561. BCH-U also recently opposed ABC’s “8% IFP tax“, releasing its latest version a week ago with this prominent comment:

“This is a major release of BCH Unlimited compatible with the upcoming protocol upgrade of the BCH network. BCH Unlimited 1.9.0 is against and is not going to implement the 8% IFP tax proposed by ABC.”

It’s worth noting for clarity that these Bitcoin imposter protocols—BCH and potentially BCHN—are new and unique, and are trying to pass themselves off as Bitcoin which is a form of consumer fraud, neither should be referenced as Bitcoin. Sechet has been “selectively” using what Satoshi Nakamoto said about Bitcoin to justify his position now but the reality is that the current version of BCH and any forks off BCH into something else is not Bitcoin at all.

The problem of paying for infrastructure development

The issue of diverting a percentage of BCH’s coinbase to a development fund has cause heated debates in public and private throughout the BCH community since the idea was first floated in 2018. Initially put on hold, it reappeared in the wake of Bitcoin Independence Day on the 15th of November 2018 once it became apparent that BSV supporters included most sources of investment capital to maintain the protocol and fund application development.

Before the IFP issue rose from the grave again, the BCH community squabbled over its protocol’s Difficulty Adjustment Algorithm (DAA). This was an emergency change to the code in the wake of the 2017 BTC-BCH split, to avoid “chain death” if too many miners left the network suddenly, leaving hashing difficulty too high for a small group of miners to succeed. However, the new DAA is taking BCH further away from the Bitcoin whitepaper. It is clear they are continuing to build another new protocol and trying to pass it off as Bitcoin.

ABC eventually decided to include Jonathan Toomim’s “Aserti3-2d” (ASERT) DAA algorithm over its initially-preferred “Grasberg” which avoided a hard fork over that issue. But it then poured a different can of gasoline into the BCH dumpster fire by implementing the IFP.

Bitcoin (BSV) since February 2020 has a “set in stone” protocol in which fundamental rules, like economic incentives for node operators, cannot be changed. The rationale for this is that large enterprises and other organizations will not build their systems around a network protocol that could change to favor one group over another, or alter basic rules and incentives. BTC did this in 2017 by introducing segregated witness transactions in an attempt to limit block sizes to 1-4MB. BCH (or at least, ABC) will alter incentives once again in November 2020 by reducing the block reward paid to miners by 8%, which, again, takes BCH further away from the original Bitcoin whitepaper. The other reality is that BCH intends to continually alter its protocol rules for the foreseeable future, it will never be set in stone.

Yes, it’s about economic incentives

In a blog post on August 6, Sechet acknowledged that Satoshi Nakamoto designed Bitcoin’s security around economic incentives:

“Sustaining a permissionless, censorship resistant network requires that those charged with maintaining crucial functionality have their incentives fully aligned with the security of the network. Satoshi Nakamoto explicitly designed Bitcoin to be a system secured primarily by the incentives of participants. In the Incentives section of the Bitcoin white paper, Satoshi states that the Bitcoin security model requires that a participant who undermines the system will also destroy the validity of his own wealth.”

He added that “Bitcoin is the foundation for a voluntary, free market”, and said nodes were free to join or leave the network at will, based on those incentives. While Bitcoin ABC was once the only viable mining software implementation for BCH, miners now had an alternative. ABC would add the IFP with its 8% Coinbase Rule to its code before freezing it in August, making it a certainty that miners will make a definitive decision in November.

Herding cats

During the earlier debate over the difficulty adjustment algorithm, ViaBTC (actually a BCH supporting company) CEO Haipo Yang proposed an alternate version of BCH called “Bitcoin Cat”.

Whether serious or not, the name may have been appropriate, since any attempt to impose order on a group of voluntaryists and anarcho-capitalists can be like the proverbial herding cats.

One problem that forever hounds the voluntaryist community is that eventually, someone grows tired of debate and chaos, and takes the responsibility to make executive decisions on their future protocol. This person or group is then branded a “dictator” not keeping with the voluntaryist spirit, and community support splits. Eventually the splits continue to happen until there is nothing left to split. Which is what the future holds for Ver’s BCH Cartel.

Perhaps it is noble in spirit to encourage debate and consensus over technical standards, but there are always cases where a debate can rage forever, and must be decided one way or another.

Bitcoin BSV smartly decided long ago that, at least, there must be an unchanging protocol to define Bitcoin’s basic rules as Satoshi intended. BCH’s never-ending battles are a sign that such rules, and rulers, are often necessary to guarantee stability. It is also a another reminder that Bitcoin SV was the true winner of the hash war.

Since it restored the original Bitcoin protocol last February, BSV’s protocol developers have not engaged in any arguments, threatened a split, or even suggested a change. This is the kind of platform on which future developers will want to build major applications.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.