Chinese Miners Worried About a User-Activated Fork Propose Synthetic Fork

This past week a new idea has been brought to the table concerning the block size debate. Over the past few months, Segregated Witness (Segwit), a proposal that requires 95 percent of miner support, has been stagnant – barely reaching a quarter of the threshold. Now a pseudonym dubbed “shaolinfry” has introduced another method to activate without miner approval. However, the procedure is controversial to certain figures within the bitcoin community.

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User-Activated Soft Fork

Chinese Miners Worried About a User-Activated Fork Propose Synthetic ForkLast week the pseudonym shaolinfry revealed an idea called “moving towards user-activated soft fork activation” on the Bitcoin developers’ mailing list. The author of this concept believes putting proposals like Segwit in the hands of a majority hashpower vote comes with various issues. Shaolinfry says the current problems with miner activation are both political and technical, by placing the voting power into the hands of the miners. “[The] problem with supermajority hash power signaling is it draws unnecessary attention to miners which can become unnecessarily political,” explains the pseudonym’s proposal. The solution shaolinfry reveals is a user-activated soft fork (UASF) which has also been called “flag day activation” or “emergent consensus.”   

“The alternative discussed here is “flag day activation” where nodes begin enforcement at a predetermined time in the future,” explains shaolinfry. “This method needs a longer lead time than a hash power based activation trigger, but offers a number of advantages and perhaps provides a better tradeoff. — A user activated soft fork is permissive. Miners do not have to produce new version blocks, and non-upgraded miners’ blocks will not be orphaned as was the case with IsSuperMajority soft forks (e.g. BIP34, BIP66, BIP65-CLTV) which made it a compulsory upgrade for miners.”

Since the idea was proposed the topic has been discussed heavily over the course of the week across social media and Bitcoin forums. Segwit supporters have begun to favor the idea, while other Bitcoin proponents think UASF is not a good idea.

Chinese Mining Company Executive Believes UASF Could Split Bitcoin

The founder of the bitcoin mining company Bitmain, Jihan Wu has taken issue with the push for a UASF plan. Speaking to other Chinese miners, Wu explains a proposal that pushes through without hashrate support will be destined to cause a chain split like the Ethereum blockchain this past summer.  

“Core is promoting so-called “user-activated soft fork” (UASF). If this proposal is successfully pushed through without the support from the majority of hashrate, a split in Bitcoin blockchain will be inevitable,” details Jihan Wu’s translated statements. “Previously Core has tried to control and split the community, and now they are preparing to split Bitcoin itself with UASF.”

Exchanges are recommended to analyze the situation and grasp the mechanism of polluting UTXO with coinbase transaction and block reward, ASAP, in order to effectively distinguish the technology of different currencies (bitcoins). This is necessary means for the exchanges to effectively prevent potential risks.

A Synthetic Fork?’s correspondent in China says that Chinese miners are also actively discussing ideas of their own. One concept is called a “Synthetic Fork” which loosens the rules of consensus but also claims to prevent a chain split. The idea is to restrict current block size to 0mb and append with an extra block, which is 2mb in size. These appended blocks are only visible to new upgraded nodes while old nodes only see 0mb blocks. So essentially the paper claims there will be no technical debt.

To prevent blockchain split, the majority hashrate (supporting this proposal) will mine some empty blocks to orphan the blocks mined by minority hashrate who did not upgrade. In this way, there will be no “extra” blockchain and no second bitcoin. After a majority of nodes are upgraded, a hardfork commences upgrading to a greater block size.

Whether or not users and miners will proceed with plans such as these is questionable. However, the topics are being debated fervently in the bitcoin communities and seem to be creating some tension once again. It’s safe to say that for the moment in Bitcoin-land there are entirely different visions on how to proceed forward with scaling.

What do you think about UASF? What scaling solutions are you for when it comes to the block size debate? All opinions are welcome. Leave your response in the comment section below.

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  • Patrick Miller

    Very clearly, Bitcoin must assert power back to users if miners will not take action to upgrade the protocol

  • Patrick Miller

    I’m glad we have fee pressure now. It’s finally making miners realize they can no longer sit on sidelines and must participate in the discussion

  • Paul Bond

    How about if the user has a white/black list of miners they are prepared to deal with?

    At least that would be user calculated rather than hash power related. Almost like a Government in why do they exist if not serving the users best interest?

  • sjs

    This action should help the SEC make up it’s mind on the approval of the ETF. The damage is already visible in markets as I type. Thanks for nothing.

    • I am quite sure they have already made their decision, and they would be insane to approve it with these issues going on. Would you, honestly? I am very pro-Bitcoin and I would say no if I was advising them. Bitcoin is a traffic jam as they have dragged on this simple upgrade forever. It is still near the ATH and everyone should be in profits, make your choices.

      • sjs

        I made my choices 4 years ago. This was a unique chance to catch the next wave up. If the ETF is not passed, and I think you are correct, it will be a setback that may take some time to overcome. Will SolidX even continue with their application if the Winkels are rejected? Fake News will have a field day with this and bitcoin detractors will use it for all its worth. Perhaps Roger Ver is correct, divert to Dash. Etherium is also looking better at least to me.

  • vatten

    This article is not correct regarding the synthetic fork, the slides in that link is the simplest version of synthetic fork, e.g. using a soft fork to do a hard fork upgrade, thus totally put the debate of soft vs hard fork to an end.

    But the forking method discussed in the article is an aggressive version of soft fork, e.g. totally change the blockchain data structure, but that kind of enforcement can also be evaded by an intentional hard fork, so it might not worth the effort

  • Lachlan Sean C

    UASF it is, sick of these dickhead miners

    • Steve Paul

      You are free to mine yourself…

  • Dan Bolser

    How big is bitmain? Jihan seems partisan.

    • Tony

      Pretty big. They own the biggest mining pool and are the biggest ASIC manufacturer.

      • Dan Bolser

        So Jihan is a big deal… still, is he ‘Chinese miners’? The title would make you assume that it’s more than just him.

  • Patrick

    it wasn’t put clearly– Is this basically a majority of users running full node wallets switching to this version?