Now the SegWit2x Hard Fork Has Really Failed to Activate

The SegWit2x Hard Fork Has Now Really Failed to Activate

In case there were any remaining doubts, it now seems clear that the SegWit2x hard fork will not happen.

The SegWit2x project, a product of the New York Agreement signed onto by a long list of companies and miners in May, had scheduled a hard fork to double Bitcoin’s block weight limit today. And while the controversial effort was suspended by leaders of the project last week, this would not have stopped anyone else from proceeding with it. Companies like Coinbase were indeed taking into account that the SegWit2x hard fork could still happen.

The Fork That Wasn’t

SegWit2x nodes — most notably btc1 — were programmed to fork away from the Bitcoin blockchain this afternoon (UTC) to create the SegWit2x blockchain and a new currency, often referred to as B2X. However, not a single SegWit2x block has been mined since fork point, nor is there any indication that this is likely to happen. For all intents and purposes, there is no SegWit2x — nor a B2X.

Further, software bugs in the btc1 codebase made all btc1 implementations grind to a halt even before it reached the expected fork point. While Bitcoin and SegWit2x nodes were widely expected to share a single blockchain up until block 494783 and then to go their own ways at block 494784, btc1 nodes never made it past block 494782.

This is mainly because the first block on the SegWit2x chain was required to have a “base block” larger than one megabyte. This is how the chain would diverge from the original Bitcoin protocol. But due to what is referred to as an “off-by-one error,” SegWit2x blocks started to reject smaller-than-one-megabyte blocks one block too soon — at block 494,783 instead of 494,784.

Moreover, another btc1 bug prevented miners from mining a big enough block when it was needed. So even if some miners did want to proceed with the fork, they accidentally wouldn’t have done so — at least not automatically. Miners would instead have had to manually configure their block weight settings, but it’s unlikely they knew about this step. Btc1 maintainer Jeff Garzik (while also denying there was a problem) has since released a patch to resolve this issue.

But judging by the absence of any SegWit2x blocks, the patch hasn’t made a difference, most likely because few, if any, miners were interested in mining on the SegWit2x chain in the first place.

NO2X?

Despite the seeming failure of SegWit2x to take off in any way, it should be noted that there is technically no way to declare a fork like SegWit2x officially “dead” or “failed.”

While unlikely, it’s always possible that the SegWit2x hard fork could proceed at some point in the future. In fact, there is no way to tell whether the SegWit2x chain is currently being mined with a little bit of hash power right now, and it is strictly impossible to foresee whether it will be mined later on. Perhaps a SegWit2x block will be found a day from now, a week from now or even ten years from now, at which point SegWit2x and B2X will technically come into existence.

However, since the SegWit2x chain did not include a mining difficulty reset, it will be as hard to mine a B2X block as it currently is to mine a BTC block. Meanwhile, market support for B2X appears to be extremely low, with B2X futures trading below 2 percent of BTC. So even if miners decide to mine B2X blocks, they’d almost certainly be earning far less than they would by mining BTC. Or, more accurately, they’d spend more on electricity bills than they’d be able to earn by mining B2X. The financial incentive to mine the SegWit2x chain just isn’t there.

Alternatively, SegWit2x could see a bit of a rebirth in the form of “BitcoinX” (BTX). This project, supposedly started by disappointed SegWit2x supporters, will take a snapshot of bitcoin balances at block height 494,783 and start a SegWit2x-like altcoin that offers all BTC holders the equivalent amount in BTX. Though, while this coin is arguably more viable than B2X thanks to a mining difficulty reset and more, it really is a new coin — arguably even more so than B2X would have been.

The post Now the SegWit2x Hard Fork Has Really Failed to Activate appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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The Lightning Network Now Supports Transactions Across Blockchains

lnbtclte.jpg

Although still in testing phase, the lightning network can now be used to send transactions across different blockchains. The Lightning Labs development team successfully swapped testnet bitcoin for testnet litecoin through a lightning channel this week: ownership of the coins changed hands, while no transaction was recorded on either blockchain.

“Previous atomic swaps that I have done were on-chain, and had the on-chain limitations of slow [transactions] and high transaction fees,” Litecoin creator Charlie Lee told Bitcoin Magazine, referring to an older trick to exchange different types of coins trustlessly. “Off-chain atomic swaps are significantly better. They are instant, [have] low fees, and better protect one’s privacy.”

The successful test paves the way for trustless cryptocurrency exchanges, near-seamless multi-coin payment processors and more.

Bitcoin and Litecoin

The lightning network is the highly anticipated second-layer payment network to be deployed on top of Bitcoin. And as an open protocol, it’s relatively easy to deploy lightning network support for other cryptocurrencies that are forked from Bitcoin’s codebase — like Litecoin.

Interestingly, if the lightning network runs on different blockchains, these chains can effectively be linked together. If one or several peers on the network are willing to take one type of coin and forward another, it’s possible to send bitcoins on one end of a channel that will end up as the equivalent in litecoin on the other end.

In a Medium post published in the first week of 2017, Lee explained that this potential to create these kinds of “bridges” between cryptocurrencies made him throw his weight behind the Segregated Witness (SegWit) soft forks on both Litecoin and Bitcoin.

When SegWit activated on Litecoin last spring, Lee’s vision came one step closer to reality. Because the soft fork had not yet activated on Bitcoin at that time, Lightning Labs decided to add Litecoin support to their LND lightning network implementation. Thus, by the time SegWit activated on Bitcoin last summer, LND was already compatible with both chains.

The testnet versions of these two blockchains are now made interoperable through the lightning network for the first time, allowing users to swap one type of coin for the other.

“The primary advantages over previous solutions are speed, cost and privacy,” Lightning Labs developer Conner Fromknecht told Bitcoin Magazine. “Transfers are more or less instant, and don’t require the cost of an on-chain transaction. Additionally, in the cooperative case, the transactions are never broadcast, and leave no trace on the blockchain, offering privacy benefits. And with any luck, these privacy benefits will only continue to improve.”

The Test (and the Potential)

This week’s specific test was done on a local machine, on which Fromknecht himself created two nodes: “Alice” and “Bob.” These two nodes were modified to be able to monitor both the Bitcoin and Litecoin testnets. Fromknecht then created a single lightning channel that sent testnet litecoin from Alice to Bob and testnet bitcoin back from Bob to Alice at a fixed exchange rate. While still all in an experimental setting, the test was successful; Lightning Labs today published a blog post and a video detailing the results.

In addition to offering a faster, cheaper and more private solution to exchanging coins, the successful test paves the way toward a whole new range of possibilities in the context of the lightning network. For example, peers on the network could eventually act as cryptocurrency exchanges, competing with one another to offer the best exchange rates.

“Arguably the most important benefit of Lightning swaps is the ability to efficiently exchange different currencies without a custodian,” Fromknecht said. “Our ecosystem heavily depends on exchanges to fulfill this role today, but Lightning swaps offer users a choice to get the best of both worlds — instant exchanges without relinquishing control of your money.”

Similarly, such exchangers could act as payment processors: it would be much easier for users to spend litecoin at merchants that only accept bitcoin (or vice versa). And it’s even conceivable that bitcoin-to-bitcoin payments over the lightning network will route via Litecoin hubs, if that’s the cheapest way to get funds from A to B.

For Lee, at least, this is not as unlikely as it sounds, and the successful tests mark another step toward his vision for the lightning network on Litecoin and Bitcoin.

“The Litecoin team is excited to work with Lightning Labs to explore the true potential of instant cross-chain atomic swaps,” he concluded.

For a more in-depth technical explanation of these kinds of atomic swaps, see our previous article “Atomic Scaps: How the Lightning Network Extends to Altcoins” or the blog post and video published by Lightning Labs today.

The post The Lightning Network Now Supports Transactions Across Blockchains appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Claiming Your Bitcoin Gold (and Selling It)

Claim your Bitcoin Gold

This is a re-write of “A Beginner’s Guide to Claiming Your ‘Bitcoin Cash’ (and Selling It)”. Please note: Everything in this article is just advice based on our best understanding of the current situation.

Bitcoin Gold (also referred to as Bgold, and trading under the ticker BTG) launched November 12, 2017. Since the Bitcoin blockchain technically forked on Bitcoin block 491407, anyone who held bitcoin (BTC) on October 24, 2017 should have an equivalent amount of BTG attributed to their Bitcoin private keys.

In our beginner’s guide to surviving the Bgold and SegWit2x forks, we explained how to secure your private keys so you could be sure to access your BTG and B2X. The B2X fork has since been suspended by the leaders of that project, however, and it currently seems very unlikely to happen in any serious way.

As such, this follow-up article explains how you can claim (and potentially use) your BTG — only your BTG.

Be Careful

Good news: Bitcoin Gold enforces strong replay protection. This means you can’t accidentally spend your BTC when you mean to spend BTG or vice versa.

As such, if you don’t care about BTG at all right now, you don’t need to do a thing. You can just keep using bitcoin as you always have. If you ever change your mind (and don’t lose your Bitcoin private keys in the meantime), you can still claim your BTG at any point in the future.

Likewise, if you want to hold onto your BTG long term, you also don’t need to do anything right now. You can keep using BTC as if nothing happened; just make sure to never lose your private keys.

(In both these cases, however, it could come in handy to keep a record of the Bitcoin addresses that stored your bitcoins at the time of the split. This is not strictly necessary, but your future self may thank you if you do it. You should be able to find this information in your wallet of choice, though where you find it may differ a little bit from wallet to wallet. Alternatively, you could move all your coins to a new address. If you then look up all your transactions since October 25, 2017, and note which addresses spent coins since that date, you know which addresses held coins at the time of the split.)

Now let’s assume you do care about BTG right now, at least enough to want to sell your share. (1 BTG is trading around 0.02 BTC at the time of writing of this article, so you could earn a 2 percent “dividend” on your BTC if you decide to sell.)

If you followed the advice outlined in our beginner’s guide, the good news is that you should be in full control of your Bitcoin private keys. This means you now hold BTC as well as BTG.

The bad news is that it’s not necessarily easy or safe to claim your BTG. If you’re using insecure (or even malicious) software, you may accidentally expose your private keys. And because these are the same private keys that secure your BTC, this exposure could lead to your BTC being stolen. You stand to lose much more from losing your BTC than you stand to gain from selling your BTG.

Therefore, you are going to want to take your time and make sure you understand what you are doing well enough to do it without exposing your private keys. Your BTG isn’t going anywhere.

Accessing Your Coins

In our beginner’s guide to surviving the Bgold (and SegWit2x) forks, we explained how to secure your private keys and recommended different wallet options. Here, you can find, per option, how to access your BTG.

Note that while it’s not strictly necessary in all cases, it’s probably best to first move your bitcoins (BTC) to a new address, or even a whole new wallet with a new seed, before you even touch your BTG. This way you don’t add any security risks, while it’s potentially also a bit better for privacy. (More on this below.)

Paper Wallet

The first recommendation in our beginner’s guide to surviving the Bgold (and SegWit2x) forks was to use a paper wallet. This advice was given in the context of storing your coins long term in particular. But if you want to access your BTG, you can, of course, do this right away.

However, the point of a paper wallet really is that your private keys are not stored in any device that could be hacked. Therefore, if you’re going to upload your private key into a Bitcoin Gold wallet, you should definitely create a whole new paper wallet with a new private key for your bitcoin (BTC). It’s probably best to then first sweep your private keys with a Bitcoin (BTC) wallet, and then send the coins to this new paper wallet for BTC.

Electrum and Coinomi are two wallets that allow you to sweep Bitcoin private keys. Look for the “sweep” option in the menus of these wallets; that’s where you can scan the QR-code displayed on your paper wallet. (Alternatively, you could type in the private key.) Once you’ve done this, send the bitcoins to the new paper wallet.

Once your bitcoins are stored safely on the new paper wallet (ideally after at least one confirmation), the old paper wallet still holds the BTG.

Now, the same trick must be repeated to access your BTG. Electrum does not support BTG, but Coinomi does. Coinomi also published a blog post explaining exactly how to access your BTG. This includes instructions for paper wallets.

Regular Wallet

Our second recommendation was to use a regular wallet, as listed on bitcoin.org.

How to access your BTG if you were using a regular wallet differs from one wallet to the next. But in most cases, Coinomi is once again the best wallet to import your keys into. While originally written for Bitcoin Cash, this Coinomi blog post explains exactly how to make that switch for a number of wallets. (Just mentally replace “BCH” for “BTG” wherever relevant.)

Full Node Wallet

Our third recommendation was to use a full node wallet, like Bitcoin Core or Bitcoin Knots.

These wallets store your private keys in a dedicated folder on your computer. You can make a backup of this folder using the menu in your wallet and select “Backup wallet.” Once you’ve done this, you should be able to import this backup into the Bitcoin Gold full node, Bitcoin Gold Core.

But once again, it’s a lot easier (and possibly even safer) to export your private keys from your Bitcoin full node and import them into the Coinomi mobile wallet. While originally written for Bitcoin Cash, this Coinomi blog post explains how to do that for BTG as well. (Just mentally replace “BCH” for “BTG” wherever relevant.)

Hardware Wallet

We also recommended using a hardware wallet to keep your private keys secure — though we also noted that these wallets don’t necessarily make it easy to access your BTG.

Indeed, at the time of writing, no hardware wallet has enabled access to BTG. However, Ledger and Trezor have published blog posts indicating that they will be working on it. If you use either of these wallets, keep an eye out for announcements on their social media or blogs. Digital Bitbox and Keep Key have also published blog posts on the Bgold fork, suggesting they might support it; but they don’t support it yet. Keep an eye on their social media and blog to see if that changes.

Other (Non-bitcoin.org) Wallets, Exchanges, etc.

If you did not follow our advice and instead stored your BTC in any other wallet, or on an exchange, or anywhere else, you may or may not still be able to claim your BTG. In this case, you’ll have to figure out for yourself whether this is the case or not, and how to do so. This Coinomi blog post may, once again, be of help for some wallets. (Just mentally replace “BCH” for “BTG” wherever relevant.)

Using (or Selling) Your BTG

Once you have claimed your BTG, you can use it however you please. Just like any other altcoin, you could, for example, sell it for BTC or perhaps spend it somewhere if it’s accepted for payment, etc.

If you decide to sell your BTG, there are a number of exchanges where you can do this. The Bitcoin Gold website lists most of them here. (Which of these you decide to trust is up to you; we’re not giving any particular advice.)

But there are three more factors to keep in mind before doing so.

The first factor is privacy. Your public keys (which are linked to your BTC and BTG addresses) are identical for BTC and BTG. This means that whenever you spend your BTG (for example, to send them to an exchange), you do not only reveal your BTG addresses but also your BTC addresses. This can, in turn, reveal a lot about your current holdings as well as your past and future transactions and can even, by extension, reveal other data about people or entities you transact with. Make sure you are comfortable with giving up this privacy if you are going to send your BTG to an exchange or anywhere else.

The second factor is mostly theoretical at this point but worth a quick mention nonetheless:  security. By revealing your public key when spending BTG, you strip away one layer of cryptographic security, even for your BTC addresses. This doesn’t mean that your BTC are insecure right now, but there is an increased chance that your BTC won’t be secure at some point in the (far) future when this particular cryptographic standard is weakened. It is, therefore, best to move your BTC to a new address, at least some time within the next couple of years.

The third factor was already mentioned but bears repeating: If you’re using insecure software to claim your BTG, your BTC may be at risk. It’s probably best to move your BTC to a new address or even a whole new wallet with a new wallet seed before you even start meddling with BTG — regardless of which wallet you were using. That way, if you do mess up with insecure BTG software, you shouldn’t lose your BTC.

So, to Recap …

1. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, and there is no rush. If your private keys are secure, your BTG is secure.

2. If you want to use your BTG in any way, it’s probably best to first move your BTC to a whole new address that you control, or even to a whole new wallet generated from a new seed. (But don’t lose your old private keys or seed: These still hold your BTG!)

3. Once you know what you’re doing, upload your private keys into a Bitcoin Gold wallet, like Coinomi. Then you can keep it, spend it, perhaps send it to an exchange to sell or whatever it is you want to do with your “free money.”

The post A Beginner’s Guide to Claiming Your Bitcoin Gold (and Selling It) appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Bitcoin Gold Launches Tomorrow

Bitcoin Gold Launches Tomorrow

After weeks of preparation, Bitcoin Gold (Bgold; BTG) is finally launching tomorrow,  November 12, 2017.

Bitcoin Gold is the second project to fork away from the Bitcoin blockchain to create a new coin this year; on August 1, Bitcoin Cash (Bcash) was the first. Where Bcash attempted to offer an on-chain scaling solution by increasing Bitcoin’s block size limit (while removing the Segregated Witness code), Bgold is an attempt to counter Bitcoin’s mining centralization.

The most important difference between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Gold is a new proof-of-work mining algorithm. Instead of SHA256, the new coin uses the memory-hard Equihash proof-of-work function that’s also used in the privacy-focused altcoin Zcash. This means that specialized ASIC hardware that has come to dominate Bitcoin’s mining ecosystem will not be able to mine Bgold.

Although Bgold is launching this weekend, the fork “officially” occurred on October 25. Anyone who held bitcoin (BTC) on that day (specifically, when Bitcoin block 491406 was mined) will have an equivalent amount of BTG attributed to their private keys. These private keys can be imported into a dedicated Bgold wallet, which, starting tomorrow, will allow users to spend the coins. (But note that this does not come without risks and tradeoffs: If you’re not sure what you’re doing, it’s best not to ignore BTG until you do. For more information als see this article.)

Block 491407 on the Bgold blockchain wil be the first block to deviate from the Bitcoin protocol. In other words, this will be the first block where Bgold splits off to become its own currency. However, somewhat controversially, the first 8000 blocks will be privately mined by the Bgold team. Only after these 8000 blocks will Bgold’s mining difficulty ramp up to normal levels, and will anyone be allowed to mine the coin. The resulting 100,000 BTG worth of block rewards will pay for project development and more. (For more details, see the Bitcoin Gold roadmap.)

Other changes implemented by Bitcoin Gold are mostly to ensure a smooth split away from Bitcoin. This includes a new difficulty re-adjustment algorithm named “DigiShield” that adjusts the mining difficulty each time a block is found — instead of once every two weeks. Bgold also includes strong replay protection, ensuring that no users spend BTC when they mean to spend BTG, and vice versa. Additionally, BGold implemented a new address scheme, preventing users from spending BTC to BTG addresses and vice versa.

Bitcoin Gold will be supported by a relatively large number of exchanges, including major players like Bitfinex, OKex and HitBTC. Several of these exchanges are effectively supporting BTC/BTG trading already through futures markets. Ignoring an initially inflated price, these futures have traded at around 0.02 BTC in recent weeks, with a notable surge to about 0.042 BTC over the past few days. If this holds up, 1 BTG would be worth almost $250, and Bgold would immediately become a top-5 altcoin on websites like coinmarketcap.com.

For more information on Bitcoin Gold, see Bitcoin Magazine’s earlier article on this project.


Disclaimer: The author of this article holds BTC and will therefore also own BTG at launch.

The post Bitcoin Gold Launches Tomorrow appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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NO2X: Next Week’s Hard Fork Has Been “Suspended” Due to a Lack of Consensus

b2xcancel

There will almost certainly be no Bitcoin hard fork next week: the main organizers behind the SegWit2x project have “suspended” their efforts.

In an email to the SegWit2x mailing list, one of the main organizers behind the project, BitGo CEO Mike Belshe, explained that the proposed hard fork has not been able to gain sufficient consensus to proceed:

“Although we strongly believe in the need for a larger blocksize, there is something we believe is even more important: keeping the community together. Unfortunately, it is clear that we have not built sufficient consensus for a clean blocksize upgrade at this time.”

The New York Agreement was originally forged between a group of Bitcoin companies in May of this year. An initiative by Digital Currency Group CEO Barry Silbert, the project — later dubbed “SegWit2x” — was to combine activation of the Segregated Witness soft fork with a hard fork to double Bitcoin’s block weight limit. With Segregated Witness activated on the Bitcoin network this past summer, arguably helped by the SegWit2x project, the hard fork was scheduled to take place next week.

However, the hard fork part of the New York Agreement was always controversial for a number of reasons. As a result, a growing number of signatories dropped out of the agreement over the past weeks and months, while developers, user communities, public polls, future markets and more all indicated limited support for the effort. And as the hard fork date drew closer, it become increasingly clear that SegWit2x would in fact spawn a new currency rather than constitute an upgrade of the Bitcoin protocol.

And this was never the plan, Belshe wrote:

“Continuing on the current path could divide the community and be a setback to Bitcoin’s growth. This was never the goal of Segwit2x.”

Belshe’s email was also signed on behalf of Xapo CEO Wences Casares, Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu, Bloq CEO Jeff Garzik, Blockchain CEO Peter Smith and ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees. In a separate blog post published just before Belshe’s email, BitPay CEO Stephen Pair also called for cancelation of the hard fork.

While the New York Agreement was signed by even more companies (and some individuals), and anyone can still deploy the hard fork, it is unlikely that anyone will proceed with the hard fork in any meaningful way.

Belshe does, however, note that a hard fork to increase Bitcoin’s block weight limit might be needed in the future, writing:

“As fees rise on the blockchain, we believe it will eventually become obvious that on-chain capacity increases are necessary. When that happens, we hope the community will come together and find a solution, possibly with a blocksize increase.”

The post NO2X: Next Week’s Hard Fork Has Been “Suspended” Due to a Lack of Consensus appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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NO2X: Next Week’s Hard Fork Has Been “Suspended” Due to a Lack of Consensus

b2xcancel

There will almost certainly be no Bitcoin hard fork next week: the main organizers behind the SegWit2x project have “suspended” their efforts.

In an email to the SegWit2x mailing list, one of the main organizers behind the project, BitGo CEO Mike Belshe, explained that the proposed hard fork has not been able to gain sufficient consensus to proceed:

“Although we strongly believe in the need for a larger blocksize, there is something we believe is even more important: keeping the community together. Unfortunately, it is clear that we have not built sufficient consensus for a clean blocksize upgrade at this time.”

The New York Agreement was originally forged between a group of Bitcoin companies in May of this year. An initiative by Digital Currency Group CEO Barry Silbert, the project — later dubbed “SegWit2x” — was to combine activation of the Segregated Witness soft fork with a hard fork to double Bitcoin’s block weight limit. With Segregated Witness activated on the Bitcoin network this past summer, arguably helped by the SegWit2x project, the hard fork was scheduled to take place next week.

However, the hard fork part of the New York Agreement was always controversial for a number of reasons. As a result, a growing number of signatories dropped out of the agreement over the past weeks and months, while developers, user communities, public polls, future markets and more all indicated limited support for the effort. And as the hard fork date drew closer, it become increasingly clear that SegWit2x would in fact spawn a new currency rather than constitute an upgrade of the Bitcoin protocol.

And this was never the plan, Belshe wrote:

“Continuing on the current path could divide the community and be a setback to Bitcoin’s growth. This was never the goal of Segwit2x.”

Belshe’s email was also signed on behalf of Xapo CEO Wences Casares, Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu, Bloq CEO Jeff Garzik, Blockchain CEO Peter Smith and ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees. In a separate blog post published just before Belshe’s email, BitPay CEO Stephen Pair also called for cancelation of the hard fork.

While the New York Agreement was signed by even more companies (and some individuals), and anyone can still deploy the hard fork, it is unlikely that anyone will proceed with the hard fork in any meaningful way.

Belshe does, however, note that a hard fork to increase Bitcoin’s block weight limit might be needed in the future, writing:

“As fees rise on the blockchain, we believe it will eventually become obvious that on-chain capacity increases are necessary. When that happens, we hope the community will come together and find a solution, possibly with a blocksize increase.”

The post NO2X: Next Week’s Hard Fork Has Been “Suspended” Due to a Lack of Consensus appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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Scaling Bitcoin 2017: Science Is Central in Stanford (and the Politics Ignored)

Scaling Bitcoin Stanford team

Stanford University hosted the fourth edition of the Scaling Bitcoin conference over the weekend of November 4–5: “Scaling Bitcoin 2017: Scaling the Edge.”

The annual conference, sometimes referred to as a “workshop,” has in its short history grown into somewhat of an institute within the Bitcoin space. It aims to be the main stage for Bitcoin’s technical and academic communities, with little room for commercial interests — and perhaps even less for the “scaling drama” that has grown to be the norm online.

“This is the place where we want to focus on engineering, not politics,” said Anton Yemelyanov, this year’s planning committee chair, as he introduced the event on Saturday morning. “We want everyone to have objective discussions from an engineering standpoint.”

Scaling Bitcoin Within the Scaling Debate

Scaling Bitcoin has a short but potent history.

The first two conferences were hastily organized one after the other in the second half of 2015, both in direct response to the new-at-the-time block size limit dispute and a looming hard fork through Bitcoin XT. The Montreal edition, the first of the two conferences, was instrumental in bringing together Bitcoin’s technical community, which had up until that point mostly communicated through chat channels and mailing lists. And the second edition in Hong Kong introduced Bitcoin’s mostly Chinese mining community onto the stage for the first time, quite literally. Faced with a contentious hard fork, the events were instrumental in building community among developers and across continents.

And the conferences proved pivotal in averting the crisis — at least temporarily. Hong Kong saw the introduction of Segregated Witness, presented by Blockstream engineer and major Bitcoin Core contributor Dr. Pieter Wuille. This innovation was included as a centerpiece in Bitcoin’s scaling roadmap, proposed by Blockstream CTO and Bitcoin Core maintainer Gregory Maxwell right after the conference, and was endorsed by large parts of the Bitcoin ecosystem. It finally activated on the Bitcoin network this summer.

Now, two years and three Scaling Bitcoin conferences after the Montreal edition, another controversial hard fork looms. BTC1 — maintained by former Bitcoin Core contributor and Bloq CEO Jeff Garzik — is scheduled to hard fork next week as per the New York Agreement in order to double Bitcoin’s block weight limit — an effort dubbed “SegWit2x.”

Yet, this upcoming hard fork did not demand much attention in Stanford. Apart from subtle remarks buried throughout some of the talks, the topic of SegWit2x was almost completely absent from the Scaling Bitcoin program. Illustratively, Bobby Lee, CEO of BTCC and one of the few outspoken SegWit2x proponents on stage, even refused to take any questions on the hard fork after his invited talk — instead focusing on Bitcoin’s meteoric price rise over the past years.

The Talks and the Science

Scaling Bitcoin instead continued on the path set out last year at the third event, hosted in Milan. With a broader scope than scaling alone, privacy and fungibility were prominent topics, while smart contracts, fees, mining and more were part of the program as well.

Perhaps the biggest innovations presented throughout the weekend, at least within the realm of features that could feasibly be implemented on Bitcoin without rigorous protocol changes, were presented by some of the veterans (by now) in the space.

Tadge Dryja, co-author of the lightning network white paper and currently employed by the MIT Digital Currency Initiative, presented “Discreet Log Contracts.” If the math checks out like he thinks it does, these could effectively realize trustless oracle systems, arguably offering a superior (being simpler) alternative to the bulk of advanced smart contracts. Put bluntly, some think these kinds of solutions could make resource-intensive systems like Ethereum obsolete.

Along similar conceptual lines, Blockstream mathematician Andrew Poelstra presented “scriptless scripts.” Utilizing clever cryptography — specifically, signature aggregation — smart contracts could be anchored into a basic blockchain without needing to embed the entire smart contract code itself. Originally designed for the Mimblewimble protocol, the concept could be leveraged by Bitcoin, too.

And speaking of veterans in the space, Nick Szabo — partnered with (among others) Bloomberg contributor Elaine Ou — presented his proposal to broadcast Bitcoin transactions over radio waves. Not so subtly referencing China’s recent crackdown on Bitcoin, the two detailed how Bitcoin could travel around the globe (and over the great firewall of China) without so much as needing an internet connection.

When the topic of Bitcoin’s block size limit — the “original” scaling issue that spawned the conferences — came up at all, it was mostly in the context of propagation speed. Perhaps no coincidence, the two most relevant presentations on this topic were based on work by some of the people involved with previous hard fork attempts. The Bitcoin Unlimited team presented their test results on the “Gigablock” network, which they believe safely supports blocks that exceed current limits by several orders of magnitude. And UMass Amherst professor Brian Levine presented the “Graphene” block propagation protocol, co-designed by Bitcoin’s former lead developer Gavin Andresen.

To the extent that next week’s hard fork was discussed, Anthony Towns’s presentation probably came closest. Towns detailed how support for future protocol changes could be cleverly determined through market dynamics. Though, while interesting, this type of solution will not be ready in time for the SegWit2x hard fork.

The Hard Forks and the Politics

Indeed, in contrast to some of the previous events, a sense of urgency was mostly absent in Stanford.

This could be in part because most of Bitcoin’s technical community has by now roughly settled on a path forward — and SegWit2x is no part of it. Similarly, the question is not so much whether Bitcoin will scale predominantly through second layers; for them, at least, it will. Rather, topics of research now focus on how these second-layer technologies can be optimized for performance, privacy and more.

Additionally, as a somewhat loosely organized volunteer effort, the team overseeing the conferences consists of slightly varying people from one event to the next. And resulting from a difference in vision for the 2017 edition, some of the earlier organizers as well as a segment of Bitcoin’s technical community were absent for this round.

Perhaps as a result, the sense of community building typical for some of the previous events was not as prominent in Stanford. And the question of how to deal with a looming contentious hard fork was a more central topic at the similar but more informal Breaking Bitcoin conference in Paris several weeks ago. In little over two years, Scaling Bitcoin instead transformed from what is best described as an emergency summit to something perhaps more akin to a regular academic conference — even though an emergency summit would not have seemed entirely inappropriate at this point in time.

For a complete overview and videos of all presentations, visit scalingbitcoin.com. (Or follow this link for transcripts.)

The post Scaling Bitcoin 2017: Science Is Central in Stanford (and the Politics Ignored) appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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These International Bitcoin Communities Are Rejecting SegWit2x

These International Bitcoin Communities Are Rejecting SegWit2x

The hard fork part of the New York Agreement is scheduled to take place within about two weeks. This incompatible protocol rule change is set to increase Bitcoin’s block weight limit, to allow for more transactions on the network — if everyone adopts the change. Otherwise, it will create a new blockchain and currency that may or may not be considered to be “Bitcoin.”

The list of signatories of this agreement includes several of the largest Bitcoin startups and mining pools that, together, claim to represent a majority of users and hash power. Yet, it is far from clear that this 2x part of SegWit2x proposal really has much support outside of these signatories. Most of Bitcoin’s development community, a significant number of other companies, some mining pools, user polls as well as futures markets suggest otherwise.

And now, a growing list of international Bitcoin communities is putting out public statements against the SegWit2x hard fork as well.

An overview…

Seoul Bitcoin Meetup

On October 12, 2017, the Seoul Bitcoin Meetup — the largest and longest-running Bitcoin meetup in South Korea with over 1700 members — was the first user community to put out a statement on SegWit2x. More precisely, in their own words, the group voiced its “staunch opposition to this November’s proposed hardfork.”

In its statement, the Seoul Bitcoin Meetup places emphasis on the manner in which the agreement was made. Typically, changes to the Bitcoin protocol go through the Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) process where it is peer reviewed by developers across the ecosystem, whereas SegWit2x went through the New York Agreement, which was forged at an invite-only meeting among about a dozen company executives.

The Seoul Meetup states:

If a select group of CEOs and investors, no matter how benevolent their intentions, can unilaterally make decisions about the consensus rules without public comment and force these changes upon the network regardless of overall consensus, then Bitcoin will have lost the properties that make it valuable in the first place.

Additionally, the Seoul Bitcoin Meetup argues that the hard fork is needlessly risky without offering sufficient benefits to warrant the risk. It also takes issue with the controversial decision of SegWit2x developers not to implement strong replay protection.

Bitcoin Meetup Munich

On the same day as the Seoul Meetup Group, the Bitcoin Munich meetup group also put out a public statement against the SegWit2x hard fork. This meetup group consists of over 2000 members — though only several dozen of them actually engaged in the vote whether or not the statement against the SegWit2x hard fork would be accepted. This statement itself was spread via photo on social media.

In its statement, the Bitcoin Munich meetup explains it opposes the SegWit2x hard fork in part because of technical concerns:

Another doubling of the block size so quickly after SegWit seems hasty and might cause further mining centralization.

The statement further argues that a hard fork requires more and better preparation and should include more improvements from the hard fork wish list, and it endorses Bitcoin Core as “the true Bitcoin client.”

Brazilian and Argentinian Bitcoin Communities

The biggest user community also published the longest statement against the SegWit2x hard fork so far. A combined effort between a significant group of Argentinian and Brazilian users and companies, published on October 17,2017, voiced “their deepest concerns over the upcoming November hardfork as mandated by the so-called New York Agreement (NYA), also known as SegWit2x (S2X).”

Not unlike other critics of the hard fork, emphasis was placed on the process that led to the SegWit2x agreement:

The very nature of an ‘agreement’ between a few parties in a decentralized consensus protocol can be interpreted as an aggression against the network.

Similarly, the statement addresses the lack of transparency from SegWit2x proponents, criticizing the notion of a “political compromise instead of a technical upgrade” and the “consensus imposition instead of consensus building.”

Other points of concern include the lack of replay protection, the rushed nature of the hard fork, misleading statements by SegWit2x proponents and much more.

Israeli Bitcoin Association

The Israeli Bitcoin Association is a non-profit organization that promotes Bitcoin and similar technologies in Israel, with an open membership. On October 24, 2017, this association put out its own statement on the SegWit2x hard fork.

Slightly different from several of the other statements, the Israeli Bitcoin Association emphasizes the right of anyone to fork Bitcoin and create a new cryptocurrency. That naturally includes SegWit2x proponents.

But importantly, the association adds:

A protocol change in the currency holding the name ‘Bitcoin’, especially one requiring a hard fork, requires overwhelming consensus. The SegWit2x hard fork does not in any way enjoy such consensus, and while this remains the case we cannot refer to the resulting currency as ‘Bitcoin.’

The SegWit2x currency will instead be referred to as “‘Bitcoin2x.’ ‘SegWit2x coins,’ BT2, B2X, S2X or any other distinctive term that the industry will adopt.”

The Hong Kong Bitcoin Community / Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Bitcoin Community in general, and the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong specifically, put out statements against SegWit2x on October 25, 2017.

While technically separate statements, both voice their concern about the lack of consensus for the hard fork. The Hong Kong Bitcoin Community — a group of Hong Kong–based companies — states that “the lack of enthusiastic support for this fork among the community is striking.” The association — which mostly exists to promote Bitcoin in Hong Kong — states that “the proponents of the hardfork should kindly ask the Bitcoin community to support them and then only proceed with the hardfork if there is widespread community support.”

Additionally, the Hong Kong groups speak out against the lack of replay protection in the SegWit2x fork.

Due to the combination of both a lack of consensus across the community and a lack of strong replay protection, we consider SegWit2x a reckless endeavor that will cause disruption and harm to the ecosystem.

The Italian Bitcoin Community

The Italian Bitcoin community, more specifically a group of companies, meetups, lobbying groups and other organizations, put out a statement against SegWit2x on October 31, 2017.

The statement is largely inspired by an earlier statement by the Italian blockchain research lab BHB, which rejected SegWit2x as “an attempt to perform a political takeover of Bitcoin.”

The statement by the broader Italian Bitcoin community is a bit more compact, but nonetheless touches on many of the familiar points of criticism regarding the SegWit2x hard fork.

It reads:

The opposition is especially strong against any action of this kind that could cause huge inconveniences for service providers and serious confusion for users, potentially leading to financial losses: unilateral attempts to appropriate Bitcoin name, logo or “ticker”, attempts to mislead light-clients and SPV wallets on alternative networks not explicitly chosen by them, attempts to launch new coins in a way which leave users vulnerable to “replay attacks” or address format confusion, attempts to attack the network with a temporary hashing-power majority in order to create disruptive reorgs or to slow down the normal activity.

French-Speaking Bitcoin Communities

Meanwhile, the French-speaking Bitcoin communities are voicing their concerns with the SegWit2x hard fork through a change.org petition. It is currently signed by over 1300 people and counting.

The (French) text that accompanies the petition is mostly inspired by and based on the statement published by the Seoul Bitcoin Meetup. Like that statement, this petition emphasizes concerns about the manner in which the agreement was forged, while also noting the lack of replay protection and other problems.

Additionally, the petition includes a call to action to find alternatives for the companies that signed onto and continue to support the SegWit2x hard fork:

We would suggest avoiding the use of services of companies that support the NYA, and we hope to substitute them with alternative solutions.

Are they any more user communities that have put out statements against or in favor of the SegWit2x hard fork? Let me know at aaron@bitcoinmagazine.com.

The post These International Bitcoin Communities Are Rejecting SegWit2x appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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To B2X or Not to B2X: How Exchanges Will List the SegWit2x Coin

ToB2X

The SegWit2x hard fork is drawing closer by the day. Within little over two weeks after the publication of this article, a group of Bitcoin companies and miners plans to double Bitcoin’s block weight limit as per the New York Agreement.

But it currently seems certain that not everyone will adopt this incompatible protocol change. As such, the SegWit2x fork would result in two different blockchains and two different currencies. For the purpose of this article, these two blockchains will be referred to as the “original chain” and the “SegWit2x chain,” with their respective coins.

The big question, right now, is which of these two blockchains would be considered the “real” Bitcoin, with the currency ticker “BTC.” Since no single individual or entity is really in charge of this decision, Bitcoin exchanges play a major role: they list the currencies that are traded under specific names.

To find out which coin is likely to earn the ticker “BTC,” here’s an overview of the 20 largest Bitcoin exchanges based on trading volume according to data from Bitcoinity, and their stance on this naming issue.

1. Bitfinex: original chain is “BTC”, SegWit2x chain is “B2X”

Hong Kong–based cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex is the largest Bitcoin exchange in the world by trading volume.

Interestingly, Bitfinex also offers a futures exchange, on which claims on the future versions of the coins on both chains are already traded. These futures are currently labeled as “BT1” for coins on the original chain, and “BT2” for coins on the SegWit2x chain.

In Bitfinex’s announcement of these futures, published on October 5, as well as the accompanying terms and conditions, the exchange also reveals that “the order books for the BT2 trading pairs will become the order books for the B2X pairs.” Meanwhile, the BT1 futures will be settled into BTC.

In other words, the coins on the original chain will be listed as “BTC”, while the coins on the SegWit2x chain will be called “B2X.”

2. BitMEX: original chain is “BTC”

BitMEX, a cryptocurrency exchange officially based in the Republic of Seychelles, is the second-largest Bitcoin exchange in the world based on trading volume.

In a blog post published on October 13, BitMEX announced it would continue to list coins on the original chain as “BTC.”

Moreover, because SegWit2x will not implement strong replay protection, BitMEX will not list coins on the SegWit2x chain at all, nor offer any other type of support.

3. Bitstamp: unknown

Bitstamp, which is officially based in the United Kingdom but operates from several European countries, has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork. The exchange also did not respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitstamp did sign a hard fork statement insisting on consensus and strong replay protection for hard forks earlier this year, though that statement referred to a potential Bitcoin Unlimited hard fork — not SegWit2x.

4. GDAX: hash power decides which chain is “BTC”

U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange GDAX is effectively the exchange-arm of Coinbase. And Coinbase is a signatory of the New York Agreement.

Regardless, it’s not certain that Coinbase (and therefore probably also GDAX) will list coins on the SegWit2x chain as “BTC.” In fact, the company could well list the coins on the original chain as “BTC” — but public statements have been somewhat contradictory.

The company initially put out a statement saying that the coins on the original chain would be listed as “BTC,” and the coins on the SegWit2x chain as “B2X.” However, this initial statement was effectively withdrawn the very next day, as the company put out a new statement “clarifying” that Coinbase will actually list the coins with the most accumulated hash power backing it as “BTC.” And on Twitter, company CEO Brian Armstrong suggested that it’s not just hash power but also market cap that will decide which coin will be listed as “BTC.”

5. bitFlyer: unknown

bitFlyer is the biggest Bitcoin exchange in Japan.

bitFlyer is also a signatory of the New York Agreement in support of the SegWit2x hard fork, which suggests that the exchange will at least support the coin on the SegWit2x chain. bitFlyer has not yet made any public statements concerning the naming of the coin(s), however, and did not respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine.

6. Kraken: unknown

U.S.-based Bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange Kraken has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork, either.

In response to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine, the exchange also refrained from commenting on the naming issue and instead stated:

“Kraken makes no promises/guarantees/warranties on the outcome of the fork. We will make our best effort to handle things in a way that benefits the most clients, but clients should manage their own wallets/coins if they want perfect control.”

7. HitBTC: original chain is “BTC”, SegWit2x chain is “B2X”

Like Bitfinex, cryptocurrency exchange HitBTC is already offering a futures market where the two future coins are traded.

And in an announcement published on October 17, the exchange said it will list the coins on the SegWit2x chain as “B2X.” The coins on the original chain will continue to be listed as “BTC.”

However, HitBTC does note that the “Bitcoin community might encourage ‘BTC’ title being relocated to the SegWit2x token.” They added: “Whatever happens, we will proceed with the decision that will be the most convenient for our traders.”

8. Bitcoin.de: unknown

The German Bitcoin exchange bitcoin.de has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork. The exchange also did not respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine.

9. CoinsBank (formerly known as BIT-X): original chain is “BTC”

United Kingdom–based cryptocurrency exchange CoinsBank (formerly known as BIT-X) has not made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork.

In response to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine, however, the exchange indicated that it will list coins on the original chain as “BTC” and will not support the SegWit2x chain.

They stated:

“We inform you that we are proponents of the BTC core and not planning to support other branches.”

10. CEX.IO: original chain is “BTC”, SegWit2x chain is “B2X”

United Kingdom–based Bitcoin exchange CEX.IO will list coins on both chains. In a blog post published on October 20, the exchange announced it will list the coins on the SegWit2x chain as “B2X.” It also states in the announcement that coins on the original chain will continue to be listed as “BTC.”

11. itBit: unknown

U.S.-based Bitcoin exchange itBit has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork. The exchange also did not respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine.

12. Gemini: hash power decides which chain is “BTC”

In an October 24 blog post written by Cameron Winklevoss, one Gemini’s founders, the U.S.-based Bitcoin exchange explained that it “will be measuring total cumulative computational difficulty of the blockchain to determine what we will call Bitcoin and BTC and on the Gemini platform.”

In other words, Gemini will give the name “BTC” to the coin that has the most hash power attributed to it.

It may also list the coin that does not attract the majority of total hash power, but the exchange has not given any guarantees yet, nor did it mention a name for this coin.

13. Coinfloor: unknown

U.K.-based Bitcoin exchange Coinfloor has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork. The exchange also did not respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine.

Coinfloor did sign the hard fork statement insisting on consensus and strong replay protection for hard forks, which originally referred to the potential Bitcoin Unlimited hard fork.

14. BTCC: unknown

Like Bitfinex and HitBTC, Hong Kong–based Bitcoin exchange BTCC is already offering a futures market where the two future coins are traded. These coins are currently referred to as “1MB” for the coin on the original chain, and “2MB” for the coin on the SegWit2x chain.

However, as opposed to Bitfinex and HitBTC, BTCC has not announced what it will call the two coins after the split has occurred. The exchange also did not immediately respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine.

15. BitMarket: unknown

Polish Bitcoin exchange BitMarket has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork.

The exchange did respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine, but it did not reveal which coin will be listed under what name or ticker.

Instead, a BitMarket representative stated:

“We reserve the right to decide whether to support or not [the] given fork of the Bitcoin. Our decision will depend on the stability of the fork’s network and what issues it may cause in the future.”

16. QuadrigaCX: unknown

Canadian Bitcoin exchange QuadrigaCX has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork. The exchange also did not respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine.

QuadrigaCX did sign the hard fork statement insisting on consensus and strong replay protection for hard forks, originally referring to the potential Bitcoin Unlimited hard fork.

17. Mercado Bitcoin: original chain is “BTC”

Brazilian Bitcoin exchange Mercado Bitcoin recently signed a statement on behalf of the Brazilian and Argentinian Bitcoin communities in opposition of SegWit2x.

When asked by Bitcoin Magazine, the exchange further explained that it may or may not list the coins on the SegWit2x chain, which will in part depend on whether or not the SegWit2x chain implements strong replay protection. (This currently seems very unlikely.)

If Mercado Bitcoin does list this coin, it will use the ticker “B2X” because “the market is converging to this ticker.” They added: “We also tend to consider the Core version the legitimate one.”

18. Bitso: unknown

Mexican Bitcoin exchange Bitso is a signatory of the New York Agreement in support of the SegWit2x fork. The company has since also confirmed that it will support coins on both chains — even though it did sign the Bitcoin Unlimited–inspired hard fork statement insisting on consensus and strong replay protection for hard forks.

Regarding names and tickers, a Bitso representative told Bitcoin Magazine:

“We have not yet decided on ticker names but hope to make an official statement soon.”

19. The Rock Trading: original chain is “BTC”

Malta-based Bitcoin exchange The Rock Trading has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork. It did, however, sign the Bitcoin Unlimited–inspired hard fork statement insisting on consensus and strong replay protection for hard forks.

And, when asked by Bitcoin Magazine, The Rock Trading CTO Davide “Paci Barbarossa” Barbieri said the exchange will list the coins on the SegWit2x chain as “B2X” — if the exchange lists that coin at all.

Said Barbieri:

“As stated publicly, we are generally against any hard forks; we do not currently guarantee that we will handle SegWit2x, or that we will list it; as far as I know replay protection is still a concern.”
And: “If we do [list the coin on the SegWit2x chain] we will probably call it B2X or something like it.”

20. EXMO: unknown

U.K.-based cryptocurrency exchange EXMO has not yet made any public statements concerning the SegWit2x fork. The exchange also did not respond to inquiries from Bitcoin Magazine.

This article will be updated as the news develops. Did I miss anything? Feel free to let me know at aaron@bitcoinmagazine.com.

The post To B2X or Not to B2X: How Exchanges Will List the SegWit2x Coin appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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