🏢 Building Beats Forking — Issue No. 25

🗞 News

This week's crypto news cycle was dominated by a contentious hardfork of Bitcoin Cash, which is itself a contentious hardfork of Bitcoin. The leaders of Bitcoin Cash, who last year split from Bitcoin over disagreements regarding block size, themselves reached an impasse that splintered their splinter community. After a lot of drama, the end result (for now) seems to be two new chains dubbed "Bitcoin Cash ABC" and "Bitcoin Cash Satoshi's Vision." Both communities continue to insist their coin is the true Bitcoin Cash, which is itself the one true Bitcoin. If this all seems ridiculous to you, well, I won't disagree. Link.

While the crypto world had its popcorn out to watch the Cash drama unfolding, some genuinely interesting news came out of more noteworthy projects. The team behind Zcash, for example, proposed features for their next network upgrade. The tentative roadmap includes a number of improvements, such as changes to the base later to make light clients more reliable and to enable better second layer scaling. The would-be change that jumped out at me is called "Harmony Mining." It proposes the introduction of a second hashing algorithm which could be used to mine blocks. The new algo would aim for ASIC resistance, allowing Zcash to broaden its pool of miners without booting existing ASIC miners or compromising network security. Some smaller coins have tried multi-algo mining schemes before, with mixed success. Zcash would be the most notable project to do so. Link.

In the Ethereum world, a milestone was reached by the Solidity team. The developers behind the most popular smart contract language released version 0.5.0, which included a number of breaking changes and improvements. The release notes do a good job of explaining the changes, but I'd say the overall theme of the release is favoring explicitness in contract code. Given whats often at stake, I fully support that direction, and actually expect smart contract languages to evolve even further along those lines. Link.

This week was a good microcosm of where we are in the crypto world. While serious projects announced meaningful technical progress, most attention was given to negative price action and the forking drama of a Bitcoin wanna-be. If the latter is all you're paying attention to, it might be easy to wonder if the whole crypto ecosystem is collapsing. Don't be fooled. Without attracting much attention to themselves, an army of passionate, smart folks is building the infrastructure which will enable real adoption on a long enough timeline. Do yourself a favor and tune out the nonsense.

I will make one serious comment on Bitcoin Cash, in case any of you feel I'm not giving the network a fair shake. Even if one believes the "big block" scaling approach is the right one-- which I'll admit I don't-- I think it's now safe to say that Bitcoin Cash is a failed experiment in achieving that approach. While the two BCH forks are battling for hash power, the truth is that even their combined hashrate is a small fraction of that going toward BTC. A small percentage of Bitcoin miners could attack either network, and that fact alone makes Bitcoin Cash's security profile unacceptable. It simply can't be considered a serious contender for a decentralized money while being so vulnerable to attack.

🔮 Blog

Has The Window For Bootstrapping A Proof-of-Work Coin Closed? From the archives, this blog post explores the challenges any new PoW coin will have launching in today's environment. It's especially relevant to this newsletter as the two BCH forks fight it out for a minority hashrate. It also helps explain why Zcash is looking to introduce a second mining algorithm without deprecating the first. Link.

📊 Statistics

20.7%. Thats the percentage of Bitcoin's hashrate currently devoted to mining Bitcoin BCHABC and BCHSV-- combined. Individually, each network has roughly 10% of Bitcoin's hashrate. Link.