Understanding Soft Forks: A Core Developer’s View on Network Monopoly

By September 27, 2016Bitcoin Business

Since the beginning of the development of Segregated Witness, an increasing number of alternative Bitcoin hard fork supporters have criticized the implementation process of soft forks on Bitcoin Core, claiming that Core developers have a complete monopoly over the process. Former Bitcoin Core developer Jeff Garzik and Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin particularly stated that proposed soft forks have to undergo a majority consensus among Bitcoin Core developers that ultimately decide whether a soft fork becomes implemented into the BItcoin network. “Soft forks very specifically, from an average user point of view, cannot be considered opt-in because the entire network is locked into the new consensus rule, regardless or not,” said Garzik in a Bitcoin Status Report on the OnChain Scaling Conference on August 30. Buterin further emphasized that soft forks involve various political issues as they limit and restrict the possibility of building and launching innovative projects and networks like ZCash. Essentially, Garzik and Buterin believe that soft fork implementations fail to reflect the view of the open source community of Bitcoin, since soft forks are verified, accepted, and implemented by the Bitcoin Core developers, instead of miners and node operators in the industry. However, Bitcoin Core developer and Ciphrex CEO Eric Lombrozo opposes the claims of Garzik and Buterin, stating that Core developers verify Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) ideas prior to their write-up only to confirm their technical aspects and applicability to Bitcoin Core software. In an interview with Bitcoin Magazine , Lombrozo elaborated on the reasons why he thinks that decentralization is strong, and how the role of miners and node operators is key. Lombrozo explained that at the very first stage, a BIP idea is submitted to the mailing list, where the author, developers and Bitcoin technical community members briefly discuss the soft fork and assign […]

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