New Bitcoin Governance BIP Causes Twitter Controversy

It looks like we have another social media tussle on our hands right now. Bitcoin developer Luke Dashjr has introduced a new BIP. That is nothing unusual, as there are many improvements to be made where Bitcoin is concerned. However, this particular proposal seemingly uses the governance layer found in the Decred altcoin. An interesting way to go about things, although it raises a lot of eyebrows.

Many people seemingly agree useful altcoin features may find their way to Bitcoin at some point. This is part of the reason why some people feel altcoins have a lot of merit. Bitcoin can use quite a few improvements, that much is evident. If an altcoin comes up with a new feature, it can be modified to become a part of the Bitcoin protocol. However, a recent BIP by Bitcoin developer Luke Dashjr has people up in arms right now.

Governance and Bitcoin Is A Touchy Subject

It appears this BIP in question “clones” the governance layer found in the Decred altcoin. Interestingly enough, Luke Dashjr feels any correlation with the Decred source code is a mere coincidence. In fact, he claims several developers have been looking at introducing a similar BIP over the past few years. One could also argue how every alternative cryptocurrency in existence right now copies Bitcoin, although that is a different conversation altogether.

Introducing a governance layer in Bitcoin would be quite a significant feat, though. Doing so would require a soft fork of the code, assuming it will ever become a part of Bitcoin. The BIP focuses on a new opcode for the Bitcoin scripting system. As a result, transactions can be constructed which are valid only within blocks signaling for or against arbitrary network upgrades. It is an interesting BIP to keep an eye on, that much is certain.

Some users on Twitter are pointing out the irony of this BIP, though. An earlier tweet by Luke Dashjr mentions how governance is nothing but a threat to Bitcoin. Any attempts to govern Bitcoin are an issue, in his opinion. It is important to note said statement is part of a block size debate taking place on Twitter earlier this year. Rest assured it is not the last we will have heard regarding this BIP and governance in Bitcoin.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Bitcoin Core has published an FAQ section regarding the most recent Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP), we are talking about the BIP 152 named Compact Block Relay, the upgrade is poised to reduce the bandwidth and the time it takes for a block to propagate through the nodes across Bitcoin’s network.

The upgrade contains several techniques to decrease a block’s propagation time across the network. The general idea is to take advantage of the fact that full nodes have similar data in their memory pools, thus, a node can only send a sketch of the block to their peers, which will then recreate it, this will save bandwidth as the full block doesn’t have to be transferred.

The block sketch will contain an 80-byte header of the new block, shortened transaction identifiers, and it may also send some other transactions ID which the sending peer predicts the receiving peer doesn’t have yet.

Bitcoin’s core team said in the BIP152’s FAQ:

The advantage of this approach is that transactions only need to be sent once in the best case —when they are originally broadcast—providing a large reduction in overall bandwidth.

Benchmarks of the Upgrade

The upgrade also has a new feature called high bandwidth mode, in which nodes can request the same block to multiple peers in the network to decrease latency, at the expense of a slightly higher bandwidth usage.

Benchmarks of this new method exhibited that a typical 1MB full block containing 2,500 transactions can be relayed with only 15KB of data, and 86% of those blocks will propagate immediately without needing a second request for any other missing transactions.

Bitcoin Core team said that this new Bitcoin Improvement Proposal will benefit the network as a whole:

Decreasing block propagation times on the p2p network creates a healthier network with a better baseline relay security margin.

BIP152 has already a working implementation, and its currently being tested by the developer community. Future plans to improve BIP152 may include the replacement of TCP protocol with UDP transmission, and using an error correction mechanism to handle dropped packets. All in all, these improvements are always welcomed, as they will help Bitcoin to be more robust.

Source: Bitcoin Core

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Over the past two years, a number of Bitcoin Improvement Proposals have been put forth by various members of the Bitcoin community. These proposals call for the block size to be increased from anywhere between 1 MB and 32 MB. Each of these proposals have received their fair share of opposition, some more than others. Some of the proposals so far include

  • BIP 100 proposed by Jeff Garzik, a Bitcoin Core developer suggests an increase in the range between existing 1MB to 32MB depending upon the miners’ vote.
  • BIP 101 is also known as Bitcoin XT proposed by Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn. The proposal suggested the block size be increased from existing 1 MB to 8 MB, followed by addition increase of 8 MB every two years.
  • BIP 102 proposed doubling of the current block size from 1 MB to 2 MB. Jeff Garzik was behind this proposal as well.
  • BIP 103 was proposed by Pieter Wuille. It suggests for the block size to be incrementally increased by 17.7 percent every year for the next 47 years. All these proposals were either shot down or not taken seriously until few developers came together to introduce Bitcoin Classic. Bitcoin Classic proposes the block size to be increased by 1 MB. It has gained a lot of traction since then, with many bitcoin companies and industry leaders supporting it.

Any proposal to implement changes in the Bitcoin network is usually introduced by the Bitcoin Core developer community. But the fate of these proposal lies in the hands of the whole community, or at least a significant portion of the community. The proposals cannot be implemented without the consensus of miners.

It is hard to satisfy all members of the community as they all have their own interests to serve. For any successful proposal, the developer or a group of developers introducing it should think through various subjective aspects. Some of those subjective aspects are clearly mentioned by Elliot Olds in one of his recent blog.

It Takes More than a Developer to Introduce the Right BIP

Bitcoin Core developers may be good at developing the technological part of the digital currency. However. some of the decisions to be made when it comes to real world feasibility and adoption can’t be completely understood by using technology. For example, factors like the appropriate cost of setting up a full node, the social aspects of the digital currency and how the digital currency is used and so on. For the Bitcoin community to grow and for more people to start using bitcoin while ensuring the longevity of Bitcoin network, the digital currency needs more than the developers.

The success and failure of Bitcoin as a currency depends upon how well it addresses the concerns various people might have. Developing the right roadmap for Bitcoin development and maintenance requires additional expertise in economics, human psychology and ethics. In the absence of such expertise, developers and any untrained individuals may create a biased roadmap. Such roadmaps or proposals are met with opposition ( e.g. proposals to increase block size) by those who might have a different view of things. This will continue to be a challenge in a decentralized democratic system. The best way to avoid such scenario is by requesting inputs from all the stakeholders and then framing a proposal that addresses concerns of all stakeholders. It will avoid debates and help reach consensus sooner.

Ref: Bitcoin Wiki | The Bitcoin block size debate is not just about technical expertise