52 Days to SegWit: Why the chain won’t split

Last week’s post about the BIP148 UASF ended up generating quite a bit of discussion on reddit and twitter, which you can read here and here, respectively.

I have since received a lot of comments about BIP148 from people who read the post or otherwise used it as an opportunity to voice their opinions about BIP148. The vast majority of these comments were positive, and the comments that were negative were mostly supportive of the idea of a UASF, just not this particular UASF. The remainder was trolling (lol).

As I stated in last week’s post, the main reason that I’m supporting BIP148 is because I don’t think we need to wait for either Segwit2x to roll out or BIP149 to activate (if it ever even gets deployed). This is not a matter me of taking my impatience out on the Bitcoin network, potentially putting the sanctity of the blockchain on the line in the process. I have no intention of helping to violate bitcoin’s core value as a reliable p2p electronic cash system.

My support of BIP148 is an acknowledgement and open embrace of the fact that individuals and companies representing over 80% of the hashpower on the bitcoin network recently signed an agreement to activate SegWit and dozens of the most influential wallets, exchanges, and infrastructure providers have signaled their readiness for SegWit since it was first introduced in December 2015.

To this moment I have assumed that the reason that SegWit supporters are not yet enforcing BIP148 is because they aren’t educated about it. There are a lot of proposals up in the air, so it’s understandable that some don’t get the scrutiny they otherwise might if there were more hours in the day.

To help educate the public I published the blog post last week and am sharing additional information here. There will likely be many others who come forward to educate those around them about BIP148 (I have already had offers to have last week’s post translated into three different languages). By August 1, we’ll be able to see who is being honest about their support of SegWit and who, if anyone, is not.

An important point to acknowledge is that many of the important stakeholders BIP148 needs to succeed recently signed the Segwit2x agreement. As far as I can tell, BIP148 is not incompatible with the Segwit2x agreement. At the very least, BIP148 does not violate the spirit of the agreement, since it both activates SegWit and in no way prevents signatories from running code for a 2MB hard fork once it’s ready.

There is a possibility that Segwit2x developers will not hit their milestones on schedule without issue. I believe it would be in the spirit of consensus for everyone who signed the Segwit2x agreement to update their nodes to enforce BIP148 so that we can ensure a smooth SegWit activation on or before August 1. Developers will then be freed to focus on coding, testing, and deploying the hard fork software.

The criticisms of BIP148

After last week’s blog post was published, there were two major criticisms of BIP148 that came up repeatedly. I was aware of these criticisms before I published the post, but enjoyed engaging one on one with people who have these concerns and asking direct questions to learn more and solidify my understanding. The two major criticisms go something like:

  1. If the BIP148 chain has a minority of hashing power, then there will be a chain split. This will cause all kinds of problems for bitcoin users, including increased confirmation times and the potential for replay attacks to happen between the BIP148 chain and the legacy chain. okTurtles co-founder Greg Slepak discussed the consequences of a chain split with me in a recent YouTube Live session.
  2. BIP148 activates too soon, which increases the chance of the disruptive scenarios described in (1) above playing out. We should either stick with the status quo or support something that gives us more time, like BIP149, instead. Jorge Timón brought this up on Twitter, as have others.

My response to critics is that I, too, think a chain split would be very disruptive – unacceptable even – and I would be right there with you advocating that BIP148 supporters stand down if not for the fact that a supermajority of hashpower and a large part of the economic majority have publicly pledged support for activating SegWit.

Of course, if neither the economic majority nor the majority of the hash power are enforcing BIP148 on August 1, the advice as published on uasf.co is to stop enforcing BIP148 and switch back to the legacy consensus rules. But again, a supermajority of hashpower and a large part of the economic majority have publicly pledged support for SegWit, so we should have no problem activating it on or before August 1.

My appeal to all bitcoin users, miners and economic nodes alike

If you have publicly stated support for activating SegWit, either as part of the Segwit2x agreement or at any other time, make your support and enforcement of BIP148 known so we can smoothly activate SegWit on or before August 1, the way it was designed to be and the way I know we would all prefer it to be done.

SegWit is designed to be the safest, fastest way for us to add capacity to the bitcoin network and fit more transactions into every block. SegWit could have the effect of lowering per-transaction fees in the short term, but more importantly it paves the way for longer-term on- and off-chain scaling improvements. SegWit in no way prevents us from implementing a hard fork block size limit increase in the future, provided there is consensus around a safe solution that does not compromise bitcoin’s core value.

We are working on what is perhaps the most important project we will ever devote our time to. While some look at bitcoin and only see dollar signs, many of us still understand that the end-game of bitcoin means much more than making some early adopters rich. Previous efforts to scale this system to support current and future influxes of users have had their flaws, but we are at the point where we have broad consensus around a safe solution and growing consensus around additional capacity increases in the future.

Let’s activate SegWit via BIP148 and give the Segwit2x team the breathing room they need to work on a safe hard fork implementation as agreed. In the mean time, other contributors can continue working on separate on- and off-chain scaling solutions, as well as research into communications layers that could help make discussion and coordination for soft- and hard-forks better in the future.

We have the opportunity of a lifetime to build the foundational layer of the future of money, one that could possibly be in use for as long as the internet itself exists. Let’s not squander it over… whatever it is that has kept SegWit from activating to date!

☮ ❤ 

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