Although many bitcoiners see Bitcoin XT as nothing more than a BIP 101 enabled software client, the implications of Mike Hearn’s creation go much deeper than that. While the alternative implementation of the Bitcoin protocol has not been able to gain wide acceptance among the Bitcoin mining community, the fact that this new Bitcoin client exists could potentially shake-up the payment network’s governance model. In fact, this may have been part of Bitcoin Foundation Chief Scientist Gavin Andresen’s reasoning for joining the project in the first place.
Bitcoin Core Sets the Bitcoin Protocol
Although anyone can technically write their own software implementation of the Bitcoin protocol, the reality is that most full nodes on the network use Bitcoin Core. This means that changes to the underlying protocol can also be made by changing the Bitcoin Core software client. At the recent Bitcoin Pacifica 2015 event, Gavin Andresen shared his thoughts on Bitcoin Core’s current role in setting policy throughout the entire Bitcoin network during the Bitcoin Governance Panel: