There’s been a lot of discussions in the cryptocurrency space about alternative implementations of the Bitcoin client. Just recently Bitcoin.com reported that Bitpay announced it was gearing up to test the alternative client Bcoin’s Extension Blocks by partnering with the bitcoin-based startup Purse. Now three more digital currency companies are supporting Bcoin’s “To the Moon” proposal.
More Companies Join the ‘To the Moon’ Proposal
Three more bitcoin-focused firms are supporting the idea of Bcoin’s Extension Block (E-block) proposal for testing and research. This includes startups such as Openbazaar’s OB1, the bitcoin-centric social media network Yours, and the wallet service Ripio. Bitpay, Bitcore, and Purse also support the proposal but have been involved since E-blocks were introduced a few weeks ago. The E-blocks code is open source and establishes the idea that the 1MB block size cap can be solved by utilizing an “auxiliary block” soft fork. Since the concept was unveiled the E-block protocol was deemed controversial to some supporters of Segwit and the current reference implementation Core.
Alternative Clients Viewed as Controversial
Many developers disagree with multi-implementations of Bitcoin and have stated their reasons over the years. Even Bitcoin’s creator stated back in 2010 that he didn’t believe in alternative Bitcoin clients.
“I don’t believe a second, compatible implementation of Bitcoin will ever be a good idea. So much of the design depends on all nodes getting exactly identical results in lockstep that a second implementation would be a menace to the network,” explains Satoshi Nakamoto on the Bitcointalk forum.
Other bitcoin developers such as Peter Todd have publicly disclosed that they disagree with multi-implementations. Just recently Todd told his Twitter followers that the Rust client Parity Bitcoin is a reminder that “multiple implementations make consensus protocols less reliable, not more.” Todd also refers to a post he wrote in 2016 about the subject and the developer has also stated years prior that he doesn’t agree with alternative clients.
Another View of Multi-Implementations
There are plenty of developers that think alternative Bitcoin clients are good for decentralization and believe protocol issues can arise with just one reference implementation. Many multi-implementation supporters believe the Bitcoin software should follow the path of the Linux kernel evolution where there are various types of clients. Just recently the head of design at Bitpay, Jason Dreyzehner wrote a detailed blog post showing the positives of multi-implementations.
In an editorial called “Defensive Consensus: Getting to a Multi-Implementation Bitcoin Network” Dreyzehner explains that multiple clients could be helpful to people. Essentially, the post describes how only one reference client can suffer from issues like bugs that can appear in the future, and attacks from malicious actors. Furthermore, he states that bitcoin’s “software monoculture” can lead to “politicizing software development, it adds software integration overhead, and raises the stakes of making changes.” Dreyzehner says that ‘Defensive Consensus’ could shield the network from these problems or faults found in the original C++ client.
“Defensive Consensus allows alternative implementations to shield the network from implementation faults in the C++ implementation,” explains Bitpay’s Dreyzehner.
This could allow us to safely re-enable Bitcoin Script’s disabled opcodes and loosen standard transactions. — Finally, Defensive Consensus provides a roadmap for new implementations to be elevated to the same reliability guarantees as Bitcoin Core.
The Extension Block Concept: ‘A Transparent Community Process’
Bitpay, Yours, OB1, Purse, and Ripio are showing they agree with the multi-implementations and the possibility of E-blocks being a scaling solution. It seems they want other businesses to get involved in supporting the E-block concept as well. Purse CEO Andrew Lee explains when he first announced the E-blocks proposal, “the proposal is a transparent community process with Bitcoin ecosystem stakeholder participation, including users, miners, and the economic industry,”
Just as Dreyzehner concludes in his blog post, “If these ideas interest you, take a look at the Bcoin and Bitcore projects.” Dreyzehner has also followed up with a second research paper on the subject called “Defensive Consensus: a Concrete Example” which aims clarify his viewpoint of bitcoin multi-implementation and the possibility of blockchain forks.
The past few months have shown quite a few bitcoin proponents and crypto-focused businesses seem to be opening up to newly proposed alternative client ideas.
What do you think about the extension block scaling proposal? Do you agree with alternative Bitcoin implementations? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Images via Shutterstock, Twitter, Bitpay, and the “To the Moon” website.
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