Bitcoin Consensus, Core vs Classic Debate & Bitcoin Price: An Interview with...

Bitcoin Consensus, Core vs Classic Debate & Bitcoin Price: An Interview with BTCC COO Samson Mow

If you’re looking for some insights from the recent Bitcoin Roundtable consensus, you’re in the right place.

The Bitcoin Roundtable meeting was seen as an essential step for the bitcoin community. Samson Mow, chief operating officer of BTCC — a China-based bitcoin exchange and mining pool — is a key participant of the scaling bitcoin debate, Bitcoin Core v. Classic, and is vocal in his intention to motivate the majority of the bitcoin community to stay with Bitcoin Core. Mr. Mow runs the day-to-day operations of BTCC, one of the largest Bitcoin companies in the world with a considerable footprint as a mining pool, digital currency exchange, wallet and payment service provider.

BTCC Chief Operating Officer Samson Mow

BTCC COO Samson Mow

As the co-organizer, he played a pivotal role in bringing members of the bitcoin community together at last weekend’s Bitcoin Roundtable Consensus meeting. CCN interviewed Mr. Mow to gain insights from the Bitcoin Roundtable consensus. Furthermore, Mr. Mow had plenty to say in response to Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s who, in his Medium post, backed Bitcoin Classic and deemed the consensus achieved by Bitcoin Core developers and miners as ‘too little, too late“.

The Bitcoin Hard Fork

Mr. Mow says that a hard-fork is effectively not available right now. Most miners are going to wait for the code in July and that “Eighty percent of the hash rate will not run Classic…Most Roundtable members believe it’s important to remain very pragmatic now and that, if you think a block size increase is urgent – and you think that it’s the most urgent problem – then you should run SegWit until the hard-fork code is released,” Mr. Mow stated, speaking to CCN.

We will not get a hard-fork in a very short time because we’ve agreed to wait for the code from the Core development team in July.

There are plenty of those who are vocal advocates of Classic. Mr. Mow says it’s difficult to convince them otherwise. He believes that some people who support Classic because they also support Gavin Andresen. Mr. Mow stated:

It’s really easy for people that don’t want to deal with the headache of diving into a subject to say, ‘I trust this person, so I’ll follow what he recommends’…If someone thinks the earth is flat and you tell them the earth is round, it’s going to take a couple of hundred years to eventually see the truth.

He says a conversation with Olivier Janssens from the Classic team reflects essential divergence of the two sides: “We were talking about safety and in the end we disagreed about how bitcoin works. His (Janssens) final statement…was that miners make the final call about what happens to bitcoin. I told him that’s not the case and…promptly after, Alex Morcos (Bitcoin Core contributor) also said that miners making the final call isn’t true…You have a person representing a decent part of the mining ecosystem plus an exchange, as well as a core developer telling you this is not fundamentally how bitcoin works. But, Olivier doesn’t agree.”

Scaling in Time

When asked about the current conflict in the Bitcoin community regarding the scaling debate, Mr. Mow says it’s been a “tiring ordeal and has dragged on far longer than it should have.” He believes that “the good has come from this conflict is that it has brought the rational parts of the community together…we’re now stronger as a whole. For XT, the mining community joined forces to reject it before it even got off the ground…and for Classic, there was even a stronger immune response–miners, developers, exchanges, and businesses united to bring us back from the brink of insanity.”

Mr. Mow foresees that the scaling debate will ultimately end with the entire bitcoin community’s support of Bitcoin Core once the hard-fork code is released. The only risk he sees is if the Core team doesn’t believe in the Roundtable agreement reached in Hong Kong and doesn’t follow through. He stated:

I think the Classic supporters will eventually give up, and the Core developers who’ve worked on the project for years will continue to work on the project. It’s ultimately a question of who is more invested. We’ve seen the XT team abandon their project and the Classic team has already had a great deal of turnover. Most rebellions fail because they are not committed.

When asked how this fork is different from Bitcoin Classic, Mr. Mow opined:

Bitcoin Classic is a casual hard-fork. It has not been carefully considered and it contains quick hacks that attempt to fix security issues. Bitcoin Core developers unanimously agree that it isn’t safe. Major industry players have already rejected Bitcoin Classic in favor of a tested and technologically robust scaling solution from the Bitcoin Core contributors.

The key question here is: which team do you trust to do the right thing in the long run? Do you trust the team telling you the sky is falling…should we hand over control to them? Or, do you trust the team whose road map is dependent on Bitcoin Core’s continued work? I prefer to trust the team that has been diligently working on the project for years and has the actual skills to extend and improve the project.

The Bitcoin Classic Camp wants a 2MB hard-fork now and, if they hold out, Mr. Mow says the bitcoin community could have a problem. The “doom and gloom people” could see a realization of the things they’re worried about, such as blocks getting full, unreliable transactions, and users’ lost confidence in bitcoin.

In a nod toward negative headlines that have a notable effect on bitcoin price, Mr. Mow adds that the Bitcoin Roundtable Consensus wants to avoid this scenario.

The price of bitcoin and the PR impact. Credit: Alex Petrov.

The price of bitcoin and the PR impact. Credit: Alex Petrov.

Ultimately, he says, “I think we will be able to scale in time. If people roll out SegWit and we have 95 percent activation, we’ll be okay. We’ll have larger, effective block sizes.”

Mow Responds to Brian Armstrong’s Opinions on the Recent Consensus

Rebuttal #1

“Prioritizing SegWit before a block size increase would be a big mistake.” – Brian Armstrong, Coinbase via Medium.

Mr. Armstrong has said that Segregated Witness is not a good solution to help bitcoin scale. Many people say that blocks are getting full, everything will fail, and users will give up because transactions won’t go through. That scenario reflects doom and gloom and has frightened many bitcoin users.

In response, Samson Mow said, “SegWit is a solution that is close to being ready…We have this clever software solution that can help bitcoin scale, but some people don’t want to use it, and it’s really hard for me to understand why. Brian is saying that Classic already contains code that prevents transaction malleability, but sig-op and sig-hash limits are quick hacks that do not address the fundamental design flaws that allow the attack. SegWit elegantly and robustly, once and for all fixes those issues.”

“That is why we all agreed at the Roundtable that SegWit must be deployed. The code in Classic adds new technical debt and new edge cases that may break some existing transactions,” added Mr. Mow.

Notably, Mr. Mow says that SegWit was never designed to scale bitcoin. Instead, he says SegWit was designed to fix transaction malleability, an attack vector. Then developers learned that SegWit could actually also compress the transactions in a block, essentially increasing block size something like a zipfile. It’s possible to put the same amount of information in a smaller space. People who are criticizing SegWit may not understand this point.

Rebuttal #2

“July 2017 is too far away to raise the block size.” – Brian Armstrong

Mr. Mow says the decision to embrace a hard-fork in Bitcoin Classic now is imprudent because “If you want an experienced team to write the code and test it, and you want to make sure everything is safe – as we’ve been doing over the past several years – then you need to give the Bitcoin Core team some time to start writing their code.”

Core developers have been working on SegWit in the recent past and, after the recent Bitcoin Roundtable meeting, some of the Bitcoin Core contributors will start working on the hard-fork. Mr. Mow says, “This will take some time. That is why their hard-fork code will be released in July, although it could be sooner…” He says that everyone’s focus should be “the work: Let the developers work and then things can happen faster.”

Rebuttal #3

“We have a better option that is already available, and there is a big difference between words and action.” – Brian Armstrong

Mr. Mow agrees that there’s a big difference between the two: “Words are writing blog posts and writing on Twitter…action would be attending the Scaling Bitcoin workshops. The first was in Montreal in September last year and the second was in December last year. Action would also involve attending the Bitcoin Roundtable this past Saturday to meet with developers and representatives of the bitcoin community,” Mr. Mow stated.

When asked why Mr. Armstrong wasn’t involved in the meetings, Mr. Mow said that Charlie Lee, Mr. Armstrong’s Director of Engineering, did attend both Scaling Bitcoin Scaling Workshops. He said, “I think if there had been more action from Brian, he might have a different perspective. If he’d taken the time to speak with the core developers instead of speaking at them on Twitter, it could have been a very different landscape right now.”

Rebuttal #4

“It perpetuates a centralized, single party system, in bitcoin.” – Brian Armstrong

Mr. Mow says that Bitcoin Core isn’t a single party and that it is not a single monolithic group. It is several groups and many individuals that work together. “There is no formal structure to it. The collective group discusses and vets issues in a meritocracy.”

Bitcoin Price In the Clear?

According to Mr. Mow, the price of bitcoin should go up because “We’ve cleared the forest…we’re through the woods.”

In Mr. Mow’s opinion, the market for bitcoin wants to know that people are working together instead of fighting. He says, “There are a lot of people who are reasonable but silent. They’re tired of the debate and they’re frustrated with the debacle we’re embroiled in…but they don’t want to confront the opposition. So we see a very vocal minority negatively affecting the market, and I think the Roundtable meeting is working to mitigate that.”

Bitcoin Roundtable Consensus, a Milestone

Mr. Mow believes that the single most important outcome of last weekend’s Bitcoin Roundtable Consensus meeting is the clarification of intent. He says that people came together and have the intent to end this debate. They’re eager to move forward. Miners, exchanges, businesses, and developers have the unified intention to move ahead. He said, “Other people are throwing things, shouting and yelling. I value the intent to come together more than just words.”

Considering the different backgrounds and cultures reflected in the Roundtable, Mr. Mow firmly stated:

We managed [to] reach an agreement. The code will come next.


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