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Bitcoin, huh? WTF is going on? Should we scale you on-chain or off-chain? Will you stay decentralized, distributed, immutable?

0. Shit, this is long, TLWR please! Too long, won't read.
EDIT: TLDR TLWR for clarity.
1. Bitcoin, huh? Brief introduction.
There are 3 sections to this overview. The first section is a brief introduction to bitcoin. The second section looks at recent developments in the bitcoin world, through the analogy of email attachments, and the third section discusses what could be next, through the perspective of resilience and network security.
This is just a continuation of a long, long, possibly never-ending debate that started with the release of the bitcoin whitepaper in 2008 (see https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf). The recent mess during the past few years boils down to the controversy with the block size limit and how to appropriately scale bitcoin, the keyword appropriately. Scaling bitcoin is a controversial debate with valid arguments from all sides (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Block_size_limit_controversy).
I have researched, studied, and written this overview as objectively and as impartially as possible. By all means, this is still an opinion and everyone is advised to draw their own conclusions. My efforts are to make at least a few readers aware that ultimately there is only one team, and that team is the team bitcoin. Yes, currently though, there are factions within the team bitcoin. I hope that we can get beyond partisan fights and work together for the best bitcoin. I support all scaling proposals as long as they are the best for the given moment in time. Personally, I hate propaganda and love free speech as long as it is not derogatory and as long as it allows for constructive discussions.
The goal of this overview is to explain to a novice how bitcoin network works, what has been keeping many bitcoin enthusiasts concerned, and if we can keep the bitcoin network with three main properties described as decentralized, distributed, immutable. Immutable means censorship resistant. For the distinction between decentralized and distributed, refer to Figure 1: Centralized, decentralized and distributed network models by Paul Baran (1964), which is a RAND Institute study to create a robust and nonlinear military communication network (see https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_memoranda/2006/RM3420.pdf). Note that for the overall network resilience and security, distributed is more desirable than decentralized, and the goal is to get as far away from central models as possible. Of course, nothing is strictly decentralized or strictly distributed and all network elements are at different levels of this spectrum.
For those unaware how bitcoin works, I recommend the Bitcoin Wikipedia (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Main_Page). In short, the bitcoin network includes users which make bitcoin transactions and send them to the network memory pool called mempool, nodes which store the public and pseudonymous ledger called blockchain and which help with receiving pending transactions and updating processed transactions, thus securing the overall network, and miners which also secure the bitcoin network by mining. Mining is the process of confirming pending bitcoin transactions, clearing them from the mempool, and adding them to blocks which build up the consecutive chain of blocks on the blockchain. The blockchain is therefore a decentralized and distributed ledger built on top of bitcoin transactions, therefore impossible to exist without bitcoin. If someone claims to be working on their own blockchain without bitcoin, by the definition of the bitcoin network however, they are not talking about the actual blockchain. Instead, they intend to own a different kind of a private database made to look like the public and pseudonymous blockchain ledger.
There are roughly a couple of dozen mining pools, each possibly with hundreds or thousands of miners participating in them, to several thousand nodes (see https://blockchain.info/pools and https://coin.dance/nodes). Therefore, the bitcoin network has at worst decentralized miners and at best distributed nodes. The miner and node design makes the blockchain resilient and immune to reversible changes, making it censorship resistant, thus immutable. The bitcoin blockchain avoids the previous need for a third party to trust. This is a very elegant solution to peer-to-peer financial exchange via a network that is all: decentralized, distributed, immutable. Extra features (escrow, reversibility via time-locks, and other features desirable in specific instances) can be integrated within the network or added on top of this network, however, they have not been implemented yet.
Miners who participate receive mining reward consisting of newly mined bitcoins at a predetermined deflationary rate and also transaction fees from actual bitcoin transactions being processed. It is estimated that in 2022, miners will have mined more than 90% of all 21 million bitcoins ever to be mined (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Controlled_supply). As the mining reward from newly mined blocks diminishes to absolute zero in 2140, the network eventually needs the transaction fees to become the main component of the reward. This can happen either via high-volume-low-cost transaction fees or low-volume-high-cost transaction fees. Obviously, there is the need to address the question of fees when dealing with the dilemma how to scale bitcoin. Which type of fees would you prefer and under which circumstances?
2. WTF is going on? Recent developments.
There are multiple sides to the scaling debate but to simplify it, first consider the 2 main poles. In particular, to scale bitcoin on blockchain or to scale it off it, that is the question!
The first side likes the idea of bitcoin as it has been until now. It prefers on-chain scaling envisioned by the bitcoin creator or a group of creators who chose the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. It is now called Bitcoin Cash and somewhat religiously follows Satoshi’s vision from the 2008 whitepaper and their later public forum discussions (see https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1347.msg15366#msg15366). Creators’ vision is good to follow but it should not be followed blindly and dogmatically when better advancements are possible, the keyword when. To alleviate concerning backlog of transactions and rising fees, Bitcoin Cash proponents implemented a simple one-line code update which increased the block size limit for blockhain blocks from 1MB block size limit to a new, larger 8MB limit. This was done through a fork on August 1, 2017, which created Bitcoin Cash, and which kept the bitcoin transaction history until then. Bitcoin Cash has observed significant increase in support, from 3% of all bitcoin miners at first to over 44% of all bitcoin miners after 3 weeks on August 22, 2017 (see http://fork.lol/pow/hashrate and http://fork.lol/pow/hashrateabs).
An appropriate scaling analogy is to recall email attachments early on. They too were limited to a few MB at first, then 10MB, 20MB, up until 25MB on Gmail. But even then, Gmail eventually started using Google Drive internally. Note that Google Drive is a third party to Gmail, although yes, it is managed by the same entity.
The second side argues that bitcoin cannot work with such a scaling approach of pre-meditated MB increases. Arguments against block size increases include miner and node centralization, and bandwidth limitations. These are discussed in more detail in the third section of this overview. As an example of an alternative scaling approach, proponents of off-chain scaling want to jump to the internally integrated third party right away, without any MB increase and, sadly, without any discussion. Some of these proponents called one particular implementation method SegWit, which stands for Segregated Witness, and they argue that SegWit is the only way that we can ever scale up add the extra features to the bitcoin network. This is not necessarily true because other scaling solutions are feasible, such as already functioning Bitcoin Cash, and SegWit’s proposed solution will not use internally integrated third party as shown next. Note that although not as elegant as SegWit is today, there are other possibilities to integrate some extra features without SegWit (see /Bitcoin/comments/5dt8tz/confused_is_segwit_needed_for_lightning_network).
Due to the scaling controversy and the current backlog of transactions and already high fees, a third side hastily proposed a compromise to a 2MB increase in addition to the proposed SegWit implementation. They called it SegWit2x, which stands for Segregated Witness with 2MB block size limit increase. But the on-chain scaling and Bitcoin Cash proponents did not accept it due to SegWit’s design redundancy and hub centralization which are discussed next and revisited in the third section of this overview. After a few years of deadlock, that is why the first side broke free and created the Bitcoin Cash fork.
The second side stuck with bitcoin as it was. In a way, they inherited the bitcoin network without any major change to public eye. This is crucial because major changes are about to happen and the original bitcoin vision, as we have known it, is truly reflected only in what some media refer to as a forked clone, Bitcoin Cash. Note that to avoid confusion, this second side is referred to as Bitcoin Core by some or Legacy Bitcoin by others, although mainstream media still refers to it simply as Bitcoin. The core of Bitcoin Core is quite hardcore though. They too rejected the proposed compromise for SegWit2x and there are clear indications that they will push to keep SegWit only, forcing the third side with SegWit2x proponents to create another fork in November 2017 or to join Bitcoin Cash. Note that to certain degree, already implemented and working Bitcoin Cash is technically superior to SegWit2x which is yet to be deployed (see /Bitcoin/comments/6v0gll/why_segwit2x_b2x_is_technically_inferior_to).
Interestingly enough, those who agreed to SegWit2x have been in overwhelming majority, nearly 87% of all bitcoin miners on July 31, 2017 prior to the fork, and a little over 90% of remaining Bitcoin Core miners to date after the fork (see https://coin.dance/blocks). Despite such staggering support, another Bitcoin Core fork is anticipated later in November (see https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoin-is-splitting-once-again-are-you-ready) and the "Outcome #2: Segwit2x reneges on 2x or does not prioritize on-chain scaling" seems to be on track from the perspective of Bitcoin Core SegWit, publicly seen as the original Bitcoin (see https://blog.bridge21.io/before-and-after-the-great-bitcoin-fork-17d2aad5d512). The sad part is that although in their overwhelming majority, the miners who support SegWit2x would be the ones creating another Bitcoin Core SegWit2x fork or parting ways from the original Bitcoin.
In a way, this is an ironic example how bitcoin’s built-in resiliency to veto changes causes majority to part away when a small minority has status quo and holds off fully-consented progress. Ultimately, this will give the minority Bitcoin Core SegWit proponents the original Bitcoin branding, perhaps to lure in large institutional investors and monetize on bitcoin’s success as we have it seen it during the past 9 years since its inception. Recall that bitcoin of today is already a decentralized, distributed, immutable network by its definition. The bitcoin network was designed to be an alternative to centralized and mutable institutions, so prevalent in modern capitalist societies.
Bitcoin Core SegWit group wants to change the existing bitcoin network to a network with dominant third parties which, unlike Google Drive to Gmail, are not internal. In particular, they intend to do so via the lightning network, which is a second layer solution (2L). This particular 2L as currently designed relies on an artificial block size limit cap which creates a bottleneck in order to provide high incentives for miners to participate. It monetizes on backlog of transaction and high fees, which are allocated to miners, not any group in particular. Cheaper and more instantaneous transactions are shifted to the lightning network which is operated by hubs also earning revenue. Note that some of these hubs may choose to monitor transactions and can possibly censor who is allowed to participate in this no longer strictly peer-to-peer network.
We lose the immutability and instead we have a peer-to-hub-to-peer network that is mutable and at best decentralized, and certainly not distributed (see https://medium.com/@jonaldfyookball/mathematical-proof-that-the-lightning-network-cannot-be-a-decentralized-bitcoin-scaling-solution-1b8147650800). For regular day-to-day and recurring transactions, it is not a considerable risk or inconvenience. And one could choose to use the main chain any time to bypass the lightning network and truly transact peer-to-peer. But since the main chain has an entry barrier in the form of artificially instilled high transaction fees, common people are not able to use bitcoin as we have known it until now. Peer-to-peer bitcoin becomes institution-to-institution bitcoin with peer-to-hub-to-peer 2L.
To reiterate and stress, note the following lightning network design flaw again. Yes, activating SegWit and allowing 2L such as lightning allows for lower transaction fees to coexist side by side with more costly on-chain transactions. For those using this particularly prescribed 2L, the fees remain low. But since these 2L are managed by hubs, we introduce another element to trust, which is contrary to what the bitcoin network was designed to do at the first place. Over time, by the nature of the lightning network in its current design, these third party hubs grow to be centralized, just like Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover, etc. There is nothing wrong with that in general because it works just fine. But recall that bitcoin set out to create a different kind of a network. Instead of decentralized, distributed, immutable network with miners and nodes, with the lightning network we end up with at best decentralized but mutable network with hubs.
Note that Bitcoin Core SegWit has a US-based organization backing it with millions of dollars (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockstream and https://steemit.com/bitcoin/@adambalm/the-truth-about-who-is-behind-blockstream-and-segwit-as-the-saying-goes-follow-the-money). Their proponents are quite political and some even imply $1000 fees on the main bitcoin blockchain (see https://cointelegraph.com/news/ari-paul-tuur-demeester-look-forward-to-up-to-1k-bitcoin-fees). Contrary to them, Bitcoin Cash proponents intend to keep small fees on a scale of a few cents, which in large volume in larger blockchain blocks provide sufficient incentive for miners to participate.
On the one hand, sticking to the original vision of peer-to-peer network scaled on-chain has merit and holds potential for future value. On the other hand, 2L have potential to carry leaps forward from current financial infrastructure. As mentioned earlier, 2L will allow for extra features to be integrated off-chain (e.g. escrow, reversibility via time-locks), including entirely new features such as smart contracts, decentralized applications, some of which have been pioneered and tested on another cryptocurrency network called Ethereum. But such features could be one day implemented directly on the main bitcoin blockchain without the lightning network as currently designed, or perhaps with a truly integrated 2L proposed in the third section of this overview.
What makes the whole discussion even more confusing is that there are some proposals for specific 2L that would in fact increase privacy and make bitcoin transactions less pseudonymous than those on the current bitcoin blockchain now. Keep in mind that 2L are not necessarily undesirable. If they add features and keep the main network characteristics (decentralized, distributed, immutable), they should be embraced with open arms. But the lightning network as currently designed gives up immutability and hub centralization moves the network characteristic towards a decentralized rather than a distributed network.
In a sense, back to the initial email attachment analogy, even Gmail stopped with attachment limit increases and started hosting large files on Google Drive internally, with an embedded link in a Gmail email to download anything larger than 25MB from Google Drive. Anticipating the same scaling decisions, the question then becomes not if but when and how such 2L should be implemented, keeping the overall network security and network characteristics in mind. If you have not gotten it yet, repeat, repeat, repeat: decentralized, distributed, immutable. Is it the right time now and is SegWit (one way, my way or highway) truly the best solution?
Those siding away from Bitcoin Core SegWit also dislike that corporate entities behind Blockstream, the one publicly known corporate entity directly supporting SegWit, have allegedly applied for SegWit patents which may further restrict who may and who may not participate in the creation of future hubs, or how these hubs are controlled (see the alleged patent revelations, https://falkvinge.net/2017/05/01/blockstream-patents-segwit-makes-pieces-fall-place, the subsequent Twitter rebuttal Blockstream CEO, http://bitcoinist.com/adam-back-no-patents-segwit, and the subsequent legal threats to SegWit2x proponents /btc/comments/6vadfi/blockstream_threatening_legal_action_against). Regardless if the patent claims are precise or not, the fact remains that there is a corporate entity dictating and vetoing bitcoin developments. Objectively speaking, Bitcoin Core SegWit developers paid by Blockstream is a corporate takeover of the bitcoin network as we have known it.
And on the topic of patents and permissionless technological innovations, what makes all of this even more complicated is that a mining improvement technology called ASICboost is allowed on Bitcoin Cash. The main entities who forked from Bitcoin Core to form Bitcoin Cash had taken advantage of patents to the ASICboost technology on the original bitcoin network prior to the fork (see https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/breaking-down-bitcoins-asicboost-scandal). This boost saved estimated 20% electricity for miners on 1MB blocks and created unfair economic advantage for this one particular party. SegWit is one way that this boost is being eliminated, through the code. Larger blocks are another way to reduce the boost advantage, via decreased rate of collisions which made this boost happen at the first place (see https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/breaking-down-bitcoins-asicboost-scandal-solutions and https://bitslog.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/the-relation-between-segwit-and-asicboost-covert-and-overt). Therefore, the initial Bitcoin Cash proponents argue that eliminating ASICboost through the code is no longer needed or necessary.
Of course, saving any amount electricity between 0% and 20% is good for all on our planet but in reality any energy saved in a mining operation is used by the same mining operation to increase their mining capacity. In reality, there are no savings, there is just capacity redistribution. The question then becomes if it is okay that only one party currently and already holds onto this advantage, which they covertly hid for relatively long time, and which they could be using covertly on Bitcoin Cash if they desired to do so, even though it would an advantage to a smaller degree. To be fair to them, they are mining manufacturers and operators, they researched and developed the advantage from own resources, so perhaps they do indeed have the right to reap ASICboost benefits while they can. But perhaps it should happen in publicly know way, not behind closed doors, and should be temporary, with agreed patent release date.
In conclusion, there is no good and no bad actor, each side is its own shade of grey. All parties have their own truth (and villainy) to certain degree.
Bitcoin Cash's vision is for bitcoin to be an electronic cash platform and daily payment processor whereas Bitcoin Core SegWit seems to be drawn more to the ideas of bitcoin as an investment vehicle and a larger settlement layer with the payment processor function managed via at best decentralized third party hubs. Both can coexist, or either one can eventually prove more useful and digest the other one by taking over all use-cases.
Additionally, the most popular communication channel on /bitcoin with roughly 300k subscribers censors any alternative non-Bitcoin-Core-SegWit opinions and bans people from posting their ideas to discussions (see https://medium.com/@johnblocke/a-brief-and-incomplete-history-of-censorship-in-r-bitcoin-c85a290fe43). This is because their moderators are also supported by Blockstream. Note that the author of this overview has not gotten banned from this particular subreddit (yet), but has experienced shadow-banning first hand. Shadow-banning is a form of censorship. In this particular case, their moderator robot managed by people moderators, collaboratively with the people moderators, do the following:
  • (1) look for "Bitcoin Cash" and other undesirable keywords,
  • (2) warn authors that “Bitcoin Cash” is not true bitcoin (which objectively speaking it is, and which is by no means “BCash” that Bitcoin Core SegWit proponents refer to, in a coordinated effort to further confuse public, especially since some of them have published plans to officially release another cryptocurrency called “BCash” in 2018, see https://medium.com/@freetrade68/announcing-bcash-8b938329eaeb),
  • (3) further warn authors that if they try to post such opinions again, they could banned permanently,
  • (4) tell authors to delete their already posted posts or comments,
  • (5) hide their post from publicly seen boards with all other posts, thus preventing it from being seeing by the other participants in this roughly 300k public forum,
  • (6) and in extreme cases actually “remove” their valid opinions if they slip by uncensored, gain traction, and are often times raise to popularity as comments to other uncensored posts (see /btc/comments/6v3ee8/on_a_reply_i_made_in_rbitcoin_that_had_over_350 and /btc/comments/6vbyv0/in_case_we_needed_more_evidence_500_upvotes).
This effectively silences objective opinions and creates a dangerous echo-chamber. Suppressing free speech and artificially blowing up transaction fees on Bitcoin Core SegWit is against bitcoin’s fundamental values. Therefore, instead of the original Reddit communication channel, many bitcoin enthusiasts migrated to /btc which has roughly 60k subscribers as of now, up from 20k subscribers a year ago in August 2016 (see http://redditmetrics.com/btc). Moderators there do not censor opinions and allow all polite and civil discussions about scaling, including all opinions on Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Core, etc.
Looking beyond their respective leaderships and communication channels, let us review a few network fundamentals and recent developments in Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Cash networks. Consequently, for now, these present Bitcoin Cash with more favorable long-term prospects.
  • (1) The stress-test and/or attack on the Bitcoin Cash mempool earlier on August 16, 2017 showed that 8MB blocks do work as intended, without catastrophic complications that Bitcoin Core proponents anticipated and from which they attempted to discourage others (see https://jochen-hoenicke.de/queue/uahf/#2w for the Bitcoin Cash mempool and https://core.jochen-hoenicke.de/queue/#2w for the Bitcoin Core mempool). Note that when compared to the Bitcoin Core mempool on their respective 2 week views, one can observe how each network handles backlogs. On the most recent 2 week graphs, the Y-scale for Bitcoin Core is 110k vs. 90k on Bitcoin Cash. In other words, at the moment, Bitcoin Cash works better than Bitcoin Core even though there is clearly not as big demand for Bitcoin Cash as there is for Bitcoin Core. The lack of demand for Bitcoin Cash is partly because Bitcoin Cash is only 3 weeks old and not many merchants have started accepting it, and only a limited number of software applications to use Bitcoin Cash has been released so far. By all means, the Bitcoin Cash stress-test and/or attack from August 16, 2017 reveals that the supply will handle the increased demand, more affordably, and at a much quicker rate.
  • (2) Bitcoin Cash “BCH” mining has become temporarily more profitable than mining Bitcoin Core “BTC” (see http://fork.lol). Besides temporary loss of miners, this puts Bitcoin Core in danger of permanently fleeing miners. Subsequently, mempool backlog and transaction fees are anticipated to increase further.
  • (3) When compared to Bitcoin Cash transaction fees at roughly $0.02, transaction fees per kB are over 800 times as expensive on Bitcoin Core, currently at over $16 (see https://cashvscore.com).
  • (4) Tipping service that used to work on Bitcoin Core's /Bitcoin a few years back has been revived by a new tipping service piloted on the more neutral /btc with the integration of Bitcoin Cash (see /cashtipperbot).
3. Should we scale you on-chain or off-chain? Scaling bitcoin.
Let us start with the notion that we are impartial to both Bitcoin Core (small blocks, off-chain scaling only) and Bitcoin Cash (big blocks, on-chain scaling only) schools of thought. We will support any or all ideas, as long as they allow for bitcoin to grow organically and eventually succeed as a peer-to-peer network that remains decentralized, distributed, immutable. Should we have a preference in either of the proposed scaling solutions?
First, let us briefly address Bitcoin Core and small blocks again. From the second section of this overview, we understand that there are proposed off-chain scaling methods via second layer solutions (2L), most notably soon-to-be implemented lightning via SegWit on Bitcoin Core. Unfortunately, the lightning network diminishes distributed and immutable network properties by replacing bitcoin’s peer-to-peer network with a two-layer institution-to-institution network and peer-to-hub-to-peer 2L. Do we need this particular 2L right now? Is its complexity truly needed? Is it not at best somewhat cumbersome (if not very redundant)? In addition to ridiculously high on-chain transaction fees illustrated in the earlier section, the lightning network code is perhaps more robust than it needs to be now, with thousands of lines of code, thus possibly opening up to new vectors for bugs or attacks (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Lightning_Network and https://github.com/lightningnetwork/lnd). Additionally, this particular 2L as currently designed unnecessarily introduces third parties, hubs, that are expected to centralize. We already have a working code that has been tested and proven to handle 8MB blocks, as seen with Bitcoin Cash on August 16, 2017 (see https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/first-8mb-bitcoin-cash-block-just-mined). At best, these third party hubs would be decentralized but they would not be distributed. And these hubs would be by no means integral to the original bitcoin network with users, nodes, and miners.
To paraphrase Ocam’s razor problem solving principle, the simplest solution with the most desirable features will prevail (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor). The simplest scalability solution today is Bitcoin Cash because it updates only one line of code, which instantly increases the block size limit. This also allows other companies building on Bitcoin Cash to reduce their codes when compared to Bitcoin Core SegWit’s longer code, some even claiming ten-fold reductions (see /btc/comments/6vdm7y/ryan_x_charles_reveals_bcc_plan). The bitcoin ecosystem not only includes the network but it also includes companies building services on top of it. When these companies can reduce their vectors for bugs or attacks, the entire ecosystem is healthier and more resilient to hacking disasters. Obviously, changes to the bitcoin network code are desirable to be as few and as elegant as possible.
But what are the long-term implications of doing the one-line update repeatedly? Eventually, blocks would have to reach over 500MB size if they were to process Visa-level capacity (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Scalability). With decreasing costs of IT infrastructure, bandwidth and storage could accommodate it, but the overhead costs would increase significantly, implying miner and/or full node centralization further discussed next. To decrease this particular centralization risk, which some consider undesirable and others consider irrelevant, built-in and integrated 2L could keep the block size at a reasonably small-yet-still-large limit.
At the first sight, these 2L would remedy the risk of centralization by creating their own centralization incentive. At the closer look and Ocam’s razor principle again, these 2L do not have to become revenue-seeking third party hubs as designed with the current lightning network. They can be integrated into the current bitcoin network with at worst decentralized miners and at best distributed nodes. Recall that miners will eventually need to supplement their diminishing mining reward from new blocks. Additionally, as of today, the nodes have no built-in economic incentive to run other than securing the network and keeping the network’s overall value at its current level. Therefore, if new 2L were to be developed, they should be designed in a similar way like the lightning network, with the difference that the transaction processing revenue would not go to third party hubs but to the already integrated miners and nodes.
In other words, why do we need extra hubs if we have miners and nodes already? Let us consider the good elements from the lightning network, forget the unnecessary hubs, and focus on integrating the hubs’ responsibilities to already existing miner and node protocols. Why would we add extra elements to the system that already functions with the minimum number of elements possible? Hence, 2L are not necessarily undesirable as long as they do not unnecessarily introduce third party hubs.
Lastly, let us discuss partial on-chain scaling with the overall goal of network security. The network security we seek is the immutability and resilience via distributed elements within otherwise decentralized and distributed network. It is not inconceivable to scale bitcoin with bigger blocks as needed, when needed, to a certain degree. The thought process is the following:
  • (1) Block size limit:
We need some upper limit to avoid bloating the network with spam transactions. Okay, that makes sense. Now, what should this limit be? If we agree to disagree with small block size limit stuck at 1MB, and if we are fine with flexible block size limit increases (inspired by mining difficulty readjustments but on a longer time scale) or big block propositions (to be increased incrementally), what is holding us off next?
  • (2) Miner centralization:
Bigger blocks mean that more data will be transferred on the bitcoin network. Consequently, more bandwidth and data storage will be required. This will create decentralized miners instead of distributed ones. Yes, that is true. And it has already happened, due to the economy of scale, in particular the efficiency of grouping multiple miners in centralized facilities, and the creation of mining pools collectively and virtually connecting groups of miners not physically present in the same facility. These facilities tend to have huge overhead costs and the data storage and bandwidth increase costs are negligible in this context. The individual miners participating in mining pools will quite likely notice somewhat higher operational costs but allowing for additional revenue from integrated 2L described earlier will give them economic incentive to remain actively participating. Note that mining was never supposed to be strictly distributed and it was always at worst decentralized, as defined in the first section of this overview. To assure at best a distributed network, we have nodes.
  • (3) Node centralization:
Bigger blocks mean that more data will be transferred on the bitcoin network. Consequently, more bandwidth and data storage will be required. This will create decentralized nodes instead of distributed ones. Again, recall that we have a spectrum of decentralized and distributed networks in mind, not their absolutes. The concern about the node centralization (and the subsequent shift from distributed to decentralized network property) is valid if we only follow on-chain scaling to inconsiderate MB values. If addressed with the proposed integrated 2L that provides previously unseen economic incentives to participate in the network, this concern is less serious.
Furthermore, other methods to reduce bandwidth and storage needs can be used. A popular proposal is block pruning, which keeps only the most recent 550 blocks, and eventually deletes any older blocks (see https://news.bitcoin.com/pros-and-cons-on-bitcoin-block-pruning). Block pruning addresses storage needs and makes sure that not all nodes participating in the bitcoin network have to store all transactions that have ever been recorded on the blockchain. Some nodes storing all transactions are still necessary and they are called full nodes. Block pruning does not eliminate full nodes but it does indeed provide an economic incentive for the reduction and centralization (i.e. saving on storage costs). If addressed with the proposed integrated 2L that provides previously unseen economic incentives to participate in the network, this concern is less serious.
In other words, properly designed 2L should provide economic incentives for all nodes (full and pruned) to remain active and distributed. As of now, only miners earn revenue for participating. The lightning network proposes extra revenue for hubs. Instead, miner revenue could increase by processing 2L transactions as well, and full nodes could have an economic incentive as well. To mine, relatively high startup costs is necessary in order to get the most up to date mining hardware and proper cooling equipment. These have to be maintained and periodically upgraded. To run a full node, one needs only stable bandwidth and a sufficiently large storage, which can be expanded as needed, when needed. To run a full node, one needs only stable bandwidth and relatively small storage, which does not need to be expanded.
Keeping the distributed characteristic in mind, it would be much more secure for the bitcoin network if one could earn bitcoin by simply running a node, full or pruned. This could be integrated with a simple code change requiring each node to own a bitcoin address to which miners would send a fraction of processed transaction fees. Of course, pruned nodes would collectively receive the least transaction fee revenue (e.g. 10%), full nodes would collectively receive relatively larger transaction fee revenue (e.g. 20%), whereas mining facilities or mining pools would individually receive the largest transaction fee revenue (e.g. 70%) in addition to the full mining reward from newly mined blocks (i.e. 100%). This would assure that all nodes would remain relatively distributed. Hence, block pruning is a feasible solution.
However, in order to start pruning, one would have to have the full blockchain to begin with. As currently designed, downloading blockchain for the first time also audits previous blocks for accuracy, this can take days depending on one’s bandwidth. This online method is the only way to distribute the bitcoin blockchain and the bitcoin network so far. When the size of blockchain becomes a concern, a simpler distribution idea should be implemented offline. Consider distributions of Linux-based operating systems on USBs. Similarly, the full bitcoin blockchain up to a certain point can be distributed via easy-to-mail USBs. Note that even if we were to get the blockchain in bulk on such a USB, some form of a block audit would have to happen nevertheless.
A new form of checkpoint hashes could be added to the bitcoin code. For instance, each 2016 blocks (whenever the difficulty readjusts), all IDs from previous 2015 blocks would be hashed and recorded. That way, with our particular offline blockchain distribution, the first time user would have to audit only the key 2016th blocks, designed to occur on average once in roughly 2 weeks. This would significantly reduce bandwidth concerns for the auditing process because only each 2016th block would have to be uploaded online to be audited.
Overall, we are able to scale the bitcoin network via initial on-chain scaling approaches supplemented with off-chain scaling approaches. This upgrades the current network to a pruned peer-to-peer network with integrated 2L managed by miners and nodes who assure that the bitcoin network stays decentralized, distributed, immutable.
  • Discussion at /btc/comments/6vj47c/bitcoin_huh_wtf_is_going_on_should_we_scale_you is greatly encouraged.
  • Note that the author u/bit-architect appreciates any Bitcoin Cash donations on Reddit directly or on bitcoin addresses 178ZTiot2QVVKjru2f9MpzyeYawP81vaXi bitcoincash:qp7uqpv2tsftrdmu6e8qglwr2r38u4twlq3f7a48uq (Bitcoin Cash) and 1GqcFi4Cs1LVAxLxD3XMbJZbmjxD8SYY8S (Bitcoin Core).
  • EDIT: Donation addresses above updated.
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Bitcoin, huh? WTF is going on? Should we scale you on-chain or off-chain? Will you stay decentralized, distributed, immutable?

0. Shit, this is long, TLWR please! Too long, won't read.
EDIT: TLDR TLWR for clarity.
1. Bitcoin, huh? Brief introduction.
There are 3 sections to this overview. The first section is a brief introduction to bitcoin. The second section looks at recent developments in the bitcoin world, through the analogy of email attachments, and the third section discusses what could be next, through the perspective of resilience and network security.
This is just a continuation of a long, long, possibly never-ending debate that started with the release of the bitcoin whitepaper in 2008 (see https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf). The recent mess during the past few years boils down to the controversy with the block size limit and how to appropriately scale bitcoin, the keyword appropriately. Scaling bitcoin is a controversial debate with valid arguments from all sides (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Block_size_limit_controversy).
I have researched, studied, and written this overview as objectively and as impartially as possible. By all means, this is still an opinion and everyone is advised to draw their own conclusions. My efforts are to make at least a few readers aware that ultimately there is only one team, and that team is the team bitcoin. Yes, currently though, there are factions within the team bitcoin. I hope that we can get beyond partisan fights and work together for the best bitcoin. I support all scaling proposals as long as they are the best for the given moment in time. Personally, I hate propaganda and love free speech as long as it is not derogatory and as long as it allows for constructive discussions.
The goal of this overview is to explain to a novice how bitcoin network works, what has been keeping many bitcoin enthusiasts concerned, and if we can keep the bitcoin network with three main properties described as decentralized, distributed, immutable. Immutable means censorship resistant. For the distinction between decentralized and distributed, refer to Figure 1: Centralized, decentralized and distributed network models by Paul Baran (1964), which is a RAND Institute study to create a robust and nonlinear military communication network (see https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_memoranda/2006/RM3420.pdf). Note that for the overall network resilience and security, distributed is more desirable than decentralized, and the goal is to get as far away from central models as possible. Of course, nothing is strictly decentralized or strictly distributed and all network elements are at different levels of this spectrum.
For those unaware how bitcoin works, I recommend the Bitcoin Wikipedia (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Main_Page). In short, the bitcoin network includes users which make bitcoin transactions and send them to the network memory pool called mempool, nodes which store the public and pseudonymous ledger called blockchain and which help with receiving pending transactions and updating processed transactions, thus securing the overall network, and miners which also secure the bitcoin network by mining. Mining is the process of confirming pending bitcoin transactions, clearing them from the mempool, and adding them to blocks which build up the consecutive chain of blocks on the blockchain. The blockchain is therefore a decentralized and distributed ledger built on top of bitcoin transactions, therefore impossible to exist without bitcoin. If someone claims to be working on their own blockchain without bitcoin, by the definition of the bitcoin network however, they are not talking about the actual blockchain. Instead, they intend to own a different kind of a private database made to look like the public and pseudonymous blockchain ledger.
There are roughly a couple of dozen mining pools, each possibly with hundreds or thousands of miners participating in them, to several thousand nodes (see https://blockchain.info/pools and https://coin.dance/nodes). Therefore, the bitcoin network has at worst decentralized miners and at best distributed nodes. The miner and node design makes the blockchain resilient and immune to reversible changes, making it censorship resistant, thus immutable. The bitcoin blockchain avoids the previous need for a third party to trust. This is a very elegant solution to peer-to-peer financial exchange via a network that is all: decentralized, distributed, immutable. Extra features (escrow, reversibility via time-locks, and other features desirable in specific instances) can be integrated within the network or added on top of this network, however, they have not been implemented yet.
Miners who participate receive mining reward consisting of newly mined bitcoins at a predetermined deflationary rate and also transaction fees from actual bitcoin transactions being processed. It is estimated that in 2022, miners will have mined more than 90% of all 21 million bitcoins ever to be mined (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Controlled_supply). As the mining reward from newly mined blocks diminishes to absolute zero in 2140, the network eventually needs the transaction fees to become the main component of the reward. This can happen either via high-volume-low-cost transaction fees or low-volume-high-cost transaction fees. Obviously, there is the need to address the question of fees when dealing with the dilemma how to scale bitcoin. Which type of fees would you prefer and under which circumstances?
2. WTF is going on? Recent developments.
There are multiple sides to the scaling debate but to simplify it, first consider the 2 main poles. In particular, to scale bitcoin on blockchain or to scale it off it, that is the question!
The first side likes the idea of bitcoin as it has been until now. It prefers on-chain scaling envisioned by the bitcoin creator or a group of creators who chose the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. It is now called Bitcoin Cash and somewhat religiously follows Satoshi’s vision from the 2008 whitepaper and their later public forum discussions (see https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1347.msg15366#msg15366). Creators’ vision is good to follow but it should not be followed blindly and dogmatically when better advancements are possible, the keyword when. To alleviate concerning backlog of transactions and rising fees, Bitcoin Cash proponents implemented a simple one-line code update which increased the block size limit for blockhain blocks from 1MB block size limit to a new, larger 8MB limit. This was done through a fork on August 1, 2017, which created Bitcoin Cash, and which kept the bitcoin transaction history until then. Bitcoin Cash has observed significant increase in support, from 3% of all bitcoin miners at first to over 44% of all bitcoin miners after 3 weeks on August 22, 2017 (see http://fork.lol/pow/hashrate and http://fork.lol/pow/hashrateabs).
An appropriate scaling analogy is to recall email attachments early on. They too were limited to a few MB at first, then 10MB, 20MB, up until 25MB on Gmail. But even then, Gmail eventually started using Google Drive internally. Note that Google Drive is a third party to Gmail, although yes, it is managed by the same entity.
The second side argues that bitcoin cannot work with such a scaling approach of pre-meditated MB increases. Arguments against block size increases include miner and node centralization, and bandwidth limitations. These are discussed in more detail in the third section of this overview. As an example of an alternative scaling approach, proponents of off-chain scaling want to jump to the internally integrated third party right away, without any MB increase and, sadly, without any discussion. Some of these proponents called one particular implementation method SegWit, which stands for Segregated Witness, and they argue that SegWit is the only way that we can ever scale up add the extra features to the bitcoin network. This is not necessarily true because other scaling solutions are feasible, such as already functioning Bitcoin Cash, and SegWit’s proposed solution will not use internally integrated third party as shown next. Note that although not as elegant as SegWit is today, there are other possibilities to integrate some extra features without SegWit (see /Bitcoin/comments/5dt8tz/confused_is_segwit_needed_for_lightning_network).
Due to the scaling controversy and the current backlog of transactions and already high fees, a third side hastily proposed a compromise to a 2MB increase in addition to the proposed SegWit implementation. They called it SegWit2x, which stands for Segregated Witness with 2MB block size limit increase. But the on-chain scaling and Bitcoin Cash proponents did not accept it due to SegWit’s design redundancy and hub centralization which are discussed next and revisited in the third section of this overview. After a few years of deadlock, that is why the first side broke free and created the Bitcoin Cash fork.
The second side stuck with bitcoin as it was. In a way, they inherited the bitcoin network without any major change to public eye. This is crucial because major changes are about to happen and the original bitcoin vision, as we have known it, is truly reflected only in what some media refer to as a forked clone, Bitcoin Cash. Note that to avoid confusion, this second side is referred to as Bitcoin Core by some or Legacy Bitcoin by others, although mainstream media still refers to it simply as Bitcoin. The core of Bitcoin Core is quite hardcore though. They too rejected the proposed compromise for SegWit2x and there are clear indications that they will push to keep SegWit only, forcing the third side with SegWit2x proponents to create another fork in November 2017 or to join Bitcoin Cash. Note that to certain degree, already implemented and working Bitcoin Cash is technically superior to SegWit2x which is yet to be deployed (see /Bitcoin/comments/6v0gll/why_segwit2x_b2x_is_technically_inferior_to).
Interestingly enough, those who agreed to SegWit2x have been in overwhelming majority, nearly 87% of all bitcoin miners on July 31, 2017 prior to the fork, and a little over 90% of remaining Bitcoin Core miners to date after the fork (see https://coin.dance/blocks). Despite such staggering support, another Bitcoin Core fork is anticipated later in November (see https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoin-is-splitting-once-again-are-you-ready) and the "Outcome #2: Segwit2x reneges on 2x or does not prioritize on-chain scaling" seems to be on track from the perspective of Bitcoin Core SegWit, publicly seen as the original Bitcoin (see https://blog.bridge21.io/before-and-after-the-great-bitcoin-fork-17d2aad5d512). The sad part is that although in their overwhelming majority, the miners who support SegWit2x would be the ones creating another Bitcoin Core SegWit2x fork or parting ways from the original Bitcoin.
In a way, this is an ironic example how bitcoin’s built-in resiliency to veto changes causes majority to part away when a small minority has status quo and holds off fully-consented progress. Ultimately, this will give the minority Bitcoin Core SegWit proponents the original Bitcoin branding, perhaps to lure in large institutional investors and monetize on bitcoin’s success as we have it seen it during the past 9 years since its inception. Recall that bitcoin of today is already a decentralized, distributed, immutable network by its definition. The bitcoin network was designed to be an alternative to centralized and mutable institutions, so prevalent in modern capitalist societies.
Bitcoin Core SegWit group wants to change the existing bitcoin network to a network with dominant third parties which, unlike Google Drive to Gmail, are not internal. In particular, they intend to do so via the lightning network, which is a second layer solution (2L). This particular 2L as currently designed relies on an artificial block size limit cap which creates a bottleneck in order to provide high incentives for miners to participate. It monetizes on backlog of transaction and high fees, which are allocated to miners, not any group in particular. Cheaper and more instantaneous transactions are shifted to the lightning network which is operated by hubs also earning revenue. Note that some of these hubs may choose to monitor transactions and can possibly censor who is allowed to participate in this no longer strictly peer-to-peer network.
We lose the immutability and instead we have a peer-to-hub-to-peer network that is mutable and at best decentralized, and certainly not distributed (see https://medium.com/@jonaldfyookball/mathematical-proof-that-the-lightning-network-cannot-be-a-decentralized-bitcoin-scaling-solution-1b8147650800). For regular day-to-day and recurring transactions, it is not a considerable risk or inconvenience. And one could choose to use the main chain any time to bypass the lightning network and truly transact peer-to-peer. But since the main chain has an entry barrier in the form of artificially instilled high transaction fees, common people are not able to use bitcoin as we have known it until now. Peer-to-peer bitcoin becomes institution-to-institution bitcoin with peer-to-hub-to-peer 2L.
To reiterate and stress, note the following lightning network design flaw again. Yes, activating SegWit and allowing 2L such as lightning allows for lower transaction fees to coexist side by side with more costly on-chain transactions. For those using this particularly prescribed 2L, the fees remain low. But since these 2L are managed by hubs, we introduce another element to trust, which is contrary to what the bitcoin network was designed to do at the first place. Over time, by the nature of the lightning network in its current design, these third party hubs grow to be centralized, just like Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover, etc. There is nothing wrong with that in general because it works just fine. But recall that bitcoin set out to create a different kind of a network. Instead of decentralized, distributed, immutable network with miners and nodes, with the lightning network we end up with at best decentralized but mutable network with hubs.
Note that Bitcoin Core SegWit has a US-based organization backing it with millions of dollars (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockstream and https://steemit.com/bitcoin/@adambalm/the-truth-about-who-is-behind-blockstream-and-segwit-as-the-saying-goes-follow-the-money). Their proponents are quite political and some even imply $1000 fees on the main bitcoin blockchain (see https://cointelegraph.com/news/ari-paul-tuur-demeester-look-forward-to-up-to-1k-bitcoin-fees). Contrary to them, Bitcoin Cash proponents intend to keep small fees on a scale of a few cents, which in large volume in larger blockchain blocks provide sufficient incentive for miners to participate.
On the one hand, sticking to the original vision of peer-to-peer network scaled on-chain has merit and holds potential for future value. On the other hand, 2L have potential to carry leaps forward from current financial infrastructure. As mentioned earlier, 2L will allow for extra features to be integrated off-chain (e.g. escrow, reversibility via time-locks), including entirely new features such as smart contracts, decentralized applications, some of which have been pioneered and tested on another cryptocurrency network called Ethereum. But such features could be one day implemented directly on the main bitcoin blockchain without the lightning network as currently designed, or perhaps with a truly integrated 2L proposed in the third section of this overview.
What makes the whole discussion even more confusing is that there are some proposals for specific 2L that would in fact increase privacy and make bitcoin transactions less pseudonymous than those on the current bitcoin blockchain now. Keep in mind that 2L are not necessarily undesirable. If they add features and keep the main network characteristics (decentralized, distributed, immutable), they should be embraced with open arms. But the lightning network as currently designed gives up immutability and hub centralization moves the network characteristic towards a decentralized rather than a distributed network.
In a sense, back to the initial email attachment analogy, even Gmail stopped with attachment limit increases and started hosting large files on Google Drive internally, with an embedded link in a Gmail email to download anything larger than 25MB from Google Drive. Anticipating the same scaling decisions, the question then becomes not if but when and how such 2L should be implemented, keeping the overall network security and network characteristics in mind. If you have not gotten it yet, repeat, repeat, repeat: decentralized, distributed, immutable. Is it the right time now and is SegWit (one way, my way or highway) truly the best solution?
Those siding away from Bitcoin Core SegWit also dislike that corporate entities behind Blockstream, the one publicly known corporate entity directly supporting SegWit, have allegedly applied for SegWit patents which may further restrict who may and who may not participate in the creation of future hubs, or how these hubs are controlled (see the alleged patent revelations, https://falkvinge.net/2017/05/01/blockstream-patents-segwit-makes-pieces-fall-place, the subsequent Twitter rebuttal Blockstream CEO, http://bitcoinist.com/adam-back-no-patents-segwit, and the subsequent legal threats to SegWit2x proponents /btc/comments/6vadfi/blockstream_threatening_legal_action_against). Regardless if the patent claims are precise or not, the fact remains that there is a corporate entity dictating and vetoing bitcoin developments. Objectively speaking, Bitcoin Core SegWit developers paid by Blockstream is a corporate takeover of the bitcoin network as we have known it.
And on the topic of patents and permissionless technological innovations, what makes all of this even more complicated is that a mining improvement technology called ASICboost is allowed on Bitcoin Cash. The main entities who forked from Bitcoin Core to form Bitcoin Cash had taken advantage of patents to the ASICboost technology on the original bitcoin network prior to the fork (see https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/breaking-down-bitcoins-asicboost-scandal). This boost saved estimated 20% electricity for miners on 1MB blocks and created unfair economic advantage for this one particular party. SegWit is one way that this boost is being eliminated, through the code. Larger blocks are another way to reduce the boost advantage, via decreased rate of collisions which made this boost happen at the first place (see https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/breaking-down-bitcoins-asicboost-scandal-solutions and https://bitslog.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/the-relation-between-segwit-and-asicboost-covert-and-overt). Therefore, the initial Bitcoin Cash proponents argue that eliminating ASICboost through the code is no longer needed or necessary.
Of course, saving any amount electricity between 0% and 20% is good for all on our planet but in reality any energy saved in a mining operation is used by the same mining operation to increase their mining capacity. In reality, there are no savings, there is just capacity redistribution. The question then becomes if it is okay that only one party currently and already holds onto this advantage, which they covertly hid for relatively long time, and which they could be using covertly on Bitcoin Cash if they desired to do so, even though it would an advantage to a smaller degree. To be fair to them, they are mining manufacturers and operators, they researched and developed the advantage from own resources, so perhaps they do indeed have the right to reap ASICboost benefits while they can. But perhaps it should happen in publicly know way, not behind closed doors, and should be temporary, with agreed patent release date.
In conclusion, there is no good and no bad actor, each side is its own shade of grey. All parties have their own truth (and villainy) to certain degree.
Bitcoin Cash's vision is for bitcoin to be an electronic cash platform and daily payment processor whereas Bitcoin Core SegWit seems to be drawn more to the ideas of bitcoin as an investment vehicle and a larger settlement layer with the payment processor function managed via at best decentralized third party hubs. Both can coexist, or either one can eventually prove more useful and digest the other one by taking over all use-cases.
Additionally, the most popular communication channel on /bitcoin with roughly 300k subscribers censors any alternative non-Bitcoin-Core-SegWit opinions and bans people from posting their ideas to discussions (see https://medium.com/@johnblocke/a-brief-and-incomplete-history-of-censorship-in-r-bitcoin-c85a290fe43). This is because their moderators are also supported by Blockstream. Note that the author of this overview has not gotten banned from this particular subreddit (yet), but has experienced shadow-banning first hand. Shadow-banning is a form of censorship. In this particular case, their moderator robot managed by people moderators, collaboratively with the people moderators, do the following:
  • (1) look for "Bitcoin Cash" and other undesirable keywords,
  • (2) warn authors that “Bitcoin Cash” is not true bitcoin (which objectively speaking it is, and which is by no means “BCash” that Bitcoin Core SegWit proponents refer to, in a coordinated effort to further confuse public, especially since some of them have published plans to officially release another cryptocurrency called “BCash” in 2018, see https://medium.com/@freetrade68/announcing-bcash-8b938329eaeb),
  • (3) further warn authors that if they try to post such opinions again, they could banned permanently,
  • (4) tell authors to delete their already posted posts or comments,
  • (5) hide their post from publicly seen boards with all other posts, thus preventing it from being seeing by the other participants in this roughly 300k public forum,
  • (6) and in extreme cases actually “remove” their valid opinions if they slip by uncensored, gain traction, and are often times raise to popularity as comments to other uncensored posts (see /btc/comments/6v3ee8/on_a_reply_i_made_in_rbitcoin_that_had_over_350 and /btc/comments/6vbyv0/in_case_we_needed_more_evidence_500_upvotes).
This effectively silences objective opinions and creates a dangerous echo-chamber. Suppressing free speech and artificially blowing up transaction fees on Bitcoin Core SegWit is against bitcoin’s fundamental values. Therefore, instead of the original Reddit communication channel, many bitcoin enthusiasts migrated to /btc which has roughly 60k subscribers as of now, up from 20k subscribers a year ago in August 2016 (see http://redditmetrics.com/btc). Moderators there do not censor opinions and allow all polite and civil discussions about scaling, including all opinions on Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Core, etc.
Looking beyond their respective leaderships and communication channels, let us review a few network fundamentals and recent developments in Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Cash networks. Consequently, for now, these present Bitcoin Cash with more favorable long-term prospects.
  • (1) The stress-test and/or attack on the Bitcoin Cash mempool earlier on August 16, 2017 showed that 8MB blocks do work as intended, without catastrophic complications that Bitcoin Core proponents anticipated and from which they attempted to discourage others (see https://jochen-hoenicke.de/queue/uahf/#2w for the Bitcoin Cash mempool and https://core.jochen-hoenicke.de/queue/#2w for the Bitcoin Core mempool). Note that when compared to the Bitcoin Core mempool on their respective 2 week views, one can observe how each network handles backlogs. On the most recent 2 week graphs, the Y-scale for Bitcoin Core is 110k vs. 90k on Bitcoin Cash. In other words, at the moment, Bitcoin Cash works better than Bitcoin Core even though there is clearly not as big demand for Bitcoin Cash as there is for Bitcoin Core. The lack of demand for Bitcoin Cash is partly because Bitcoin Cash is only 3 weeks old and not many merchants have started accepting it, and only a limited number of software applications to use Bitcoin Cash has been released so far. By all means, the Bitcoin Cash stress-test and/or attack from August 16, 2017 reveals that the supply will handle the increased demand, more affordably, and at a much quicker rate.
  • (2) Bitcoin Cash “BCH” mining has become temporarily more profitable than mining Bitcoin Core “BTC” (see http://fork.lol). Besides temporary loss of miners, this puts Bitcoin Core in danger of permanently fleeing miners. Subsequently, mempool backlog and transaction fees are anticipated to increase further.
  • (3) When compared to Bitcoin Cash transaction fees at roughly $0.02, transaction fees per kB are over 800 times as expensive on Bitcoin Core, currently at over $16 (see https://cashvscore.com).
  • (4) Tipping service that used to work on Bitcoin Core's /Bitcoin a few years back has been revived by a new tipping service piloted on the more neutral /btc with the integration of Bitcoin Cash (see /cashtipperbot).
3. Should we scale you on-chain or off-chain? Scaling bitcoin.
Let us start with the notion that we are impartial to both Bitcoin Core (small blocks, off-chain scaling only) and Bitcoin Cash (big blocks, on-chain scaling only) schools of thought. We will support any or all ideas, as long as they allow for bitcoin to grow organically and eventually succeed as a peer-to-peer network that remains decentralized, distributed, immutable. Should we have a preference in either of the proposed scaling solutions?
First, let us briefly address Bitcoin Core and small blocks again. From the second section of this overview, we understand that there are proposed off-chain scaling methods via second layer solutions (2L), most notably soon-to-be implemented lightning via SegWit on Bitcoin Core. Unfortunately, the lightning network diminishes distributed and immutable network properties by replacing bitcoin’s peer-to-peer network with a two-layer institution-to-institution network and peer-to-hub-to-peer 2L. Do we need this particular 2L right now? Is its complexity truly needed? Is it not at best somewhat cumbersome (if not very redundant)? In addition to ridiculously high on-chain transaction fees illustrated in the earlier section, the lightning network code is perhaps more robust than it needs to be now, with thousands of lines of code, thus possibly opening up to new vectors for bugs or attacks (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Lightning_Network and https://github.com/lightningnetwork/lnd). Additionally, this particular 2L as currently designed unnecessarily introduces third parties, hubs, that are expected to centralize. We already have a working code that has been tested and proven to handle 8MB blocks, as seen with Bitcoin Cash on August 16, 2017 (see https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/first-8mb-bitcoin-cash-block-just-mined). At best, these third party hubs would be decentralized but they would not be distributed. And these hubs would be by no means integral to the original bitcoin network with users, nodes, and miners.
To paraphrase Ocam’s razor problem solving principle, the simplest solution with the most desirable features will prevail (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor). The simplest scalability solution today is Bitcoin Cash because it updates only one line of code, which instantly increases the block size limit. This also allows other companies building on Bitcoin Cash to reduce their codes when compared to Bitcoin Core SegWit’s longer code, some even claiming ten-fold reductions (see /btc/comments/6vdm7y/ryan_x_charles_reveals_bcc_plan). The bitcoin ecosystem not only includes the network but it also includes companies building services on top of it. When these companies can reduce their vectors for bugs or attacks, the entire ecosystem is healthier and more resilient to hacking disasters. Obviously, changes to the bitcoin network code are desirable to be as few and as elegant as possible.
But what are the long-term implications of doing the one-line update repeatedly? Eventually, blocks would have to reach over 500MB size if they were to process Visa-level capacity (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Scalability). With decreasing costs of IT infrastructure, bandwidth and storage could accommodate it, but the overhead costs would increase significantly, implying miner and/or full node centralization further discussed next. To decrease this particular centralization risk, which some consider undesirable and others consider irrelevant, built-in and integrated 2L could keep the block size at a reasonably small-yet-still-large limit.
At the first sight, these 2L would remedy the risk of centralization by creating their own centralization incentive. At the closer look and Ocam’s razor principle again, these 2L do not have to become revenue-seeking third party hubs as designed with the current lightning network. They can be integrated into the current bitcoin network with at worst decentralized miners and at best distributed nodes. Recall that miners will eventually need to supplement their diminishing mining reward from new blocks. Additionally, as of today, the nodes have no built-in economic incentive to run other than securing the network and keeping the network’s overall value at its current level. Therefore, if new 2L were to be developed, they should be designed in a similar way like the lightning network, with the difference that the transaction processing revenue would not go to third party hubs but to the already integrated miners and nodes.
In other words, why do we need extra hubs if we have miners and nodes already? Let us consider the good elements from the lightning network, forget the unnecessary hubs, and focus on integrating the hubs’ responsibilities to already existing miner and node protocols. Why would we add extra elements to the system that already functions with the minimum number of elements possible? Hence, 2L are not necessarily undesirable as long as they do not unnecessarily introduce third party hubs.
Lastly, let us discuss partial on-chain scaling with the overall goal of network security. The network security we seek is the immutability and resilience via distributed elements within otherwise decentralized and distributed network. It is not inconceivable to scale bitcoin with bigger blocks as needed, when needed, to a certain degree. The thought process is the following:
  • (1) Block size limit:
We need some upper limit to avoid bloating the network with spam transactions. Okay, that makes sense. Now, what should this limit be? If we agree to disagree with small block size limit stuck at 1MB, and if we are fine with flexible block size limit increases (inspired by mining difficulty readjustments but on a longer time scale) or big block propositions (to be increased incrementally), what is holding us off next?
  • (2) Miner centralization:
Bigger blocks mean that more data will be transferred on the bitcoin network. Consequently, more bandwidth and data storage will be required. This will create decentralized miners instead of distributed ones. Yes, that is true. And it has already happened, due to the economy of scale, in particular the efficiency of grouping multiple miners in centralized facilities, and the creation of mining pools collectively and virtually connecting groups of miners not physically present in the same facility. These facilities tend to have huge overhead costs and the data storage and bandwidth increase costs are negligible in this context. The individual miners participating in mining pools will quite likely notice somewhat higher operational costs but allowing for additional revenue from integrated 2L described earlier will give them economic incentive to remain actively participating. Note that mining was never supposed to be strictly distributed and it was always at worst decentralized, as defined in the first section of this overview. To assure at best a distributed network, we have nodes.
  • (3) Node centralization:
Bigger blocks mean that more data will be transferred on the bitcoin network. Consequently, more bandwidth and data storage will be required. This will create decentralized nodes instead of distributed ones. Again, recall that we have a spectrum of decentralized and distributed networks in mind, not their absolutes. The concern about the node centralization (and the subsequent shift from distributed to decentralized network property) is valid if we only follow on-chain scaling to inconsiderate MB values. If addressed with the proposed integrated 2L that provides previously unseen economic incentives to participate in the network, this concern is less serious.
Furthermore, other methods to reduce bandwidth and storage needs can be used. A popular proposal is block pruning, which keeps only the most recent 550 blocks, and eventually deletes any older blocks (see https://news.bitcoin.com/pros-and-cons-on-bitcoin-block-pruning). Block pruning addresses storage needs and makes sure that not all nodes participating in the bitcoin network have to store all transactions that have ever been recorded on the blockchain. Some nodes storing all transactions are still necessary and they are called full nodes. Block pruning does not eliminate full nodes but it does indeed provide an economic incentive for the reduction and centralization (i.e. saving on storage costs). If addressed with the proposed integrated 2L that provides previously unseen economic incentives to participate in the network, this concern is less serious.
In other words, properly designed 2L should provide economic incentives for all nodes (full and pruned) to remain active and distributed. As of now, only miners earn revenue for participating. The lightning network proposes extra revenue for hubs. Instead, miner revenue could increase by processing 2L transactions as well, and full nodes could have an economic incentive as well. To mine, relatively high startup costs is necessary in order to get the most up to date mining hardware and proper cooling equipment. These have to be maintained and periodically upgraded. To run a full node, one needs only stable bandwidth and a sufficiently large storage, which can be expanded as needed, when needed. To run a full node, one needs only stable bandwidth and relatively small storage, which does not need to be expanded.
Keeping the distributed characteristic in mind, it would be much more secure for the bitcoin network if one could earn bitcoin by simply running a node, full or pruned. This could be integrated with a simple code change requiring each node to own a bitcoin address to which miners would send a fraction of processed transaction fees. Of course, pruned nodes would collectively receive the least transaction fee revenue (e.g. 10%), full nodes would collectively receive relatively larger transaction fee revenue (e.g. 20%), whereas mining facilities or mining pools would individually receive the largest transaction fee revenue (e.g. 70%) in addition to the full mining reward from newly mined blocks (i.e. 100%). This would assure that all nodes would remain relatively distributed. Hence, block pruning is a feasible solution.
However, in order to start pruning, one would have to have the full blockchain to begin with. As currently designed, downloading blockchain for the first time also audits previous blocks for accuracy, this can take days depending on one’s bandwidth. This online method is the only way to distribute the bitcoin blockchain and the bitcoin network so far. When the size of blockchain becomes a concern, a simpler distribution idea should be implemented offline. Consider distributions of Linux-based operating systems on USBs. Similarly, the full bitcoin blockchain up to a certain point can be distributed via easy-to-mail USBs. Note that even if we were to get the blockchain in bulk on such a USB, some form of a block audit would have to happen nevertheless.
A new form of checkpoint hashes could be added to the bitcoin code. For instance, each 2016 blocks (whenever the difficulty readjusts), all IDs from previous 2015 blocks would be hashed and recorded. That way, with our particular offline blockchain distribution, the first time user would have to audit only the key 2016th blocks, designed to occur on average once in roughly 2 weeks. This would significantly reduce bandwidth concerns for the auditing process because only each 2016th block would have to be uploaded online to be audited.
Overall, we are able to scale the bitcoin network via initial on-chain scaling approaches supplemented with off-chain scaling approaches. This upgrades the current network to a pruned peer-to-peer network with integrated 2L managed by miners and nodes who assure that the bitcoin network stays decentralized, distributed, immutable.
submitted by bit-architect to Bitcoincash [link] [comments]

Bitcoin, huh? WTF is going on? Should we scale you on-chain or off-chain? Will you stay decentralized, distributed, immutable?

0. Shit, this is long, TLWR please! Too long, won't read.
EDIT: TLDR TLWR for clarity.
1. Bitcoin, huh? Brief introduction.
There are 3 sections to this overview. The first section is a brief introduction to bitcoin. The second section looks at recent developments in the bitcoin world, through the analogy of email attachments, and the third section discusses what could be next, through the perspective of resilience and network security.
This is just a continuation of a long, long, possibly never-ending debate that started with the release of the bitcoin whitepaper in 2008 (see https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf). The recent mess during the past few years boils down to the controversy with the block size limit and how to appropriately scale bitcoin, the keyword appropriately. Scaling bitcoin is a controversial debate with valid arguments from all sides (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Block_size_limit_controversy).
I have researched, studied, and written this overview as objectively and as impartially as possible. By all means, this is still an opinion and everyone is advised to draw their own conclusions. My efforts are to make at least a few readers aware that ultimately there is only one team, and that team is the team bitcoin. Yes, currently though, there are factions within the team bitcoin. I hope that we can get beyond partisan fights and work together for the best bitcoin. I support all scaling proposals as long as they are the best for the given moment in time. Personally, I hate propaganda and love free speech as long as it is not derogatory and as long as it allows for constructive discussions.
The goal of this overview is to explain to a novice how bitcoin network works, what has been keeping many bitcoin enthusiasts concerned, and if we can keep the bitcoin network with three main properties described as decentralized, distributed, immutable. Immutable means censorship resistant. For the distinction between decentralized and distributed, refer to Figure 1: Centralized, decentralized and distributed network models by Paul Baran (1964), which is a RAND Institute study to create a robust and nonlinear military communication network (see https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_memoranda/2006/RM3420.pdf). Note that for the overall network resilience and security, distributed is more desirable than decentralized, and the goal is to get as far away from central models as possible. Of course, nothing is strictly decentralized or strictly distributed and all network elements are at different levels of this spectrum.
For those unaware how bitcoin works, I recommend the Bitcoin Wikipedia (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Main_Page). In short, the bitcoin network includes users which make bitcoin transactions and send them to the network memory pool called mempool, nodes which store the public and pseudonymous ledger called blockchain and which help with receiving pending transactions and updating processed transactions, thus securing the overall network, and miners which also secure the bitcoin network by mining. Mining is the process of confirming pending bitcoin transactions, clearing them from the mempool, and adding them to blocks which build up the consecutive chain of blocks on the blockchain. The blockchain is therefore a decentralized and distributed ledger built on top of bitcoin transactions, therefore impossible to exist without bitcoin. If someone claims to be working on their own blockchain without bitcoin, by the definition of the bitcoin network however, they are not talking about the actual blockchain. Instead, they intend to own a different kind of a private database made to look like the public and pseudonymous blockchain ledger.
There are roughly a couple of dozen mining pools, each possibly with hundreds or thousands of miners participating in them, to several thousand nodes (see https://blockchain.info/pools and https://coin.dance/nodes). Therefore, the bitcoin network has at worst decentralized miners and at best distributed nodes. The miner and node design makes the blockchain resilient and immune to reversible changes, making it censorship resistant, thus immutable. The bitcoin blockchain avoids the previous need for a third party to trust. This is a very elegant solution to peer-to-peer financial exchange via a network that is all: decentralized, distributed, immutable. Extra features (escrow, reversibility via time-locks, and other features desirable in specific instances) can be integrated within the network or added on top of this network, however, they have not been implemented yet.
Miners who participate receive mining reward consisting of newly mined bitcoins at a predetermined deflationary rate and also transaction fees from actual bitcoin transactions being processed. It is estimated that in 2022, miners will have mined more than 90% of all 21 million bitcoins ever to be mined (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Controlled_supply). As the mining reward from newly mined blocks diminishes to absolute zero in 2140, the network eventually needs the transaction fees to become the main component of the reward. This can happen either via high-volume-low-cost transaction fees or low-volume-high-cost transaction fees. Obviously, there is the need to address the question of fees when dealing with the dilemma how to scale bitcoin. Which type of fees would you prefer and under which circumstances?
2. WTF is going on? Recent developments.
There are multiple sides to the scaling debate but to simplify it, first consider the 2 main poles. In particular, to scale bitcoin on blockchain or to scale it off it, that is the question!
The first side likes the idea of bitcoin as it has been until now. It prefers on-chain scaling envisioned by the bitcoin creator or a group of creators who chose the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. It is now called Bitcoin Cash and somewhat religiously follows Satoshi’s vision from the 2008 whitepaper and their later public forum discussions (see https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1347.msg15366#msg15366). Creators’ vision is good to follow but it should not be followed blindly and dogmatically when better advancements are possible, the keyword when. To alleviate concerning backlog of transactions and rising fees, Bitcoin Cash proponents implemented a simple one-line code update which increased the block size limit for blockhain blocks from 1MB block size limit to a new, larger 8MB limit. This was done through a fork on August 1, 2017, which created Bitcoin Cash, and which kept the bitcoin transaction history until then. Bitcoin Cash has observed significant increase in support, from 3% of all bitcoin miners at first to over 44% of all bitcoin miners after 3 weeks on August 22, 2017 (see http://fork.lol/pow/hashrate and http://fork.lol/pow/hashrateabs).
An appropriate scaling analogy is to recall email attachments early on. They too were limited to a few MB at first, then 10MB, 20MB, up until 25MB on Gmail. But even then, Gmail eventually started using Google Drive internally. Note that Google Drive is a third party to Gmail, although yes, it is managed by the same entity.
The second side argues that bitcoin cannot work with such a scaling approach of pre-meditated MB increases. Arguments against block size increases include miner and node centralization, and bandwidth limitations. These are discussed in more detail in the third section of this overview. As an example of an alternative scaling approach, proponents of off-chain scaling want to jump to the internally integrated third party right away, without any MB increase and, sadly, without any discussion. Some of these proponents called one particular implementation method SegWit, which stands for Segregated Witness, and they argue that SegWit is the only way that we can ever scale up add the extra features to the bitcoin network. This is not necessarily true because other scaling solutions are feasible, such as already functioning Bitcoin Cash, and SegWit’s proposed solution will not use internally integrated third party as shown next. Note that although not as elegant as SegWit is today, there are other possibilities to integrate some extra features without SegWit (see /Bitcoin/comments/5dt8tz/confused_is_segwit_needed_for_lightning_network).
Due to the scaling controversy and the current backlog of transactions and already high fees, a third side hastily proposed a compromise to a 2MB increase in addition to the proposed SegWit implementation. They called it SegWit2x, which stands for Segregated Witness with 2MB block size limit increase. But the on-chain scaling and Bitcoin Cash proponents did not accept it due to SegWit’s design redundancy and hub centralization which are discussed next and revisited in the third section of this overview. After a few years of deadlock, that is why the first side broke free and created the Bitcoin Cash fork.
The second side stuck with bitcoin as it was. In a way, they inherited the bitcoin network without any major change to public eye. This is crucial because major changes are about to happen and the original bitcoin vision, as we have known it, is truly reflected only in what some media refer to as a forked clone, Bitcoin Cash. Note that to avoid confusion, this second side is referred to as Bitcoin Core by some or Legacy Bitcoin by others, although mainstream media still refers to it simply as Bitcoin. The core of Bitcoin Core is quite hardcore though. They too rejected the proposed compromise for SegWit2x and there are clear indications that they will push to keep SegWit only, forcing the third side with SegWit2x proponents to create another fork in November 2017 or to join Bitcoin Cash. Note that to certain degree, already implemented and working Bitcoin Cash is technically superior to SegWit2x which is yet to be deployed (see /Bitcoin/comments/6v0gll/why_segwit2x_b2x_is_technically_inferior_to).
Interestingly enough, those who agreed to SegWit2x have been in overwhelming majority, nearly 87% of all bitcoin miners on July 31, 2017 prior to the fork, and a little over 90% of remaining Bitcoin Core miners to date after the fork (see https://coin.dance/blocks). Despite such staggering support, another Bitcoin Core fork is anticipated later in November (see https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoin-is-splitting-once-again-are-you-ready) and the "Outcome #2: Segwit2x reneges on 2x or does not prioritize on-chain scaling" seems to be on track from the perspective of Bitcoin Core SegWit, publicly seen as the original Bitcoin (see https://blog.bridge21.io/before-and-after-the-great-bitcoin-fork-17d2aad5d512). The sad part is that although in their overwhelming majority, the miners who support SegWit2x would be the ones creating another Bitcoin Core SegWit2x fork or parting ways from the original Bitcoin.
In a way, this is an ironic example how bitcoin’s built-in resiliency to veto changes causes majority to part away when a small minority has status quo and holds off fully-consented progress. Ultimately, this will give the minority Bitcoin Core SegWit proponents the original Bitcoin branding, perhaps to lure in large institutional investors and monetize on bitcoin’s success as we have it seen it during the past 9 years since its inception. Recall that bitcoin of today is already a decentralized, distributed, immutable network by its definition. The bitcoin network was designed to be an alternative to centralized and mutable institutions, so prevalent in modern capitalist societies.
Bitcoin Core SegWit group wants to change the existing bitcoin network to a network with dominant third parties which, unlike Google Drive to Gmail, are not internal. In particular, they intend to do so via the lightning network, which is a second layer solution (2L). This particular 2L as currently designed relies on an artificial block size limit cap which creates a bottleneck in order to provide high incentives for miners to participate. It monetizes on backlog of transaction and high fees, which are allocated to miners, not any group in particular. Cheaper and more instantaneous transactions are shifted to the lightning network which is operated by hubs also earning revenue. Note that some of these hubs may choose to monitor transactions and can possibly censor who is allowed to participate in this no longer strictly peer-to-peer network.
We lose the immutability and instead we have a peer-to-hub-to-peer network that is mutable and at best decentralized, and certainly not distributed (see https://medium.com/@jonaldfyookball/mathematical-proof-that-the-lightning-network-cannot-be-a-decentralized-bitcoin-scaling-solution-1b8147650800). For regular day-to-day and recurring transactions, it is not a considerable risk or inconvenience. And one could choose to use the main chain any time to bypass the lightning network and truly transact peer-to-peer. But since the main chain has an entry barrier in the form of artificially instilled high transaction fees, common people are not able to use bitcoin as we have known it until now. Peer-to-peer bitcoin becomes institution-to-institution bitcoin with peer-to-hub-to-peer 2L.
To reiterate and stress, note the following lightning network design flaw again. Yes, activating SegWit and allowing 2L such as lightning allows for lower transaction fees to coexist side by side with more costly on-chain transactions. For those using this particularly prescribed 2L, the fees remain low. But since these 2L are managed by hubs, we introduce another element to trust, which is contrary to what the bitcoin network was designed to do at the first place. Over time, by the nature of the lightning network in its current design, these third party hubs grow to be centralized, just like Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover, etc. There is nothing wrong with that in general because it works just fine. But recall that bitcoin set out to create a different kind of a network. Instead of decentralized, distributed, immutable network with miners and nodes, with the lightning network we end up with at best decentralized but mutable network with hubs.
Note that Bitcoin Core SegWit has a US-based organization backing it with millions of dollars (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockstream and https://steemit.com/bitcoin/@adambalm/the-truth-about-who-is-behind-blockstream-and-segwit-as-the-saying-goes-follow-the-money). Their proponents are quite political and some even imply $1000 fees on the main bitcoin blockchain (see https://cointelegraph.com/news/ari-paul-tuur-demeester-look-forward-to-up-to-1k-bitcoin-fees). Contrary to them, Bitcoin Cash proponents intend to keep small fees on a scale of a few cents, which in large volume in larger blockchain blocks provide sufficient incentive for miners to participate.
On the one hand, sticking to the original vision of peer-to-peer network scaled on-chain has merit and holds potential for future value. On the other hand, 2L have potential to carry leaps forward from current financial infrastructure. As mentioned earlier, 2L will allow for extra features to be integrated off-chain (e.g. escrow, reversibility via time-locks), including entirely new features such as smart contracts, decentralized applications, some of which have been pioneered and tested on another cryptocurrency network called Ethereum. But such features could be one day implemented directly on the main bitcoin blockchain without the lightning network as currently designed, or perhaps with a truly integrated 2L proposed in the third section of this overview.
What makes the whole discussion even more confusing is that there are some proposals for specific 2L that would in fact increase privacy and make bitcoin transactions less pseudonymous than those on the current bitcoin blockchain now. Keep in mind that 2L are not necessarily undesirable. If they add features and keep the main network characteristics (decentralized, distributed, immutable), they should be embraced with open arms. But the lightning network as currently designed gives up immutability and hub centralization moves the network characteristic towards a decentralized rather than a distributed network.
In a sense, back to the initial email attachment analogy, even Gmail stopped with attachment limit increases and started hosting large files on Google Drive internally, with an embedded link in a Gmail email to download anything larger than 25MB from Google Drive. Anticipating the same scaling decisions, the question then becomes not if but when and how such 2L should be implemented, keeping the overall network security and network characteristics in mind. If you have not gotten it yet, repeat, repeat, repeat: decentralized, distributed, immutable. Is it the right time now and is SegWit (one way, my way or highway) truly the best solution?
Those siding away from Bitcoin Core SegWit also dislike that corporate entities behind Blockstream, the one publicly known corporate entity directly supporting SegWit, have allegedly applied for SegWit patents which may further restrict who may and who may not participate in the creation of future hubs, or how these hubs are controlled (see the alleged patent revelations, https://falkvinge.net/2017/05/01/blockstream-patents-segwit-makes-pieces-fall-place, the subsequent Twitter rebuttal Blockstream CEO, http://bitcoinist.com/adam-back-no-patents-segwit, and the subsequent legal threats to SegWit2x proponents /btc/comments/6vadfi/blockstream_threatening_legal_action_against). Regardless if the patent claims are precise or not, the fact remains that there is a corporate entity dictating and vetoing bitcoin developments. Objectively speaking, Bitcoin Core SegWit developers paid by Blockstream is a corporate takeover of the bitcoin network as we have known it.
And on the topic of patents and permissionless technological innovations, what makes all of this even more complicated is that a mining improvement technology called ASICboost is allowed on Bitcoin Cash. The main entities who forked from Bitcoin Core to form Bitcoin Cash had taken advantage of patents to the ASICboost technology on the original bitcoin network prior to the fork (see https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/breaking-down-bitcoins-asicboost-scandal). This boost saved estimated 20% electricity for miners on 1MB blocks and created unfair economic advantage for this one particular party. SegWit is one way that this boost is being eliminated, through the code. Larger blocks are another way to reduce the boost advantage, via decreased rate of collisions which made this boost happen at the first place (see https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/breaking-down-bitcoins-asicboost-scandal-solutions and https://bitslog.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/the-relation-between-segwit-and-asicboost-covert-and-overt). Therefore, the initial Bitcoin Cash proponents argue that eliminating ASICboost through the code is no longer needed or necessary.
Of course, saving any amount electricity between 0% and 20% is good for all on our planet but in reality any energy saved in a mining operation is used by the same mining operation to increase their mining capacity. In reality, there are no savings, there is just capacity redistribution. The question then becomes if it is okay that only one party currently and already holds onto this advantage, which they covertly hid for relatively long time, and which they could be using covertly on Bitcoin Cash if they desired to do so, even though it would an advantage to a smaller degree. To be fair to them, they are mining manufacturers and operators, they researched and developed the advantage from own resources, so perhaps they do indeed have the right to reap ASICboost benefits while they can. But perhaps it should happen in publicly know way, not behind closed doors, and should be temporary, with agreed patent release date.
In conclusion, there is no good and no bad actor, each side is its own shade of grey. All parties have their own truth (and villainy) to certain degree.
Bitcoin Cash's vision is for bitcoin to be an electronic cash platform and daily payment processor whereas Bitcoin Core SegWit seems to be drawn more to the ideas of bitcoin as an investment vehicle and a larger settlement layer with the payment processor function managed via at best decentralized third party hubs. Both can coexist, or either one can eventually prove more useful and digest the other one by taking over all use-cases.
Additionally, the most popular communication channel on /bitcoin with roughly 300k subscribers censors any alternative non-Bitcoin-Core-SegWit opinions and bans people from posting their ideas to discussions (see https://medium.com/@johnblocke/a-brief-and-incomplete-history-of-censorship-in-r-bitcoin-c85a290fe43). This is because their moderators are also supported by Blockstream. Note that the author of this overview has not gotten banned from this particular subreddit (yet), but has experienced shadow-banning first hand. Shadow-banning is a form of censorship. In this particular case, their moderator robot managed by people moderators, collaboratively with the people moderators, do the following:
  • (1) look for "Bitcoin Cash" and other undesirable keywords,
  • (2) warn authors that “Bitcoin Cash” is not true bitcoin (which objectively speaking it is, and which is by no means “BCash” that Bitcoin Core SegWit proponents refer to, in a coordinated effort to further confuse public, especially since some of them have published plans to officially release another cryptocurrency called “BCash” in 2018, see https://medium.com/@freetrade68/announcing-bcash-8b938329eaeb),
  • (3) further warn authors that if they try to post such opinions again, they could banned permanently,
  • (4) tell authors to delete their already posted posts or comments,
  • (5) hide their post from publicly seen boards with all other posts, thus preventing it from being seeing by the other participants in this roughly 300k public forum,
  • (6) and in extreme cases actually “remove” their valid opinions if they slip by uncensored, gain traction, and are often times raise to popularity as comments to other uncensored posts (see /btc/comments/6v3ee8/on_a_reply_i_made_in_rbitcoin_that_had_over_350 and /btc/comments/6vbyv0/in_case_we_needed_more_evidence_500_upvotes).
This effectively silences objective opinions and creates a dangerous echo-chamber. Suppressing free speech and artificially blowing up transaction fees on Bitcoin Core SegWit is against bitcoin’s fundamental values. Therefore, instead of the original Reddit communication channel, many bitcoin enthusiasts migrated to /btc which has roughly 60k subscribers as of now, up from 20k subscribers a year ago in August 2016 (see http://redditmetrics.com/btc). Moderators there do not censor opinions and allow all polite and civil discussions about scaling, including all opinions on Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Core, etc.
Looking beyond their respective leaderships and communication channels, let us review a few network fundamentals and recent developments in Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Cash networks. Consequently, for now, these present Bitcoin Cash with more favorable long-term prospects.
  • (1) The stress-test and/or attack on the Bitcoin Cash mempool earlier on August 16, 2017 showed that 8MB blocks do work as intended, without catastrophic complications that Bitcoin Core proponents anticipated and from which they attempted to discourage others (see https://jochen-hoenicke.de/queue/uahf/#2w for the Bitcoin Cash mempool and https://core.jochen-hoenicke.de/queue/#2w for the Bitcoin Core mempool). Note that when compared to the Bitcoin Core mempool on their respective 2 week views, one can observe how each network handles backlogs. On the most recent 2 week graphs, the Y-scale for Bitcoin Core is 110k vs. 90k on Bitcoin Cash. In other words, at the moment, Bitcoin Cash works better than Bitcoin Core even though there is clearly not as big demand for Bitcoin Cash as there is for Bitcoin Core. The lack of demand for Bitcoin Cash is partly because Bitcoin Cash is only 3 weeks old and not many merchants have started accepting it, and only a limited number of software applications to use Bitcoin Cash has been released so far. By all means, the Bitcoin Cash stress-test and/or attack from August 16, 2017 reveals that the supply will handle the increased demand, more affordably, and at a much quicker rate.
  • (2) Bitcoin Cash “BCH” mining has become temporarily more profitable than mining Bitcoin Core “BTC” (see http://fork.lol). Besides temporary loss of miners, this puts Bitcoin Core in danger of permanently fleeing miners. Subsequently, mempool backlog and transaction fees are anticipated to increase further.
  • (3) When compared to Bitcoin Cash transaction fees at roughly $0.02, transaction fees per kB are over 800 times as expensive on Bitcoin Core, currently at over $16 (see https://cashvscore.com).
  • (4) Tipping service that used to work on Bitcoin Core's /Bitcoin a few years back has been revived by a new tipping service piloted on the more neutral /btc with the integration of Bitcoin Cash (see /cashtipperbot).
3. Should we scale you on-chain or off-chain? Scaling bitcoin.
Let us start with the notion that we are impartial to both Bitcoin Core (small blocks, off-chain scaling only) and Bitcoin Cash (big blocks, on-chain scaling only) schools of thought. We will support any or all ideas, as long as they allow for bitcoin to grow organically and eventually succeed as a peer-to-peer network that remains decentralized, distributed, immutable. Should we have a preference in either of the proposed scaling solutions?
First, let us briefly address Bitcoin Core and small blocks again. From the second section of this overview, we understand that there are proposed off-chain scaling methods via second layer solutions (2L), most notably soon-to-be implemented lightning via SegWit on Bitcoin Core. Unfortunately, the lightning network diminishes distributed and immutable network properties by replacing bitcoin’s peer-to-peer network with a two-layer institution-to-institution network and peer-to-hub-to-peer 2L. Do we need this particular 2L right now? Is its complexity truly needed? Is it not at best somewhat cumbersome (if not very redundant)? In addition to ridiculously high on-chain transaction fees illustrated in the earlier section, the lightning network code is perhaps more robust than it needs to be now, with thousands of lines of code, thus possibly opening up to new vectors for bugs or attacks (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Lightning_Network and https://github.com/lightningnetwork/lnd). Additionally, this particular 2L as currently designed unnecessarily introduces third parties, hubs, that are expected to centralize. We already have a working code that has been tested and proven to handle 8MB blocks, as seen with Bitcoin Cash on August 16, 2017 (see https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/first-8mb-bitcoin-cash-block-just-mined). At best, these third party hubs would be decentralized but they would not be distributed. And these hubs would be by no means integral to the original bitcoin network with users, nodes, and miners.
To paraphrase Ocam’s razor problem solving principle, the simplest solution with the most desirable features will prevail (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor). The simplest scalability solution today is Bitcoin Cash because it updates only one line of code, which instantly increases the block size limit. This also allows other companies building on Bitcoin Cash to reduce their codes when compared to Bitcoin Core SegWit’s longer code, some even claiming ten-fold reductions (see /btc/comments/6vdm7y/ryan_x_charles_reveals_bcc_plan). The bitcoin ecosystem not only includes the network but it also includes companies building services on top of it. When these companies can reduce their vectors for bugs or attacks, the entire ecosystem is healthier and more resilient to hacking disasters. Obviously, changes to the bitcoin network code are desirable to be as few and as elegant as possible.
But what are the long-term implications of doing the one-line update repeatedly? Eventually, blocks would have to reach over 500MB size if they were to process Visa-level capacity (see https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Scalability). With decreasing costs of IT infrastructure, bandwidth and storage could accommodate it, but the overhead costs would increase significantly, implying miner and/or full node centralization further discussed next. To decrease this particular centralization risk, which some consider undesirable and others consider irrelevant, built-in and integrated 2L could keep the block size at a reasonably small-yet-still-large limit.
At the first sight, these 2L would remedy the risk of centralization by creating their own centralization incentive. At the closer look and Ocam’s razor principle again, these 2L do not have to become revenue-seeking third party hubs as designed with the current lightning network. They can be integrated into the current bitcoin network with at worst decentralized miners and at best distributed nodes. Recall that miners will eventually need to supplement their diminishing mining reward from new blocks. Additionally, as of today, the nodes have no built-in economic incentive to run other than securing the network and keeping the network’s overall value at its current level. Therefore, if new 2L were to be developed, they should be designed in a similar way like the lightning network, with the difference that the transaction processing revenue would not go to third party hubs but to the already integrated miners and nodes.
In other words, why do we need extra hubs if we have miners and nodes already? Let us consider the good elements from the lightning network, forget the unnecessary hubs, and focus on integrating the hubs’ responsibilities to already existing miner and node protocols. Why would we add extra elements to the system that already functions with the minimum number of elements possible? Hence, 2L are not necessarily undesirable as long as they do not unnecessarily introduce third party hubs.
Lastly, let us discuss partial on-chain scaling with the overall goal of network security. The network security we seek is the immutability and resilience via distributed elements within otherwise decentralized and distributed network. It is not inconceivable to scale bitcoin with bigger blocks as needed, when needed, to a certain degree. The thought process is the following:
  • (1) Block size limit:
We need some upper limit to avoid bloating the network with spam transactions. Okay, that makes sense. Now, what should this limit be? If we agree to disagree with small block size limit stuck at 1MB, and if we are fine with flexible block size limit increases (inspired by mining difficulty readjustments but on a longer time scale) or big block propositions (to be increased incrementally), what is holding us off next?
  • (2) Miner centralization:
Bigger blocks mean that more data will be transferred on the bitcoin network. Consequently, more bandwidth and data storage will be required. This will create decentralized miners instead of distributed ones. Yes, that is true. And it has already happened, due to the economy of scale, in particular the efficiency of grouping multiple miners in centralized facilities, and the creation of mining pools collectively and virtually connecting groups of miners not physically present in the same facility. These facilities tend to have huge overhead costs and the data storage and bandwidth increase costs are negligible in this context. The individual miners participating in mining pools will quite likely notice somewhat higher operational costs but allowing for additional revenue from integrated 2L described earlier will give them economic incentive to remain actively participating. Note that mining was never supposed to be strictly distributed and it was always at worst decentralized, as defined in the first section of this overview. To assure at best a distributed network, we have nodes.
  • (3) Node centralization:
Bigger blocks mean that more data will be transferred on the bitcoin network. Consequently, more bandwidth and data storage will be required. This will create decentralized nodes instead of distributed ones. Again, recall that we have a spectrum of decentralized and distributed networks in mind, not their absolutes. The concern about the node centralization (and the subsequent shift from distributed to decentralized network property) is valid if we only follow on-chain scaling to inconsiderate MB values. If addressed with the proposed integrated 2L that provides previously unseen economic incentives to participate in the network, this concern is less serious.
Furthermore, other methods to reduce bandwidth and storage needs can be used. A popular proposal is block pruning, which keeps only the most recent 550 blocks, and eventually deletes any older blocks (see https://news.bitcoin.com/pros-and-cons-on-bitcoin-block-pruning). Block pruning addresses storage needs and makes sure that not all nodes participating in the bitcoin network have to store all transactions that have ever been recorded on the blockchain. Some nodes storing all transactions are still necessary and they are called full nodes. Block pruning does not eliminate full nodes but it does indeed provide an economic incentive for the reduction and centralization (i.e. saving on storage costs). If addressed with the proposed integrated 2L that provides previously unseen economic incentives to participate in the network, this concern is less serious.
In other words, properly designed 2L should provide economic incentives for all nodes (full and pruned) to remain active and distributed. As of now, only miners earn revenue for participating. The lightning network proposes extra revenue for hubs. Instead, miner revenue could increase by processing 2L transactions as well, and full nodes could have an economic incentive as well. To mine, relatively high startup costs is necessary in order to get the most up to date mining hardware and proper cooling equipment. These have to be maintained and periodically upgraded. To run a full node, one needs only stable bandwidth and a sufficiently large storage, which can be expanded as needed, when needed. To run a full node, one needs only stable bandwidth and relatively small storage, which does not need to be expanded.
Keeping the distributed characteristic in mind, it would be much more secure for the bitcoin network if one could earn bitcoin by simply running a node, full or pruned. This could be integrated with a simple code change requiring each node to own a bitcoin address to which miners would send a fraction of processed transaction fees. Of course, pruned nodes would collectively receive the least transaction fee revenue (e.g. 10%), full nodes would collectively receive relatively larger transaction fee revenue (e.g. 20%), whereas mining facilities or mining pools would individually receive the largest transaction fee revenue (e.g. 70%) in addition to the full mining reward from newly mined blocks (i.e. 100%). This would assure that all nodes would remain relatively distributed. Hence, block pruning is a feasible solution.
However, in order to start pruning, one would have to have the full blockchain to begin with. As currently designed, downloading blockchain for the first time also audits previous blocks for accuracy, this can take days depending on one’s bandwidth. This online method is the only way to distribute the bitcoin blockchain and the bitcoin network so far. When the size of blockchain becomes a concern, a simpler distribution idea should be implemented offline. Consider distributions of Linux-based operating systems on USBs. Similarly, the full bitcoin blockchain up to a certain point can be distributed via easy-to-mail USBs. Note that even if we were to get the blockchain in bulk on such a USB, some form of a block audit would have to happen nevertheless.
A new form of checkpoint hashes could be added to the bitcoin code. For instance, each 2016 blocks (whenever the difficulty readjusts), all IDs from previous 2015 blocks would be hashed and recorded. That way, with our particular offline blockchain distribution, the first time user would have to audit only the key 2016th blocks, designed to occur on average once in roughly 2 weeks. This would significantly reduce bandwidth concerns for the auditing process because only each 2016th block would have to be uploaded online to be audited.
Overall, we are able to scale the bitcoin network via initial on-chain scaling approaches supplemented with off-chain scaling approaches. This upgrades the current network to a pruned peer-to-peer network with integrated 2L managed by miners and nodes who assure that the bitcoin network stays decentralized, distributed, immutable.
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From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki. Jump to navigation Jump to search. See also Biographies, Draft articles by rejected reason, Bridge21, Bitcoin Atom, Internet of People, Niklas Nikolajsen, QuickX, Bitcoin SV, Synereo, Petro gold, BitShares, Cryptocurrency wallet, How Many Bitcoin Wallet Address - Stack Overflow RegEx to match Bitcoin addresses? Paid in bitcoin. Under the porter’s five forces ysis section, a brief ysis of the level of competition within the cryptocurrency industry is given and business strategy is provided in order to determine the competitive attractiveness and intensity of the cryptocurrency market.9 Jun 2017 .. A community dedicated to Bitcoin, the currency of the Internet. Bitcoin is a distributed, worldwide, decentralized digital money. Bitcoins are... In contrast, every transfer with bridge21 is an actual bitcoin transaction verifiable on the blockchain and two trades. There simply isn’t much money left sitting around on 3rd party platforms to be stolen by hackers or insiders. This makes us less risky and therefore more efficient. bridge21’s design is the future of money transfer. Was Bedeutet Break Option In meinem Beispiel werde ich den Spread ignorieren.We selected bridge21 for their strength of bitcoin knowledge and extensive .. Der Zeitraum reicht von Monaten (3,6,9) bis mit electrum bitcoins kaufen hin zu mehreren bitcoin pill report Jahren. Besser ..

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How Does Bitcoin Work ? (The Basics) - Beginners Guide To Bitcoin - How To Get Started With Bitcoin

bitcoin wallet bitcoin to usd bitcoin wiki bitcoin market bitcoin forum bitcoin difficulty buy bitcoin bitcoin central bitcoin faucet bitcoin pool earn bitcoins bitcoin mining pool bitcoin.org ... Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a digital payment system invented by an unknown programmer or a group of programmers under the name Satoshi Nakamoto It was released as open source software in The s... Bitcoin Evolution My Real Reviews 💥results And side effects 👇👇 Does Bitcoin Evolution Really Work? Please visit the link for more details https://www.sociall... Julian Assange: Bitcoin is Much More Than Just a Currency - Duration: 7:58. The Nantucket Project 20,366 views. 7:58. If you want to get into the details, you can read the original paper that describes the system's design, read the developer documentation, and explore the Bitcoin wiki. Tags: • crypto

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