Bitcoin, Don’t ReHash Old History

Hard fork — the two words you need to start an on-going, industry-wide debate in cryptocurrency.

Most of the time, the debate surrounds the history of Ethereum, and its old, but still contested, decision to hard fork in order to prevent the succession of a hack.

However, due to recent statements by currency exchanges, the possibility of a hard fork of the bitcoin blockchain–which would split the chain into two groups, one that would be known as Bitcoin Core, the other as Bitcoin Unlimited–has been furiously debated by the community over the past week:

The debate originated when 20 cryptocurrency exchanges released a plan to list Bitcoin Unlimited as an “alternative currency,” just in case the bitcoin chain splits, which these exchanges believe is likely to happen.

As a result of this growing assumption, several companies, such as Coinbase and Circle (which were not one of the 20 exchanges on the plan) issued letters to users, citing the necessary steps to take should the fork go forward.

This is tricky: while Ethereum users have cultivated an attitude towards hard forks, where those are treated more as a technical option for fixing problems, bitcoiners have not.

In fact, a lot of bitcoin users have retained the viewpoint, which was expressed by many during the time of the Ethereum DAO hack: hard forks are anathema to everything blockchain stands for.

However, as one can see in the responses to the tweet above, it’s not always the user’s decision:

Avoiding the word fork, the real worry is going to be choosing between Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin Unlimited, cryptocurrency trader Jacob Eliosoff told Bank Innovation:

What people fear here is a much more serious “split” – the blockchain permanently forking into two separate ledgers, like parallel universes.  So, after a split, if I send you some bitcoins, you may get them on one chain (branch) but not on the other: we have to track which chain we mean.  And which is the “real” Bitcoin?  It would be a huge mess.  But it’s a Cuban Missile Crisis vibe, no one knows how to head off the collision.

I would say the big picture is that it’s a breakdown in the community, a schism between (mostly) devs and miners that’s already wasted enormous energy, and now puts Bitcoin at significant risk of being left behind by competitors better able to “row together.”

Currently, there is no definitive answer as to whether bitcoin will hard fork in this sense, but the industry seems to be leaning towards the probability that it will.

The price of bitcoin is down about 8%, according to Coindesk data, though it is keeping above the $1,000 mark — at $1,021 — as of the time of this reporting.

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