Much ado about Bitcoin Cash

Key players from the BCH community weigh in on the hash war that could split the network. Neither believes we need to be worried.

You can’t predict the future. In 1999, technologists fretted that when the clocks struck midnight on December 31st, the internal calendars of computers would read “00” causing them to crash en masse. Time Magazine asked if–what was known as the millennium or Y2K bug–would bring about the end of the world. In reality, very little went wrong.

A similar hysteria seems to be developing around the Bitcoin Cash hard fork scheduled for November 15 by Bitcoin ABC. What is typically a bi-yearly software upgrade has been labelled the “hash wars” on account of the bitter infighting among the Bitcoin Cash mining community who control the hash rate of the network. Craig Wright, who is leading the Bitcoin SV alternative to the hard fork, is willing to let the cryptocurrency’s value fall to zero to get his own way. In fact, things are so bad Coinbase has decided to stop its customers from making any trades until the situation is sorted out. Yet, Roger Ver, who was instrumental in the creation of Bitcoin Cash and has now sided with Bitcoin ABC, believes it is much ado about nothing. “I hope it will end up being like Y2K, a non-event that everyone was worked up about,” Ver tells Decrypt.

Ver disputes there is even a “hash war” to begin with. Following on from his YouTube video where he analyzed an email from Wright which persuaded him to side with the “enemy,” Ver says it is not just miners who have control. “Obviously the developers have influence too. The developers write the code that the miners hash with,” says Ver.

By framing the dispute simply in terms of hash power, Wright believes he has created a situation–and has influence over enough miners–to force Bitcoin ABC to adopt his version of Bitcoin Cash or watch the network crumble.  Early data suggests that he does but there are reports that Bitmain–on the side of Bitcoin ABC–is ready to deploy 90,000 s9 Antminers which would become 19% of the network’s hash power. This would reduce the current 60% control of CoinGeek and Bitcoin SV–both supporting Wright–down to 48%.

Yet some have dismissed this as modern-day snake oil. Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, who called Wright a “fraud” back in April made it clear his views are unchanged as he tweeted, “Craig Wright absolutely should have a voice. But so do all of us laughing at his stupidity.” He even pointed to a Github project which is dedicated to documenting Wright’s “facts, forgeries, and social media shenanigans.”

A late entrant into the Cash crisis debate is a crypto-anarchist who goes by the pseudonym ‘Cobra’–there’s nothing quite like having a person who calls himself a deadly snake to back up your claim to not be selling snake oil. Cobra is the co-owner of Bitcoin.org and Bitcointalk.org and was one of the 57 stakeholders who voted on the roadmap of Bitcoin Core in 2015. He tells Decrypt that Wright’s Bitcoin SV chain will be “reluctantly accepted.”

“[Wright] has been playing a strange game; but he’s done one thing right, being able to draw publicity and attention to himself,” says Cobra. “Many forks are obscure and irrelevant, but his personality has made his fork proposal more known and therefore more likely to succeed.”

Bitcoin ABC and Bitcoin SV are being talked more but in equal measure. Data source: Solume

Cobra argues that Wright should have continued mining the current Bitcoin Cash chain, rather than proposing his own Bitcoin SV chain which seeks to return the cryptocurrency to Satoshi Nakamoto’s supposedly original vision. But, he believes Wright’s “threats and overall unpredictable behavior” has put enough pressure on Bitcoin ABC that its backers, including mining giant Bitmain’s co-founder Jihan Wu and Ver, will give in.

The Bitcoin Cash doomsaying is strong. Social media chatter about Bitcoin Cash is overwhelmingly negative and volume of discussion is up by 23% according to sentiment analyst company Solume. Even Bloomberg foresees a messy split with one coin dying out. Yet, in 1999, that same publication said the Y2K bug would hit with the “force of El Nino” and it resulted in a light breeze. Perhaps, tomorrow’s storm will end up being nothing more than a damp squib. 

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