The untold story of Bitcoin’s historic 2017 year-run lies in Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) 148, or User-Activated Soft Fork (UASF).
The year Bitcoin Unlimited died is the same year Bitcoin Cash was born, both bastard children in my opinion, and both unsurprisingly originate from the same main proponents. ASICBoost, Antbleed, Bitmain ring a bell?
The infamous New York Agreement (NYA) was in fact a behind-closed-doors settlement between influential CEOs ‘attempting to resolve’ Bitcoin’s scaling debate.
I remember in the early months of 2017 when Jihan Wu threatened the chance of a hard fork and while such threats seem inconsequential now, the warning was a very, very alarming and eminent threat to the community at large. If you somehow do not know who Mr. Wu is, he is an intelligent and sophisticated entrepreneur who is at the helm of the most powerful BTC mining hardware company.
Price concerns aside, Bitcoin’s ninth year marks a historical one in its young history, pushing the ecosystem to brinksmanship while demonstrating a remarkable resolve after fallout. All this, done in a trustless manner across Earth via the immutable protocol’s consensus-rule governance system with tens of billions of dollars on the line in real time. The most similar analogy relating to humans’ skin in the game and struggle for power with coordinated efforts at scale in real time that I can think of is… war.
Perhaps most importantly, BIP-148 proved once and for all that the hodlers certainly possess protocol-level power in our ecosystem.
//THE WU ILLUSION OF THE BLOCK SIZE DEBATE
Being delusional is worse than being dumb.
Jihan Wu is not delusional nor dumb. Roger Ver is not dumb, but I do believe he was and still is delusional about what Bitcoin ‘should’ be. It is my personal opinion that Wu was the puppet master, orchestrating the strategic Bitcoin Unlimited movement and ultimately, the Bitcoin Cash spin-off. Ver’s emotions run deep, he is as passionate as they come and unfortunately, in my opinion, Jihan fueled Roger’s emotions by making it about the blocks and ‘Satoshi’s vision’, like a puppet master controlling a puppet. Together, they are powerful actors in the mining game.
To give the quick rundown: miners verify transactions by performing proof-of-work while simultaneously protecting the network and in exchange for doing such, they earn BTCs. Miners are the enforcers of a blockchain’s rules, they are not the creators of the rules itself, one of the pivotal checks & balances few digital assets have.
ASICBoost is a patented mining technology that increased the efficiency of Bitcoin miners by approximately 20%. A controversial advantage owned by Bitmain, ASICBoost was rendered pretty much useless upon the Bitcoin protocol enabling Segregated Witness, BIP-141.
The ideological scaling debate was less about Roger Ver’s delusion and more about Jihan Wu’s profit margin and bottom line. Miners are inherently profit-driven, the activation of SegWit was a direct threat to ASICBoost, Bitmain and mining pools commanded by Wu & Ver.
Wu had every financial incentive to block SegWit regardless of his big block or small block beliefs. Jihan Wu and Roger Ver control more or less 30% of Bitcoin’s total hash power and (for now) have a complete monopoly over the best mining hardware available. In order for SegWit activation, 95% of miners needed to agree on such.
This was the stalemate between users and miners and the illusion of big versus small blocks that Wu has successfully portrayed
SegWit provides for “unfairly cheap” transaction costs per Jihan Wu as some miners were refusing to signal.
Without 95% mining consensus, many argued that SegWit activation was a pipe dream.
What was a hodler to do?
//THE FORGOTTEN BITCOIN UNLIMITED & BLOCKED SEGWIT
Bitcoin Unlimited scared the shit out of me.
BU was the Bitcoin Cash before Bitcoin Cash.
BU advocated for bigger blocks and although BU had its own client, BU was not a different chain but a different faction inside of Bitcoin, lingering in crypto longer than I’ve been around.
BU threatened 51% attacks and hard forks.
The ‘scaling and block size debate’ was the kool-aid their followers were drinking.
I am saddened that many of the followers are still under their spell.
Once you comprehend past the block ideology, it is easy to see through their smokescreen. BU had a mere three or four developers working on their software client, Gavin Andresen being one of them. The BU client pathetically crashed several times and proved unfit to secure billions of dollars.
It was never about the blocks and still ain’t about the blocks.
It is about ₿ and control of it.
In the first couple months of 2017, SegWit had already been widely-accepted as the next step towards safely and securely upgrading the Bitcoin protocol by a voluntary soft fork to increase the block size (yes), fix transaction malleability, and allowing the brilliance of layer-2 applications.
Shaolin Fry, one of many Bitcoin developers, introduced BIP-148 in March 2017 on Github as a User-Activated Soft Fork in an effort to force miners to signal for SegWit.
If BIP-148 was left unchecked, blocks that miners mine would be rejected by nodes if those miners did not signal support for SegWit. In essence after August 1st, miners not signaling for SegWit would waste electricity costs and run the risk of being wiped out by mining non-SegWit blocks.
This was an intriguing proposal that heightened tensions between users and miners further.
Block #478,484 was chosen as the target activation block for BIP-148, around August 1st.
Both sides were now threatening a chain split as UASF quickly gained popularity to coerce miners into activating SegWit.
//THE CORPORATE NEW YORK AGREEMENT & BAFFLING S2X
By May 2017, the blockade of SegWit reached the seventeenth month of postponement.
At a popular conference, over fifty businesses in this space came to their own compromise of lowering the SegWit activation threshold from 95% to 80% in exchange for a hard fork to double the block size at a later date. This settlement came two months after BIP-148 was introduced as a user power-play.
The reason why a hard fork to double the megabyte was so scrutinized was because the code didn’t exist yet and the S2X proponents had a mere six months to develop it. Relatively speaking, the original SegWit improvement proposal had over two years of research & development, as well as rigorous stress tests. Moreover, SegWit’s soft fork would have backwards compatibility to those either too lazy to upgrade or those that did not want to. Coding such hard fork for the S2X supporters were Gavin Andresen and Jeff Garzik, both of whom sided with the Wu & Ver camp.
S2X and the complying companies were located in 22 countries and included: F2Pool, Coinbase, Civic, Circle, Shapeshift, Xapo, Jaxx, Genesis Mining, Bitso, Bitwala, BitPesa & Bitex, Bitcoin.com and of course, Bitmain. The New York Agreement signatories were greatly influential in merchant services, exchanges, payment processors and wallet platform specialties. Most crucial, they all combined for just over 80% of the BTC hashing power.
A hard fork six months down the line on beta-tiered and untested code forces the hands of all involved. S2X was not voluntary like SegWit was. Gavin Andresen’s BU track record and Jeff Garzik’s ICO plans raised many eyebrows on how exactly S2X was going to be pulled off safely and securely.
The New York Agreement was a rushed compromise, contained a dangerous S2X roadmap and possessed enough hashing power to be achieved as long as all the companies stayed onboard with the plan.
//BIP-148 UASF INDEPENDENCE DAY
On June 14, 2017, Bitmain publishes a +2,500 word blog post made available in eight different languages and titled “UAHF: A contingency plan against UASF (BIP148)”.
With Bitmain as a NYA signatory, it seemed as though they now had more than one contingency plan against UASF.
UAHF is Bitmain’s User-Activated Hard Fork (which really didn’t make much sense since they were miners with a minority user following) that eventually became Bitcoin Cash. If BIP-148 were activated, to protect the miners mining non-SegWit blocks, Bitmain and company would simply hard fork into their own chain. Riddled with propaganda, the blog post lays out a fairly detailed plan on increasing the block size and the specifics of the UAHF occurring 12 hours and 20 mins after BIP-148.
With at least two chain split possibilities for the King of all cryptos, mid-June through mid-July featured a weary and anxious market as sellers took profit due to the uncertainty.
James Hilliard is the unsung hero who cunningly designed a method making BIP-148 and S2X compatible via BIP-91. With his proposal, the signatories of the NYA were able to save face and go along with the upgrade to the immutable protocol.
Ironically enough, he works for Bitmain and the Wu clan.
Created on the first day of the Consensus 2017 conference, Mr. Hilliard eventually introduced BIP-91 early-June. It was not until mid-July that his proposal started gaining community attention and above all, acquired enough mining support to finally enable the original BIP-141, or Segregated Witness, with +95% consensus.
In all actuality, the original intent of BIP-148 was for this proposal to not activate. Shaolin Fry, Crypto Twitter, and the hodlers were able to successfully coerce the Bitcoin miners to signal for SegWit. It was a monumental moment that I will never forget, the sweet joy of winning never felt better and on such a large scale.
Bitcoin, not blockchain, offers a novel and unique instance of having skin in the game tied to an individual’s belief system. To participate in an entirely voluntary system you may have enough mining rigs, are a world-class developer, manage a profitable business, or simply possess BTCs. Most excellent of all, every single participant operates selfishly and does not trust anyone else but themselves. It is not until interests are aligned that we start to see cooperation between self-interested individuals, such as the UASF.
The success of BIP-148 unleashed a trap card utilized by users and nodes of Bitcoin to keep miners honest. The complex system of checks & balances further decentralizes the concentration of power and ultimately control of the original protocol. The conclusion of the twenty-four month ideological divide and illusion of big blocks versus small blocks foreshadows a new system of governance without any leaders or appeal to central authority. Astonishingly, we see a very rare case of the people accomplishing victory over greedy businesses with nearly $50 billion on the line. Bitcoin’s horizontal network of consensus-rule levels the playing field and displays the showdown as a transparent spectacle.
Bitcoin honey badger don’t care about mining interests’ or corporate interests’ obvious attempt to take control of the greatest invention of the 21st Century.
— — — — — — — — — — —
1.1 — Introduction to Bitcoin: Money & Our Debt-Based Society
1.2 — A New Asset Class: Blockchain Technology & Cryptocurrency
1.3 — Down the Rabbit Hole: Ethereum, Immutability, Consensus-Rule, & Forks
1.4 — Geopolitics & Cryptoeconomics: 2018 and Beyond
1.5 — Bitcoin’s Substantive & Technical Road to $100K (Top Hit)