Developers recall a time when they were “all just developing for ‘Bitcoin.’” Many to this day make clear they don’t belong to any ‘team’ submitting protocol code per the ‘Bitcoin block size debate,’ and simply write code to be used in Bitcoin.
Yet various camps, which on the outside seem to be competing with one another, submit code to be used by Bitcoin’s open-source community.
While it’s true there is more than one ‘team’ which submits Bitcoin development code, each with their own method, communication between the teams is mostly amicable, insiders tell Bitcoin.com.
“Core of Core,” Allege Bitcoin Unlimited Developers
“But, there is a certain ‘Core of the Core’ that is very hostile towards those who are working on competing implementations of Bitcoin,” feels Dr. Peter Rizun, a Bitcoin Unlimited (BU) developer who holds a doctorate in physics.
To his point, a post recently appeared on Reddit: simply a photo of Wladimir Van der Laan, to whom bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen entrusted Bitcoin’s “Core” Github repository keys. The point of the post posited Mr. Van der Laan as Bitcoin’s “single point of failure,” and tied him to Blockstream, a private “blockchain” company that pays Bitcoin ‘Core’ developers.
Powwow Where All the Core Devs Reach Consensus?
That threads’ most upvoted comment reads: “…He has made a lot of decisions. He is the man with the technical YES/NO buttons. He says yes or no to every single line of code in core to be published. Call him maintainer, gardener, the guy who gives water to roses, I don’t care. He has the responsibility of what is published from the core repository. It’s not a vote. It’s not a powwow where all the core devs reach consensus in a group orgasm. It’s a hierarchical system, and he is on top in the Github hierarchy. I think he is in the pocket of Blockstream AND under the elbow of [Blockstream co-founder] Gregory Maxwell. 120% Stockholm syndrome while drowning in fiat. Make the man responsible for the decision he makes with the power Gavin gave him.”
Ultimately, in the confusion surrounding Craig Steven Wright’s claims of being Satoshi Nakamoto, and Mr. Andresen’s confirmation thereof based on circumstantial evidence, Mr. Van der Laan locked Mr. Andresen out of Bitcoin Core’s Github, suggesting his accounts could be compromised. Core developers insist they aren’t shills for a private company.
“There are a number of companies providing resources for Core development, not just Blockstream,” Bitcoin core developer Eric Lombrozo told Bitcoin.com. “For instance, Chain Code Labs, BitFury, BTCC, and my firm Ciphrex to name a few.”
He suggests the companies have simply found a way for Bitcoin developers to finally get paid for their work. In the past, former Bitcoin “Chief Scientist”, Mr. Andresen, was paid for a time by the Bitcoin Foundation.
Mr. Lombrozo adds: “All [Bitcoin development] is done completely in the open, everyone is welcome to join. There is no ulterior motive here other than building good software.”
What is ‘Core of the Core’?
“I think there are basically two schools of thought,” says Dr. Rizun. “Theory 1: They were bought-off to change Bitcoin into something that could be controlled and slowed. Theory 2: They believe that Bitcoin is very fragile and they need to manage every aspect of it, otherwise it will break.” Dr. Rizun leans towards Theory 2.
Developers allege a “change of tune” that the ‘core of Core’ had towards increasing the block size limit in recent years, censorship, alleged efforts by ‘core of core’ to shape the development narrative, as well as income from namely Blockstream. Dr. Rizun calls the latter a “conflict of interest.”
‘Bitcoin-XT’ was the first code repository built to try to get Bitcoin development “back-on-track” to being the electronic peer-to-peer cash system Satoshi Nakamoto described in his white paper. QT, Classic, and Unlimited followed. BU developers represent themselves as a politically motivated group on their website.
“In the Bitcoin Core variant, we do NOT see a venue for these actors to formally express their desires in regards to the evolution of the network,” reads the Bitcoin Unlimited website. “Instead we see a project controlled by a small group of developers employed by finance-oriented for-profit startup companies, and the emergence of corporate products (Lightning network, Side-chains and permissioned ledgers) that would materially benefit from a Bitcoin network that is incapable of handling the transactional demand required for a worldwide public good.”
“When the block size debate broke out in 2014, essentially one unified team split up,” explains BU president Andrew Clifford. “Unfortunately, the modern ‘Core’ team ended up in control of the original Github repo.”
An enormous number of developers have been driven away from Bitcoin because of the ‘core’ of Core being a like-minded clique, contends Mr. Clifford. “Core people do not want any perceived threat to their reference client, even though this makes Bitcoin stronger through decentralized development,” he told Bitcoin.com
Mr. Lombrozo disagrees. “Practically none of the Bitcoin Core contributors are against other implementations,” he says. “Projects like btcd, bcoin, libbitcoin, BitcoinJ, et. cetera have never really been an issue. They don’t break the network consensus and, therefore, do not fork the ledger itself.”
According to Mr. Lombrozo, alternative clients to Core, like Bitcoin Classic or Bitcoin Unlimited, are not alternative implementations. “They are grabbing all their source code from Bitcoin Core, rebranding it, changing a rule that makes it incompatible and forks the network itself (including the ledger, not just the source code), then inciting hate against Core developers by, among other things, fabricating conspiracy theories,” in the Ciphrex founder and CEO’s view.
Open Source by Design
There has been a rotating cast of Bitcoin developers over the years. Gavin Andresen and Jeff Garzik have seen their roles evolve in the past near-decade since Bitcoin’s genesis block. Tom Zander, Tom Harding, and Dagur Valberg have long been active. New people are also “stepping up.” For instance, Peter Tschipper, Andrew Stone, Andrea Suisani are active now. Pre-block size debate they only made minor code contributions. Many more individuals contribute ideas and code to the project.
This is perfectly in line with Bitcoin’s organizing tenets. “Bitcoin Core is just a free open source software project, there’s no formal organization beyond that,” says Mr. Lombrozo. “We all contribute on our own initiative, and anyone is free to grab our stuff and do whatever they want with it. We’re not really trying to sell things in a marketing sense, but, rather, just proposing technical ideas.”
Alternative client developers, who insist that in the scheme of things development between all teams is “amicable,” largely share similar feelings.
“What we do is open-source and public,” Bitcoin Classic release manager Tom Zander tells Bitcoin.com. “If BU and Classic hide our technical discussions we can’t learn from each other. It won’t have any positive effect as all our work is open and available for all to see.”
What do you think about the development process? Let us know in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Github
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