The Scaling Bitcoin Workshop Hong Kong Wrap-Up

The Scaling Bitcoin Workshop Hong Kong Wrap-Up

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December 5-6, 2015 The second Scaling Bitcoin workshop took place in Hong Kong for two days with many industry leaders and core developers within the Bitcoin space. Most of the discussions revolved around the consensus of the Bitcoin block size debate. Innovators and developers such as Jeff Garzik, Peter Todd, Adam Back and Pieter Wuille gave insight to the crowd with a range of topics. One interesting part of the event was the mining panel that featured seven of the top contenders within the mining industry.

“Bringing everyone together in a face to face environment certainly helps people understand each other better.” 

Roger Ver, Bitcoin Angel Investor

Also read: What can Fallout 4 Teach us About Bitcoin?

DAY ONE:

logo-text-1016x200Beginning on day one of Scaling Bitcoin, Adam Back from Blockstream spoke to the crowd about scaling the network and the importance of the fungibility discussion. He opens the discussion by talking about the digital currency’s interchangeable attributes and weaknesses saying, “I think everyone knows what fungibility is, it’s when coins are equal and interchangeable. It’s an important property for an electronic cash system. All bitcoin users will have a problem if fungibility goes away.” From there he delves into different methods of privacy such as CoinJoin and Zerocash implementations. Back believes fungibility “is very important and a very core part of Bitcoin, so I think we do have to do some work on fungibility in bitcoin.”  The Blockstream President concludes his presentation and answers a few questions concerning BIP proposals and his ideas on how to improve Bitcoin’s cash-like qualities.

The second speaker following Back presented a topic on zero knowledge proofs for scalability. Madars Virza gave attendees a glimpse into his topic called “Zero-knowledge proofs for Bitcoin scalability and beyond” Beginning his discussion he lets the crowd know that he will give them a basic understanding of the subject then continues by saying, “then I will try to convince you that if you care about Bitcoin scalability, then you should care about zero-knowledge proofs, and you should keep them on your radar.”

debateTwo other topics during the first day that seemed to peak the attendees interests were presented by Peter Todd and questions with the Mining Panel. Peter Todd’s discussion raised a few eyebrows with his clarity on the let’s just “wait” method. Todd emphasizes to let time take its course and maybe implement very small code changes over time. Todd asks the question, In adversarial environments, I can’t scale this by splitting this up. We need better technology. What solutions do we have?” One of the choices Todd thinks is a great example is the lightning network. The developer is fairly positive about the concepts saying, “Lightning is a great example of a system that helps scalability by limiting the trust you are involved with. The lightning system, if I am going to send money through another node, yes there’s trust involved, but it’s piecewise trust, if it’s broken then I wait for timeouts to trigger and get my money back. The whole system isn’t “infected” by these mistakes. Mistakes don’t build on each other. You can always verify the consensus blockchain.”

Lastly, the mining panel caused quite the stir throughout the day as it represented nearly 80% of the hashing power within the Bitcoin Network. KnCMiner’s Sam Cole, BitFury’s Alex Petrov, Avalon’s Liu Xiang Fu, F2Pool’s Wang Chun, BW’s Robin Yao, Bitmain’s Pan Zhibiao, and FinalHash’s Marshall Long all took the stage to chat about BIP certain BIP proposals, mining pools, and their judgments concerning the scalability discussion. Miners represent a very large vote concerning the Bitcoin block size debate and in some respects the decision may rest with these groups after the community comes to some form of consensus. Topics included the BIP proposals 100, 101 but the industry leaders all conveyed they would like to achieve consensus shortly by the community.

roger1Roger Ver, who attended the event, spoke with us about the conference in Hong Kong. Ver was pleased with everybody getting together to chat about the scaling discussion. He said, “Bringing everyone together in a face to face environment certainly helps people understand each other better. It is important to keep in mind is that we won’t be able to find a path to move ahead until we define our end goal. Our methods to scale bitcoin may be different if our goal is more transactions per second, or more decentralization, or faster confirmation times, or more redundancy. Until we define the goal, it will be near impossible to find a solution to make everyone happy.” We asked him what proposal he was favorably leaning towards, and he said, “These decisions need to be made by the engineers once they know what the goal is.  My own personal goals are scaling the amount of people who can use bitcoin, increasing privacy and fungibility, while resisting censorship and control by governments. Any solution(s) that can meet those goals sounds great to me, and bigger blocks does seem to be a part of that. I think the biggest news to come out of the conference is that miners representing over 90% of the hashing power on the network all agreed that the block size needs to be increased. The only question is how much, but last I heard, they seem to be coalescing around 2MB. They also asked the devs to make the decisions, write the code, so they can run it.”  

DAY TWO:

shutterstock_145511296-600x370The second day incorporated even more talk about the scalability issue in different ways. Pieter Wuille another core developer and Blockstream employee discussed the “segregated witness” concept. The idea if deployed could act as a “witness” to signature transactions within the network. Which he says “it’s important to realize here that signatures are really only needed for fully-validating nodes.” Wuille continues “This is a far more scalable full-node or partial-full-node model that we could evolve to. It’s a security tradeoff. It’s certainly not one that everyone would want to make, but it doesn’t affect those who wouldn’t want that.

“Perhaps we will end up in a future where there is less demand for getting everything on the blockchain.”

Pieter Wuille, Bitcoin Core Developer

8a915c3bef46b68d87ca1b30b97f378eOne of the last presenters to discuss scalability proposals was Jeff Garzik, another contributor to the core development of Bitcoin’s source code. Garzik spoke on topics such as BIP101, BIP103BIP106 and some focus on his proposal BIP100. These proposals have led to some heated debates and should be decided on by the community at large Garzik believes, so he chose to speak on all the BIP ideas through his presentation. He says, “we’re going to be talking about every single block size proposal. This is going to be the least technical presentation at the conference. I am not going to go into the proposals themselves. Changing the block size itself is pretty simple. You change a constant. It’s more a discussion of algorithms, roll-out, etc.” Garzik gives the basics of each outlined proposal and his interpretation of them. He believes that they are making “positive strides” within the consensus debate and have been “kicking the can down the road.” He concludes the discussion with, “the difficulty is finding an algorithm that cannot be gamed, cannot be bought, and is sensitive to miners. You can get 2 out of 3 but not all 3.”

Many in attendance seemed to be pleased with the discussions at hand. Developers will continue to convene on these topics in Hong Kong over the next two days and surely throughout the next few months. Bitcoin.com will keep our readers informed on any upcoming developments, ideas or consensus agreements concerning this topical issue. The Scaling Workshop in Hong Kong seemed to be successful at bringing developers and industry leaders together once again to hash out the digital currency’s future.

What do you think about the past two scaling conferences? Let us know in the comments below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Scaling Bitcoin Hong Kong, and guests