Ethereum co-founder and lead developer, Vitalik Buterin, recently asked a question of his Twitter following, focusing on Bitcoin Core (BTC). How will it distinguish itself among the competition? Not too much later, Buterin took to a popular subReddit, asking the same of Bitcoin Cash (BCH) while better fleshing out challenges for the community in a few observations. It instantly became a major topic of conversation, and very well could shape how BCH enthusiasts engage the project going forward. Just repeating “BCH is Bitcoin” isn’t enough, he warned.
Vitalik Buterin’s Challenge to BCH
“In a sea of coins based on elliptic curve cryptography,” Buterin wrote, “how does Bitcoin even plan to stick out?” During a recently published video interview snippet, he was shown breaking down the difference in consensus mechanisms between the tried, stable Proof of Work (PoW) and the new, conceptual, untested Proof of Stake (PoS).
What might at first appear like nerd inside baseball is actually a debate even folks unfamiliar with crypto are having, and it involves energy usage. BTC uses a lot of resources mining blocks, stabilizing the network, and the phenomenon has very much become a way to attack the concept ideologically: crypto = bad because it hurts the environment, etc. Buterin’s advocacy for PoS, at least in theory, eliminates that by using pure economic skin in the game — a conversation not the focus of this present article.
Buterin was openly questioned on his consensus assertions, and he responded by offering a simple question: “In a sea of coins based on elliptic curve cryptography, how does Bitcoin even plan to stick out?” He then, not too long after, brought the broader implications of that question to a subReddit forum known for its in-depth discussion of BCH. “Honestly I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge Bitcoin Cash a little as well,” Buterin posted. “Fundamentally, the question applies to BCH exactly as much as it applies to BTC.”
Born Out of Fire
Buterin, 24, was recently awarded an honorary doctorate for his development work. By all accounts, he is someone taken very seriously within the ecosystem, and when he cares to share thoughts on a subject, many tens of thousands are listening, chewing, arguing. This time was no different.
“The BCH community was in some ways literally born out of fire (the literal fire being internet flame wars; the metaphoricalness of the flame happens one level higher in the definition of ‘flame war’ so I am happy using the word ‘literally’ in its older literal meaning here),” he began. “It was born as an offshoot of the BTC community that was driven out by the BTC core developers adopting what it perceives as a perversion of the original vision, along with internet forum censorship and other forms of hostility.”
Indeed, BCH remains a bone of contention between BTC proponents, supremacists Buterin renamed Maximalists, who stop at nothing to crush alternative visions. Friendships were lost, many hundreds of millions of dollars spent, teams divided, and what amounts to a religious war was more or less announced after its August 1st, 2017 creation.
Donald Trump-like Figure
Many in the BCH community expressed relief of ridding themselves of BTC censorship and stridency, but it wasn’t much more than a year later when BCH encountered a similar divide within its own ranks. Buterin recalls, how “soon after the new community’s birth it was beset on by a divisive and opportunistic Donald Trump-like figure that knew how to say what the people wanted to hear, but ultimately only wished to exploit them for its own profit. And the kind of community that arises from these circumstances shows: almost every day the front page is filled with posts rallying the troops to fight against the evils of either Bitcoin (BTC) or Bitcoin Craig (BCC).”
He acknowledged the licking of wounds from a brutal contentious hard fork, resulting in a split of the chain into BCH and BSV, and in “response to endless social attacks coming from Craig Wright and other sources, but at the end of the day the goal of BCH should not be to grow its community by grabbing off a few more supporters from BTC and BSV, it should be reaching out to larger communities in broader society that stand to benefit from what it has to offer,” Buterin explained.
Bluntly, he also attempted to remind BCH proponents of their myopia, essentially losing their fastball over very insular infighting, as “there are much bigger cases of censorship and social attacks happening in the world that hurt the lives of far more people.”
Build, Don’t Bitch
The BCH community, even among opponents, is known for its hustle, for its creativity and emphasis on adoption. Buterin acknowledged “signs of hope. I’ve been seeing more focus on making merchant solutions with good UX, improving the protocol with pre-consensus and similar techniques, and using BCH to help people in Venezuela. This is good and this community needs more of that. Also, the community seems to care less now about whether BCH is run by PoW or Avalanche or adheres to the ‘longest chain rule,’ and cares more about the chain surviving and being useful; this is also good,” he detailed.
Breaking down his ultimate challenge to BCH advocates, he stressed “the community still needs to figure out, for example, what its unique selling point is relative to Zcash, which is also a coin that aims to support economic freedom but has strong privacy via ZK-SNARKs.”
Build, don’t bitch, is a mantra of the community, and maybe that has been lost a little, allowing bad actors to set its agenda. “Saying ‘BCH is bitcoin’ can’t cut it,” Buterin scolded, “because only a tiny portion of the world cares about weird religious arguments about the legitimacy of claims to some internet throne. The message must be first and foremost ‘BCH is useful.’ Once again, I have been seeing signs lately of the community going in that direction, but it needs to be a much stronger norm. But I do see reason to be optimistic.”
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