We dream of a form of bitcoin that isn't owned and operated by any particular person or company, but fighting for this dream of decentralized design is starting to feel like a fool's errand. Those of us who believe in the original community-driven direction of bitcoin are being left to squabble amongst ourselves as the market continues to sprout businesses (Blockstream, nChain, ABC) with tight control over their product (BTC, BSV, ABC-coin).
ABC found themselves in the position they're in now because we did not have a better answer to the "who decides" question. This community gave "Mr. Schelling Point" himself the very weapon he is now using against us. It did the one thing it is so vehemently against, granting full authority to a single central entity. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again. If we do not want CorporateCoin™ then we MUST solve governance.
At this point it seems clear to me that ABC are now "pulling an nChain" by forking away and taking a chunk of the community with them. I'm grateful that BCHN has provided a path for bitcoin to escape the dictatorial control of ABC, but it has not solved the root of the original problem. The BCH community is pushing for BCHN to become BCH's lead implementation while simultaneously claiming that we don't want a single entity deciding bitcoin's future (as ABC is attempting to do). And so, without a well defined alternative form of protocol governance, the users of Bitcoin Cash are simply left with no other choice but to accept a new overlord.
While some folks would have you believe that the opinions of the users of the network are nothing more than noise, I believe that if the miners know what the community wants then they will mine what the community wants. Currently, the only way to see the preferences of the users is to go digging through various websites & forum posts or sit back and watch as users leave the network and transaction counts drop. This is terribly inefficient and inevitably results in a protocol that just keeps forking forever.
It could be argued that every transaction is a vote in favor of:
The protocol as a whole
The protocol's current design
The team of developers who wrote the current version of the protocol
If this is true then why not simply expand upon this foundation? Just as miners have found their own voice by signaling their preferences in the coinbase message, I'd like to see users voice their preferences in the OP_Return of every transaction they broadcast. Miners will always mine whatever they choose, but if the overwhelming majority of the transactions they mine are screaming "BCHN!" in their OP_Return, the future direction of the protocol should be much clearer to everyone.
BCH wallet software should include a setting allowing users to express their preferences every time they send a transaction. Within the OP_Return a user would be able to express as much or as little of their preferences as they choose (within the OP_Return size limit). A user could, for example, express their support for a particular software, proposal, person, team, or nothing at all. Once a preferred message is set, all of a user's future transactions would include the message.
No wallet would be required to offer this setting, but users who care to have a voice won't use a wallet that gives them no voice.
User preferences would be measured by the sum of transactions containing a particular message and/or they could be weighed by the size of the wallet that sent the transaction.
The system is only a means of providing more information on user preferences, it is not binding. If someone tries to game the system by spending millions on a campaign in support of siphoning 80% of the coinbase to himself, let him. Miners should rightfully disregard the message and move on.
This would not be a complete solution to the question of governance, rather a foundation to build on. No Fork would be necessary to allow this function, only upgraded wallet software. In the future, the system could potentially be made binding in some way, but that would likely require a fork.
If we want a version of bitcoin that is driven by its community then we have to create it. Unfortunately, it does not yet exist. I believe the first step in solving governance is giving the users of the network a voice.