TL;DR: Recently, Forbes published an opinion piece by Kyle Torpey, This Key Part Of Bitcoin’s History Is What Separates It From Competitors. The article was then subsequently stickied atop censored subreddit, /r/bitcoin, exposing his version of events to readers perhaps unfamiliar with what actually occurred. There are two major problems with Torpey’s retelling. First, this part of Bitcoin’s history (“UASF”) doesn’t actually “separate BTC from competitors.” Secondly, and more important, Torpey’s take purports to give us a Bitcoin history lesson, but botches it to the point of being historical revisionism.
/r/Bitcoin Tries to Rewrite UASF History
Let’s start with what I agree with: that miners alone don’t control Bitcoin. However there’s always been a balance of power between developers, miners, and users. This is Bitcoin’s beautiful economic incentive system that has been there since day 1. It wasn’t “defined by UASF” as the article states, and this same system exists in almost every Proof-of-Work coin. It’s not unique to BTC.
Sure, with a user activated soft fork (UASF) you can point to a specific point in time that demonstrates the miners don’t decide the rules, but this isn’t a unique competitive advantage. The conclusion that UASF proves Bitcoin is decentralized is misplaced, because the article is falsifying the context of the historical events, as I will explain.
This leads us to the real problem with this article: It’s reporting an inaccurate and highly distorted version of Bitcoin’s history. Imagine the story of Star Wars, only told from Darth Vader’s press office: “We were minding our own business when terrorist Luke Skywalker blew up our space station!” Anyone reading the story wouldn’t even be aware there was a war going on with 2 sides.
Elephant in the Room
The elephant in the room is our own “Bitcoin Wars,” AKA the block size scaling debate, which had been ramping up since at least as early as 2013. It really got heated in 2015 with the censorship and XT controversy. Heck, you could say that the discussion about scaling began in 2009 with Satoshi’s second email to the world, where he described how Bitcoin could grow to worldwide usage using on-chain scaling. This debate climaxed in August 2017 with the Bitcoin Cash split.
The author seems desperate to avoid discussing any of this important history from 2009-2015, and instead starts the “history lesson” in 2016.
In a nutshell, the real story goes like this: The original Bitcoin code had no block size limit. Satoshi introduced a 1MB limit in 2010 as a temporary spam measure and even told us how to remove it. But the BTC Core developers did everything in their power to avoid removing or raising this limit. Everything from fear mongering over decentralization, hard forks, and fee markets… to censorship… to fake scaling conferences… to broken agreements.
Contrary to what the Forbes article states, SegWit was definitely NOT a “seemingly innocuous technical improvement.” It was done in order to fix malleability but also for the purpose of giving lip service to a capacity increase while avoiding a proper block size increase. It was thousands of lines of code and added incredible complexity to the Bitcoin software.
Some have said that “segregated witness is the most radical and irresponsible protocol upgrade Bitcoin has faced in its eight year history.” It is also incorrect to state that SegWit was “not really all that controversial.” SegWit was, objectively speaking, highly controversial. In fact, SegWit never had more than 35% support from miners prior to the bait-and-switch “2X New York Agreement”.
As you can see, you are getting a highly slanted version of events from the Forbes article. The truth is that many miners, businesses, and users like myself did want a block size increase. The fact we did not get it does NOT at all prove that “Bitcoin is decentralized and resists corporate takeovers.” Instead, sadly it showed that Bitcoin was centralized around the Core developer group, who were successful in taking over the BTC network and preventing it from scaling.
Par for the Course
The author concludes by attempting to list other “corporate takeovers.” As part of avoiding the elephant in the room, of course he does not mention Bitcoin Cash, a coin that actually resisted a corporate takeover late last year.
Unfortunately, Torpey’s article is par for the course in terms of the “mainstream crypto” news giving readers a misleading picture of events… particularly when it comes to the history of Bitcoin and the subversion of BTC as Peer to Peer Electronic Cash for the world.
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