The Facts

The unilateral proposal to fork the Bitcoin network to a different reference client has been floated, and now everyone has the choice between running this risky new client and the safe, original reference client.

The only important side effect of this new client is the increase in the amount of data that will need to be stored by anyone running it. Moving to the new client will make it impossible for people on small hardware platforms to run full nodes. The effect of these changes is shown with the math in this post:

This is the math outlining the resources required to run the discriminatory new reference client. The size of investment needed to download the blocks alone is astronomical for ordinary users but for companies with deep pockets its trivial.

 

The effect of the proposed change to a new reference client will have the side effect of completely centralizing Bitcoin, with only a few billionaire funded “Blockchain Providers” controlling a complete copy. Only the very rich will be able to run this client in any meaningful way, and they will be repositioned as gatekeepers to the entire Bitcoin ecosystem. If you want to write a Bitcoin wallet, or other service, you will need to get their permission before you can connect to it to serve your customers or innovate with the protocol.

The Future

The small number of companies running full nodes will be very careful about who they allow to access their API, because “Its money we’re talkin’ ‘bout here”, and they will be 100% compliant with regulations and even proactive and punitive with their own “just to be safe” bespoke rules masquerading as law, and anticipating new laws in their terms of service. You will have to reveal your business model to them in advance, and if your model is not approved by them, then your software will not be able to provide services to your users. Essentially, “Megablock Bitcoin” will be exactly like the Apple App Store.

This is how it will work. If you want to run a service that takes Bitcoin or uses Bitcoin, your application or service, and the people who wrote it and own the software, will be scrutinized in a review process and either accepted or rejected by the “Blockchain Provider”. You will have to identify yourself, sign a contract, accept their terms, and do other onerous and invasive things just to send messages to and from your application. You will not be able to offer services globally, and will have to restrict access to countries and individuals that are not banned by the State. And of course, if you get too popular or the law changes in the jurisdiction where the the Megablock Provider is incorporated, your app could be de-listed, disconnected, banned and all your customer’s Bitcoin confiscated. This is already happening with Coinbase. And of course, Blockchain had their client removed from the Apple App store, stopping its adoption on “your” iPhone. There cannot beanyone who is ethical who believes this is a good thing.

Bitcoin is meant to be a decentralized tool where there are very low barriers to entry and freedom to transact, so that all the problems of centralized control of money supply and access to the financial rails are eliminated. Increasing the block size so that only the rich, Crony Capitalists and cowards can run a full node and expose an API is completely contrary to that idea.

The Decision

When the new reference client is released, you can either decide to run it or not. You are free to choose whatever software your hardware can accommodate. If enough people run the new reference client, the original, clean, blockchain will be split, and if you do not want to lose your Bitcoin, you will need to switch to the new reference client, and eventually when you can’t afford the hardware, move your Bitcoin to a third party wallet provider under their control and contract.

On the other hand, if there are a majority of nodes running the existing, safe reference client that everyone is already running, these changes will be de facto rejected by the network, and all those disruptor nodes running the new toxic centralizing client will be compelled to go with the consensus that incremental, safe, non destructive, non centralizing change is what the network participants want. Or they lose their investments and Bitcoin.

The solution

If you want the network to advance safely, and you want to preserve your ability to run a node yourself, and are philosophically minded to reject the centralists, there is something that you can do to prevent these changes being forced on the network, perhaps changing the direction of Bitcoin forever.

You can run a powerful full node yourself for as little as €2 a month.

Pete Dushenski has an article on how to do this. (and in fact, installing Bitcoin by command line is easier than described there. All you need to do is run “apt-get install bitcoin” you don’t have to compile it yourself.). You can run a full Bitcoin node without needing to download and run the Blockchain on your own hardware. All you need to do is run an instance on an inexpensive virtual server in the cloud. Clearly this is not something that the casual user can do, but there is no reason why this process cannot be automated so that you pay €2 a month and a new node pops up an hour later. Anyone with some money could run 100 nodes in this way. Clearly, if all the people who do not want this change ran a few of these nodes, the debate would be over. Whats more, you can pay for these cheap nodes with Bitcoin.

There is no reason why many thousands of new safe, clean reference clients could not be deployed in this way, and perhaps, even more than that. These clean nodes in combination would drown out any damaging clients and force anyone trying to disrupt the network to retreat, because the majority of the nodes will still be running the true Bitcoin reference client. This will at the very least, stall the dismantling of the network, and at best, will permanently exclude any self interested minorities ability to wreck Bitcoin.

In sum, this needs to happen.

1) Scripted creation of new nodes triggered by a payment of the €2 hosting fee. The user sends Bitcoin to an address, with an email address. The script creates a new server, downloads the clean reference client, runs it in daemon mode. Recurring monthly payments are notified by email.

Thats it. People would be voting for Bitcoin with Bitcoin.

 

The Other Point of View

If your experience of life is that there is nothing wrong at all in any way with the CIA or the Federal Reserve, and everything in the world is perfectly fine, and the way things work should not ever change, then centralizing Bitcoin and dismantling its, to you, very dangerous and disruptive idea, is a no brainer. The government, and everything it does is always right, never wrong, they are in fact incapable of doing wrong, and they are to be trusted always because they always know what is best. Their permission is to be sought in advance before doing anything, even writing software.

If your experience of life in software is working for one of the biggest data corporations on Earth, and treating users like cattle to be managed and milked, then centralizing Bitcoin is a no brainer. The public doesn’t know what it needs, and only a centrally managed service can provide the expertise that’s needed to run anything at scale. There is no other way that things can be done, ever, and anyone that tries to change anything away from centralized control is painfully naïve. Plus, anarchists are full of jive.

There are lots of people opining about a subject they are not qualified to give an opinion on. They all think they deserve an answer, to “have their say” and they all think that you work for them. For nothing. The software engineering problems you are dealing with are difficult and novel, and the interactions of all the parts, including the social ones, is very complex. There are Merzbow levels of rage noise and conspiracy theories swirling around and directed at you. Life would be much easier if your only clients were a handful of billionaire entrepreneurs to whom alone you were responsible. And they would pay.

The solution is obvious, and beautiful. Centralize Bitcoin. It makes the noisy anarchists go away, reduces the number of people you are responsible to to a handful of billionaires with fine wine and food, and guarantees you a salary for decades and a seat on the round table at the centre of the biggest revolution since the web. Travel the world First Class, get fat. Live easy.

Which side would you choose?

The Choice is a No Brainer.

Do not believe for an instant that if the network is split in two and there is a corporate Bitcoin and a free Bitcoin, that the State will allow free use of a decentralized Bitcoin. They will make use of Free Bitcoin illegal. The chilling effect will kill Free Bitcoin, as no one wants the hassle of prosecution. If the true Bitcoin network is the de facto standard, then the Statists will choose to live with it, since they can’t kill it, just as they now choose to live with the Wild West Internet just as it is. Everyone is profiting off of the Wild West Internet, and there is too much money to lose in trying to lock it down and tame it. The same will be true for Real Bitcoin. That is why this block size increase and centralization proposal must die now.

What is being proposed by the centralizers is that everyone’s money should be in effect confiscated, and put to their personal use. This network does not belong to them, and the money, work and time invested and Bitcoin owned on the network does not belong to them either. It is not correct that two men can unilaterally decide to put the resources of others to a use without the consent of the owners.

But here we get into the realms of who owns what in Bitcoin, and what Bitcoin is. No one “owns Bitcoin”; for the sake of argument the network “owns” it in as much as an inanimate, intangible thing can own something. You do not have true control over your Bitcoin, because changes at the protocol level can lock you out at any time. What is being asserted here isownership of the Bitcoin Network, by two men. They want to take it, shut off access to it, and make it submit to their ideology. The idea that there is a “Bitcoin Community” that can decide how the software is developed is clearly absurd. The only thing people can do is choose to run one client rather than another. That is the only choice they have in this matter.

And they can do it. There is nothing to stop them if no one is minded to openly challenge them with their own software and solutions. Talk cannot change software. They have said openly if everyone switches to their client they will pull the trigger, and if not, they will not. If anything goes wrong, or anyone expresses surprise at the outcome, no one will be able to claim that they were not warned or did not have a choice to reject their client.

Ultimately this is yet another reason why Bitcoin is not money; it is something that is collectively controlled by consensus, unlike money which isaccepted by consensus. In any new definition of money there should be a clause saying that its nature is independent of anyone’s opinion or act. Clearly how Bitcoin works and its nature is not independent of anyone’s act; it is vulnerable, certainly at this early stage of its development, to the opinions of a small number of men, and that is very dangerous.

Once this conflict is over and there are millions of clean nodes it will be much harder to destroy Bitcoin by a centralizing protocol change at the whim of a single man. No one will agree to it; there will be too much at stake. The best the disruptors could hope for is a once in a generation change, the same way “Internet 2” took a quarter of a century to specify,attain consensus and complete. By then, it will be too late. Bitcoin will be everywhere, in everything, running free and wild, and will have so much momentum that no one will be able to stop it or corrupt it.

Conclusion

If no one comes up with a meaningful software challenge and makes it real, then the centralizers deserve to win, profit and gloat. They will be demonstrably the superior, insightful, realistic, resourceful and talented men, and the spoils rightfully belong to them.

If you want to have direct influence over how Bitcoin is developed, run a few full nodes immediately. Running software is the only thing that matters, not written proposals, wishes, legislation or tallk. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Are you man enough to pick it up?