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Cryptocurrency

Summing up the Bitcoin Cash hard-fork debate

Quick Take

  • There are currently three major implementation proposals for the Bitcoin Cash network: Bitcoin ABC, Bitcoin Unlimited, and Bitcoin SV
  • Bitcoin ABC will add new features such as smart contract abilities, oracle services, and scaling improvements to the Bitcoin Cash network
  • Bitcoin Unlimited will implement both changes of Bitcoin ABC and Bitcoin SV enabling miners to vote for the features they want
  • Bitcoin SV will replace Bitcoin ABC’s scripts with its own and expand Bitcoin Cash’s block size from its current 32MB to a maximum size of 128MB

Coinbase recently announced that the exchange is prepared to support the Bitcoin Cash hard-fork roadmap published by bitcoincash.org. This announcement further defines the battle lines of an ongoing civil war that is threatening to divide the bitcoin cash community and the protocol.

A little bit of history

Twice a year, the Bitcoin Cash network hard forks as part of scheduled network upgrades. This year, however, is proving to be one of the most contentious hard forks in Bitcoin Cash’s short lifespan. On August 8th, Bitcoin ABC, the leading implementation of the Bitcoin Cash network, published its proposal to change to the network’s consensus protocols. Bitcoin ABC offered more details on its proposal with the release of Bitcoin ABC 0.18.0 proposing new features such as smart contract abilities, oracle services, and scaling improvements to the Bitcoin Cash network.

A week after Bitcoin ABC’s proposal, Jimmy Nguyen, CEO of blockchain research firm nChain announced its implementation of Bitcoin Cash called Bitcoin SV. Bitcoin SV is the brain-child of Craig Wright, a prominent member of the bitcoin cash community. Bitcoin SV aims to completely replace Bitcoin ABC’s scripts with its own and expand Bitcoin Cash’s block size from it’s current 32MB to a maximum size of 128MB.

Because Bitcoin ABC’s and Bitcoin SV’s implementations are incompatible, the hard fork that will occur on the 15th of November could trigger a split in the bitcoin cash network, separating the network into two incompatible chains. This is not unlike the hard fork in August 2017, in which Bitcoin Cash separated itself from the Bitcoin network, creating a new blockchain and currency.

Acknowledging the risk of a potential chain split, Andrew Stone, the lead developer of Bitcoin Unlimited, currently the second most popular client used by the bitcoin cash network, proposed a ceasefire solution, dubbed BUIP098. The proposed solution aims to implement the changes proposed by both Bitcoin ABC and Bitcoin SV. Stone’s proposal would require node operators, i.e. the miners, to switch to the Bitcoin Unlimited client. Once miners switch over, features from Bitcoin ABC and Bitcoin SV can then activated through BIP 139 (miner voting) or emerging consensus.

Current status

According to Coin.Dance, at the time of this writing, the current breakdown of public node compatibility for the three potential bitcoin cash implementation is as follows: Bitcoin ABC (57%), BIP 139 (23%), and Bitcoin SV (5%). Simultaneously, 45% of public nodes are also signaling their satisfaction with the current Bitcoin Cash implementation, in which no new features will be added.

With less than two weeks before November 15th’s hard fork, major businesses and miners have started to announce their positions in the bitcoin cash debate hoping to sway miner support. Bitcoin ABC has been endorsed by well-established and influential businesses like Bitmain, Binance, Bitcoin.com, and Coinbase. Bitcoin SV has gathered support from CoinGeek, the largest bitcoin cash mining pool, Craig Wright’s SV Pool, and Cobra, the pseudonymous owner of bitcoin.org. 

 

Update: This post has been edited for clarification