More developers abandon work on BTC—this week it’s ElectrumX

By June 2, 2020Bitcoin Business
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There are more signs smart developers are beginning to abandon BTC to focus on Bitcoin SV (BSV)—the only digital asset that follows the Bitcoin protocol as defined in its original whitepaper. This week, the lead developer of ElectrumX announced the software would in future versions support only BSV.

ElectrumX is the server software that supplies blockchain data to users of the Electrum wallet and its various forks. BTC developer Jameson Lopp noted the change on Twitter:

Fun development this week for anyone who uses Electrum-compatible wallets: the lead maintainer of the ElectrumX server has snapped and all future releases will be BSV-only.

I ran a script to hit every publicly available Electrum server I could find. 100% are running ElectrumX. pic.twitter.com/KQNEGBLQVg

Several BTC proponents, including Andreas Antonopoulous, expressed disappointment at the move. Though Electrum was one of the earlier Bitcoin wallets available, it remains widely used.

a LOT of people use Electrum for BTC, this kinda sucks.

— Metallic Elmo (@metallicelmo) May 28, 2020

What are Electrum and ElectrumX?

Electrum, first released in November 2011, is a free and open-source “lightweight Bitcoin client” (also known as a “thin client”). This means it does not download the entire blockchain to query the public ledger on who owns what. Instead, it constantly requests such information from a series of trusted servers who keep their own blockchain records.

Users store their own Bitcoin private keys locally and encrypted, and this information is not shared with the servers. Electrum was a popular alternative in the early days of Bitcoin due to the time and space required to download the entire blockchain with most other wallets of the day. Although it is still popular, lightweight clients for digital assets that operate on a similar model have proliferated since then and are the most common form of mobile wallet.

ElectrumX, maintained by long-time Bitcoiner Neil Booth, is the server software running on most (or in the case of Lopp’s research, all) Electrum servers. A week ago, Booth (aka “kyuupichan”) added a commit to ElectrumX titled “Partial removal of altcoin dead code”. This would remove support for all non-BSV “altcoins” in future versions, though not for servers running the current version. They may continue to run ElectrumX, but no future updates will be available unless another developer decides it’s worthwhile to fork the project. There are lesser-known alternatives to ElectrumX, such as Electrs, that still support BTC but run mainly on private servers.

What are the alternatives? Electrs sucks massively with wallets with dozens of UTXO, and electrum personal server can accept only 1 1 client at a time…

— Bane (@bitcoin_sith) May 28, 2020

Lopp noted that any ElectrumX server operators who “upgraded blindly,” or without being aware of the change, would find their servers no longer supported BTC transactions.

This is more of an issue that Electrum server operators need to be aware of; if they upgraded blindly then they could cause their server to stop working for Electrum Bitcoin wallet users.

— Jameson Lopp (@lopp) May 28, 2020

For the record, Booth is also lead maintainer of ElectrumSV, a version of the Electrum wallet designed for BSV. ElectrumX, however, still supported other Bitcoin forks until the change to serve Electrum users still using those coins. That he has now decided to support only BSV is a sign interest in other digital assets using the Bitcoin name is beginning to wane.

Another reply to Lopp’s tweet encapsulated the BTC mood fairly succinctly—although it’s unclear what “chance” BTC supporters ever had to “destroy” BSV or BCH, or what tactics they haven’t yet deployed in their attempts to do so:

We should've destroyed BSV and BCH when we had a chance, when they were at 0.3% of BTC's hashrate. Now it's too late. Prepare for a lot more of that nonsense because now their community believes their coins are real and invincible.

Despite both grassroots and coordinated propaganda campaigns to discredit Bitcoin BSV and Dr. Craig Wright’s reputation, Bitcoin remains strong and its user/developer base is growing. Thanks to its unlimited block size and innovative use cases for data processing, it far outnumbers other “Bitcoins” in transaction volume.

Data site Coin.dance notes it is currently 4,965 times more expensive to transact on the BTC blockchain than on Bitcoin BSV. That’s bad news for transaction processors (or “miners”) looking for future profits, especially after the recent block subsidy halving.

BSV’s model is based on high-volume, low-fee transactions. This model serves both common financial transactions and other uses, such as enterprise-grade data processing. This too was always part of Bitcoin’s original vision, and the reason the block subsidy halves every four years. Counting on the BTC unit price (in fiat) rising forever to compensate for the halvings is illogical and unsustainable.

Developers too are beginning to realize this, switching their talents to a blockchain large users can actually use. High-cost, limited-use blockchains like BTC cannot survive long-term in this kind of environment, and will see use only as speculative assets for traders.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.

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