In parts 1 and 2 of How Bitcoin Cash …, we uncovered the important principles of community education and clarity. Now it is time to turn our attention to one of the most obvious things that went wrong in BTC — the centralization of protocol development.
How Bitcoin Cash Can Avoid Centralization
Decentralization comes in many forms: decentralization of nodes, mining pools, wealth, and so on. One thing that was overlooked for a long time in Bitcoin BTC was that while many things were well distributed, there was only one main group of developers (Bitcoin Core).
Most of the BCH community is now well aware of this folly, and that is why we seek to have multiple independent teams of developers along with multiple full node implementations.
Miners need established, robust software they can rely on, and its important to have several choices; otherwise it means that a single group of developers essentially controls the protocol.
Entrenchment of “The Reference Implementation”
Bitcoin Core became entrenched as “the” Bitcoin software, which led to stagnation. Although there were already several different implementations, the dominance of Bitcoin Core has been overwhelming.
Technically, it’s hash power that matters, not how many different nodes are running a certain software… But given the totally lopsided distribution, it was clear that anyone running a different version from Core would be a tiny minority. That means Bitcoin Core calls all the shots as far as BTC protocol rules.
BCH is Doing Better Already
We’re heading in the right direction but we’re not out of the woods yet. One interesting phenomenon is that the current level of BCH development decentralization is often either underestimated or overestimated.
On one extreme, some believe development is fully decentralized (since there’s, what, 6 node implementations now?). By contrast, others see the leading team (Bitcoin ABC) as having become the next reference implementation.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. Bitcoin ABC runs around 60–70% of the BCH nodes and Bitcoin Unlimited runs about a third of them. Essentially, instead of one main implementation, there’s now two.
Maybe that sounds a bit disappointing, but that’s twice as many as BTC.
A meritocracy is defined as “the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability.”
There’s often a misguided notion that the main development groups in BCH should have magically have equal influence, rather than acknowledging that influence must be earned.
Those fearful of ABC having too much power might not understand this principle, or more likely, they haven’t seen all that ABC has accomplished to earn what is currently a majority “market share”.
The fact of the matter is that Bitcoin ABC has been the best in class when it comes to leading protocol development, producing timely releases of solid code, and solving problems.
To be specific, it was Bitcoin ABC that created the first node software for Bitcoin Cash, and spearheaded both hard fork upgrades along with the Cashaddr addresses.
Healthy Competition is the Way Forward
This is not to say that Bitcoin Cash wouldn’t benefit from an even more disbursed landscape, with several of the smaller implementations gaining more market share and influence.
Instead of the misplaced idea that ABC should be reigned in, other teams should catch up to ABC by competing. That means they need to do as good a job as ABC has done at leading protocol development and delivering reliable software that serves the community.
While its good to have a healthy fear of avoiding another “Core”, Bitcoin ABC actually has been extremely inclusive toward other teams. ABC organizes meetings with other BCH devs (both online and in real life), has created open work groups for various Bitcoin related topics, has invited developers from other groups into their private discussion channels, and has even written code for other teams.
It feels that we’re on the right track with decentralizing protocol development, and I expect it will continue to improve over time.
In the upcoming conclusion (Part 4), we’ll take a look at mining, development funding, and some big picture solutions.