Saturday, November 21st, 2020, 6 days after the fork
On November 15th, the Bitcoin Cash network underwent a split creating two chains: BCH and BCHA. The split occurred over the activation of the new coinbase rule by Bitcoin ABC, the team that created BCH in 2017 and who have worked non-stop for three years to maintain the BCH network.
The new coinbase rule requires miners to divert 8% of the 6.25 BCHA block reward to an address controlled by Bitcoin ABC. This money will be used to fund infrastructure development among other things. While some view this as exactly what the system needs to take the next evolutionary step, others have been unable to accept a rule that involves miners having to give up any amount of their coinbase. Another way of looking at it might be that developers should work for donations, while miners get to keep all the profits.
Yes, miners spend energy to secure and run the network. In exchange they need to be rewarded or they'll have no incentive to do so. But what about developers?
Despite what you may think, software must be constantly maintained in order to properly run. Without proper maintenance, it'll break down just like any other piece of infrastructure. How would you like to get into an elevator that no one has maintained for the past 10 years?
This is why you want a dedicated team that is always monitoring the network in case anything goes wrong, as well as to prevent things from going wrong in the first place. Do you want to pay qualified professionals to do this important work? Or would you rather rely on some random anon to solve your problem?
For me, I'd want an entire team of professionals who are constantly improving the code and fixing any bugs. While some scoff at the idea of backporting, this is crucial work that needs to be done much like you need plumbers to run a building, or dish washers to run a kitchen. For those who don't know, backporting is basically taking bugfixes on one branch of code (Bitcoin Core) and applying them to another (Bitcoin ABC). This is possible if both are branches of the same initial codebase.
If you don't have anyone doing this, and all you have are people who are trying to come up with new features, the two codebases will quickly diverge and become harder and harder to maintain because you can no longer take advantage of the work of a large team like Bitcoin Core by backporting the bugfixes they've already painstakingly made.
This is why it is essential that BCHA have steady funding so they can hire enough people, and the right people, to not only continue backporting from core, but to more quickly be able to move out from under Core's shadow. We need to hire and train enough engineers to no longer have to rely on Core to begin with.
Bitcoin ABC has slowly been growing and building their team. They currently employ 8 full-time software engineers, 1 technical operations manager, and 1 content marketing manager. But with the benefit of the IFP, they can grow even faster. They will then have the bandwidth to no longer be forced to just run in place but to move the chain forward.
Good people cost real money. And for the first time in Bitcoin's history, we have a mechanism that can potentially solve the funding problem in a way that aligns the incentives of everyone in the entire ecosystem.
Recently I came across a Wired article about open source software and the problems it faces. How open source developers might simply walk away since it's too much of a burden for no pay.
"No one's quite sure what to do about open source burnout, but some think finding money for the coders might help. Programmer Ashley Williams is a member of the team creating the open source language Rust, and they're trying to set up a foundation to support core contributors, or get firms to keep contributors on staff."
This is why I'm in favor of the new coinbase rule. I don't want our best engineers to face burnout. I want them to spend their time building instead of worrying about organizing the next fundraiser. If I was building a business, I'd want to build it on a network with a sustainable funding mechanism so you don't have to worry that 18 months from now everyone's going to quit because no one's getting paid.
Let me end by sharing a personal story. This was at one of my old jobs and one day I was asked to train this guy we'd just hired as a consultant. He was like this old-timer who used to work at the company years ago but had come back to do a little helping out. We sat in front of the computer as I tried to show him how to use Microsoft Excel, but he wasn't having any of it.
"It's like a calculator," I explained, typing an equation into a cell. But then he reaches into his bag and pulls out one of those big 10-key calculators and says, "But this is a calculator."
Change is hard, but sometimes you have to move with the times or you're going to be left behind.
In 2017, BTC didn't want to raise their block size so we moved on. In 2020, since BCH doesn't want to properly pay for infrastructure, it's time to move on again, only this time, I am optimistic that BCHA will mark the final stage of our metamorphosis.