The Bitcoin Core won the war - so why is someone still fighting it?

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Steve Sokolowski
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Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 3:27 pm
Location: State College, PA

The Bitcoin Core won the war - so why is someone still fighting it?

Post by Steve Sokolowski » Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:04 am

For half a decade, there has been endless debate on the appropriate block size for bitcoin. The debate has resulted in twitter wars, forks, and even legal challenges. The majority of the online discussion has not been about which solution is best but has focused on personal attacks against those involved.

What's weird about it all is not the controversy, but that it's still going on five years later. On November 15, 2017, Bitcoin Cash finally forked from Bitcoin, and to reasonable people, that should have been the end of it. There are four major bitcoin forks with a price above $25, all of which have different development philosophies, and one or more of which satisfies the needs of almost everyone involved in the debate. So why is it that, two years after the issue was settled, some Bitcoin Core supporters are still carrying on an endless war? In particular, why they still hiring trolls to spread false information and dominate discussion, when they arguably are the ones who won the war?

I posted this article to multiple social media accounts, and I expect that the reaction to it will be the same as it is to almost every article I write. At first, there will be a few on-topic comments that closely relate to what is written here. About an hour or so later, trolls will appear at unmoderated forums and at forums where the moderators are corrupt, and will start making false claims about me or about what I said. For some reason, one of their most popular claims is that they lost money because I predicted way back in 2014 the next bubble would occur in August - despite there being another post in late July where I warned that something had caused prices to stall and it was time to get out.

I used this example because the criticisms the trolls post are almost always not relevant to the facts presented in the article being discussed. The replies require excruciating investigation about irrelevant topics. There are people I disagree with, but I can't ever recall searching through years of posts not only to find something that is negative, but also to understand the context from other posts so that what I say can be twisted in my favor. Most people don't hold grudges for five years about someone on the Internet who they've never even met or communicated with personally.

I'm not the only person targeted by this effort, nor am I even a tiny part of the war. Big names like Roger Ver, Jihan Wu, Gregory Maxwell, and Craig Wright continually argue and sometimes even issue threats about things that happened years ago. The reddit subreddits that were censored by Michael Marquadt in 2015 remain so years later, with the moderators continuing to actively remove posts from and ban users who propose changes to Bitcoin's protocol. The forums regularly see posts disappear at the whims of the moderators. It's as if these forums are frozen in time, unable to move despite everything that's happened in the past two years.

I wasn't able to make sense of this situation - until I recently came across ... cy-theory/. In this article, the author presents a compelling argument that the Lightning Network was originally proposed by criminals who wanted to hide their transactions from governments. The theory is that because the Lightning Network brings transactions off-chain, there is no permanent record of where money goes once it goes into the Network after a node goes offline. In some ways, the Lightning Network can be thought of as a sort of new Tor network, where data moves from one node to another so that it's difficult to figure out where the original transaction came from. Drug dealers and worse criminals would prefer such a system to Bitcoin Cash, which permanently and publicly stores all of its transactions on the blockchain.

While the article is based largely on circumstantial evidence and is not proof, I thought that it's worth discussing because there are other issues the article does not bring up that support its conclusions. For example, it's clear that while there are criminals involved on both sides (Roger Ver, one of Bitcoin Cash's masterminds, sold explosives online), there is a far more organized and concerted effort to use lies and criminal activities from the Bitcoin Core side of the debate. For example, whatever the advantages or disadvantages of their proposals, Core supporters are more likely censor discussion than supporters of the other forks are. Core supporters have engaged in large-scale DDoS attacks against BIP101 and Bitcoin ABC nodes, while there have been no similar attacks from Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, or Bitcoin SV supporters.

The explanation also offers an explanation for one of the biggest mysteries with the Lightning Network - why many proponents completely wave off the money transmission licensing issue. Running a Lightning network node is almost certainly requires a money transmission license. Unlike a standard bitcoin node, which never receives money in its wallet, a Lightning node receives money from one person, and transmits money to a different person - the definition of the law. There is no provision in the regulations for money transmission about whether the person who holds the money needs to have control of it, only that the money is received and transmitted. If it turns out that the most vocal supporters of the Lightning Network are criminals, they would not care about money transmission and the honest, ethical supporters of the network would be a few lone voices who are drowned out.

The problem for whoever is aggressively pushing the Network is that the Lightning Network was (and still is) unlikely to be successful on its merits. It's more difficult to set up, understand, and use than Bitcoin Cash is. It's a completely different paradigm for development that requires paying salaries to implement and test. It still costs a lot to open a channel. The money transmission issue has given businesses pause - even if the government turns out to see the network favorably, nobody wants to spend millions of dollars in litigation to be the test case on it. The limitations are borne out by the evidence - it's becoming clear that the Lightning Network is not only failing to gain traction, but is regressing on most metrics. For example, as shown at, the number of channels and the amount of money locked up in the network peaked several months ago and has been declining since.

If Lightning adoption is indeed limited by the facts above, the underground elements have no choice but to resort to these underhanded tactics in the present to push the network. For example, the 1MB blocksize limit will never be big enough for Lightning even if Lightning becomes only moderately successful. The low limit is the only way to get people to take Lightning seriously by forcing a crisis. While I can see an argument for keeping blocks reasonably small, it already costs about $800 to run an ETH node, and ETH functions just fine despite this cost and despite disk space requirements four times larger. By seizing control of most of the bitcoin-related forums, whoever is pushing so hard for the Lightning Network has created a sort of alternative reality where many users never learn of the shortcomings of bitcoin.

On the other hand, it's worth noting that the people interviewed in that article are not the highest-quality academics. Craig Wright serves as a primary source, even though he has been in court for years, involved in controversial document filings in multiple lawsuits. Whether Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto or not, he obviously doesn't live up to the ideal that many people believe Satoshi stands for. Having lied before about his [CENSORED] credentials, Wright's testimony on anything is untrustworthy. It's also worth pointing out the obvious fact that Monero serves as a better substitute for hiding drug transactions than does the Lightning Network, and it already exists (though it did not at the time the original proposal for the network came about.) Furthermore, there is no evidence to support the article's assertion that transaction fees increased due to a deliberate "attack" in December 2017, rather than an expected increase in fees due to high usage of the limited chain space.

In conclusion, maybe after all this time, the illogical behavior of the blocksize war has simply been a battle of "good vs. evil." After the government shut down the first darknet markets, criminals decided that they needed to take action to try to hide their financial activities. They seized upon the Lightning Network, which was likely originally proposed by honest, ethical people, because it could hide their illicit transactions. They used their money to pay off forum administrators to censor content, to hire low-paid workers in Asia to post negative comments about their opponents, and to create conferences to boost their agenda. On the other hand, BIP101 didn't have any such funding behind it to create competing forums. Others chose not to get involved to write a technical solution because nobody was willing to be the leader. I, for example, did write some code that I decided to abandon when Gavin Andresen quit, because I recognized that the only way to get it adopted would be to push to be the leader of the new "core," a position that would suck up all my time and which paid considerably less than running a mining pool.

It is wrong to suggest that there are no good people involved in the Core or in the Lightning Network. There are honest and ethical people who truly believe in what the Lightning Network can provide and who are working hard on what they believe is the best solution. That said, I think it's time to question why there are negative elements associated with the Core who continue to fight a war that has been over for two years. If the goal of those people was to ensure criminal activity can be hidden, then their goal wasn't to force bitcoin to use the Lightning Network because they wanted to take over bitcoin with what they thought was the best solution. The actual goal is ensure that no transparent blockchain becomes dominant, which would explain why the trolls continue to target Bitcoin Cash and other coins years after most people consider the debate resolved.


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