It's vitally important that history is recorded correctly, Daniel Morgan's "The Great Bitcoin Scaling Debate — A Timeline" is still an invaluable piece, especially for latecomers. My attempt is to work my way back through history starting with "the year 2020 in Bitcoin Cash so far: a detailed history" and "The year 2019 in Bitcoin Cash".
This blogpost covers the most notable events of 2018 with regards to BCH chronologically starting with the Satoshi’s Vision conference, the May 15th network upgrade, the token and pre-consensus debates and the build up to the split with the November 15th upgrade which includes events such as the release of the Bitcoin ABC roadmap, the announcement of the Bitcoin SV client, the "Bangkok Miners Summit" and more. At the end follows a big picture view of the whole year.
From 23 to 25 March, a three day Bitcoin Cash conference was organized in Tokyo by Bitcoin Unlimited. Many important Bitcoin Cash figures were speakers at the Satoshi’s Vision conference including Amaury Séchet and Roger Ver. Among the speakers was Craig Wright (initials CSW) who was jokingly announced by Chris Pacia, the speaker before him “Satoshi may or may not be speaking after me". This was not the first time the self proclaimed Satoshi was associated with a conference by proponents of raising the blocksize. In 2017 Jon Matonis of nChain was set to speak at "The Future of Bitcoin" conference in Arnhem, after having introduced himself and the company, he handed over the rest of the talk to CSW after referring to his "How I met Satoshi" medium post. It was at that conference that he first gained traction and a following. David R Allen who helped organize the conference is alleged to have said that he still felt bad for "bringing Craig back into Bitcoin". After the 2018 Satoshi’s Vision conference CSW got called out for fraud and plagiarism by two other attendants: Peter Rizun & Emin Gün Sirer (example). BCH proponent Collin Enstad recalls that this created the first big rift in the community illustrated by the fork of the main slack channel in a version with and without CSW.
The May 15th upgrade increased the blocksize limit on BCH to 32 MB, increased the op_return data carrier size increases to 220 bytes and re-activating old opcodes (OP_CAT, OP_AND, OP_OR, OP_XOR, OP_DIV, OP_MOD, OP_SPLIT, OP_NUM2BIN, and OP_BIN2NUM). The increase in the op_return from 80 to 220 bytes is important for the development of token protocols because they had previously been very restricted.
In november 2017 Andrew Stone from Bitcoin Unlimited made a proposal for a new Bitcoin Cash opcode which allows for miner validated tokens. Because of developer feedback the proposal was reworked from an opcode to a transaction type. This scheme for miner validated tokens sparked the debate whether this is something that should be added to Bitcoin Cash. An important advantage of not having tokens in the Bitcoin Cash consensus rules is that there can be many different competing token schemes for different usecases making different tradeoffs and none of them require all BCH users to validate them, only the people interested in those specific tokens have to. Some of this debate was documented in the article "Group or Tokeda? A Look at the BCH Color Coin Debate"by bitcoin.com news. Tokenda was an draft proposal for issuer trusted tokenization but in reality the choice was a false dichotomy because many other proposals which did not require a consensus change were announced mid 2018 such as Counterparty Cash, Colored Coins, Keoken, Wormhole and Simple Ledger Protocol (SLP). This competition between different token schemes on Bitcoin Cash is sometimes tongue in cheek referred to as the "tokenwars". Towards the end of 2018, two other tokenschemes were announced one called BitcoinToken but was proprietary software and the other, which won a price by Coingeek, called Tokenized. Some of these projects such as Tokenized or Colored Coins were never viable but they gave the impression that a lot of effort community wide went in to create a BCH tokensolution as illustrated by the headline "No Matter How You Slice It — Token Assets Are Coming to Bitcoin Cash".
Of all the proposals Wormhole became controversial among the CSW crowd because creating tokens required burning Bitcoin Cash. The headline by bitcoin.com news on its launch Aug 1st read "Wormhole Project Launches — $1.2M Worth of BCH Burned So Far". Together with SLP, only those two of all the BCH token schemes had a working end-user wallet with Badgerwallet which supported both early November. SLP, developed by Jonald Fyookball, James Cramer, Unwriter, Mark B. Lundeberg, Calin Culianu and Ryan X. Charles, went on to decisively win the "tokenwars" in 2019.
During that same as much as the "tokenwars"the pre-consensus debates took place. As documented by "Bitcoin Cash Developers Debate an Idea Called Pre-Consensus" the idea of pre-consensus got extra attention at the Satoshi’s Vision conference where it was talked about by Peter Rizun who discussed subchains, by Emin Gün Sirer who discussed Bitcoin NG and by Amaury Séchet who contrasted three approaches for faster confirmations (that don't get you perverse incentives). He starts off by saying POW cannot get you the retail speeds of 3-5 seconds you want but only upto a 20 to 30 second delay. The two other options are both a form of pre-consensus:either with leader election (like Bitcoin NG) or with a quorum for which he uses Stellar as example.But it was not until well after the conference in march that the pre-consensus concept became a problem for the CSW crowd.
The bitcoin.com news article point at Séchet's blogpost "On markets and pre-consensus" as spark for the controversy but this does not make much sense as to why the existing idea would suddenly become controversial and not months before. Either pre-consenus was just another boogeyman for the CSW crowd to attack Bitcoin ABC with or it had something to do with the idea of Avalanche as pre-consensus method. It was first talked about in the BCH community by Ryan X. Charles in a video “Avalanche as a Pre-Consensus Protocol for Bitcoin Cash". The video seems like an unfortunate way to introduce the novel concept because he doesn't fully understand it (by his own account), talks about it only roughly 3 minutes and says "someone tipped him off" that "the people at ABC are interested in this proposal" which makes it sound like a leak. Avalanche got a first proper introduction in October at the "Satoshi's Vision Instant Transactions Workshop" in Italy by both the talk by Kevin Sekniqi and Emin Gün Sirer called "Using Avalanche for Pre-Consensus on Nakamoto Consensus Protocols" and the talk by Amaury Séchet titled "Embrace the DAG".
On Aug 8th Bitcoin ABC released a short article "November hardfork changes to be completed by August 15th" which includes the 4 new features for the upgrade the two most important of which are canonical transaction ordering (CTOR) and op_checkdatasig (with its counterpart op_checkdatasigverify). The ABC's November hardfork changes were not universally welcomed as documented by "The Opposition Towards Bitcoin ABC's Proposed Upgrade Changes"in which Craig Wright is quoted to gave tweeted in his usual style: "If a Certain Developer Wants This, Then We Will Fund Replacement Developers", "Miners vote — Think we are not serious. Watch the Axe fall." and "The original base protocol — No experiments — Unlimited unbounded scale." His twitter, @ProfFaustus before he was kicked off twitter, was like that even before, during the pre-consensus discussion and well after. He also produced a lot of medium articles on bitcoin (cash) during the time filled with was has been come to be known as 'technobabble'. Despite being a well documented fraud, CSW had a strong following at that time which was later dubbed the cult-of-craig. The CTOR change got pushback also from people who were not in CSW's following, for example Bitcoin Unlimited member Andrew stone who argued "Why ABC’s CTOR Will Not Scale", the discussion about CTOR went on from mid August with Bitcoin ABC's "Benefits of Canonical Transaction Order" to atleast mid september with Jonald Fyookball's "The Case for Adding CTOR To Bitcoin Cash in November".
Aug 16th Nchain announced they had a new full node implementation is in the works called Bitcoin SV (Satoshi’s Vision) which is a fork of the Bitcoin ABC codebase. With the announcement they also revealed their consensus changes for the November hardfork which includes three items: Raising the maximum block size to 128MB, removing the limit on number of op_codes and restoring three more op_codes. As expected with the announcement of incompatible rulesets, discussion began to heat up as put by the bitcoin.com news article. Those with a technical inclination could immideately see that if the incompatible consensusrules would not be resolved, a split would occur on the hardfork date. Unfortunately this knowledge was not understood or accepted by a significant part of the BCH community back then as documented in the article by "A lot of BCH supporters believe that ultimately those who have hash power will have the final say in this debate". An Alpha Release of Bitcoin SV was Published by nChain towards the end of August and a mining pool called ‘SV Pool’ which will allow miners to point their hashrate at the SV client was announced with it.
On Aug 24th Bitcoin ABC made their roadmap available, which has since become well known and often referred to in the community, in the article "The Bitcoin ABC Vision" subtitled "Proposed Technical Roadmap for Bitcoin Cash". Which a few days later got followed up with "Sharding Bitcoin Cash" which argues "By changing the ordering of the Merkle root computation via a canonicalization, the data may be sharded."and "Sharding is not optional for Bitcoin Cash if we want it to scale with Moore’s law."
At the very end August a tow day Miners Summit was held in Bangkok, Thailand with many prominent participant. The best recollection of what happened there is Jonald Fyookball's "My Experience at the Bangkok Miner's Meeting". The summit was an important breaking point in the discussions with CSW storming off and then giving this remarkable interview in the hotel lobby in his he uttered the famous phrase "You split, we bankrupt you."
While the CTOR discussion were very technical and hard for the layperson to follow- unlike most of the other issues- it should still have been obvious whether the arguments from nChain were in good faith or just moving the goalpost. The definitive answer to this question comes from taking a look at Nchain’s roadmap which appeared December 20th, 2017 after a multi-group meetup in London in November. As can be seen on the archived webpage, Nchain was a proponent of CTOR and changed its stance at the very last moment. While there was less discussion about the DSV opcode, those around at the time will remember CSW's claims about it enabling illegal bucketshops which were instantly parroted by his loyal following. Towards the end of October Ryan X. Charles, one of the most prominent Craig believers, launched a video "Dear Roger: Why DSV is a Million-Fold Subsidy" which was addressed by Anthony Zegers (aka Mengerian) in "Dear Ryan: Why OP_CHECKDATASIG is Not a Subsidy" but this illustrates that new objections were thought of on the fly seemingly just up until the fork.
Much FUD was also launched at Wormhole, that it was unsafe or a ploy to get shorter blocktimes on Bitcoin Cash. Both were totally unsubstantiated claims but the technobabble of CSW convinced a loud minority. The wormhole team released an article towards the end of August addressing some of the concerns: "Public Statement from Wormhole Team".
There was also much ado about raising the limit to 128MB this November when it was obvious that this was not in any way an urgent or necessary change. In fact the Sept 1st mainchain stress test organized by some BCH proponents in which the BCH network processed 2.2million transactions in 24-Hours, showed that a 23.15MB block posed a problem and roughly indicates a real world limit to the network functioning smoothly. The test was an occasion for many different celebration parties all over the world with people monitoring and participating in the BCH stress test while sipping on their favorite beers, and was a short break between the often heated discussion online.
Hashwar, a term first used late august on the subreddit r/btc, reffered to the idea that miners decide the outcome of the split and that it would be like a battle with only one side emerging victorious.
Somewhat associated with this was the idea launched by Ryan X. Charles early November of a "unified coin" as a way to prevent a split as he explains in his video "How Wallets and Exchanges Can Prevent a Split".
On the day of the fork many BCH enthusiast were watching the situation closely on monitor sites such as cash.coin.dance. After one day the Bitcoin Cash chain was 50 block ahead of the BSV chain with the hashrate on reaching roughly 9 EH/s and 3.5EH/s respectively. Roger Ver explained in his "Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork Update: Is It Over? (And a Special Message To Calvin Ayre)" that a big part of this increased hashrate was due to the Bitcoin.com mining pool reacing 4EH/s (or 4000PH/s) and that this mining operation used as much electricity as the Hoover Dam produces. Those on the BSV side were quick to assert that their seeming defeat was because Roger Ver or the "ABC side" more generally cheated by using rented hashrate. One good point of Roger's video which deserves highlighting is that the narrative that BSV is the stable, professional version of Bitcoin for business to plan long term on sounds nice but is the exact contrary of their actions. This valueproposition of BSV only came later into the conversation and seems to have been an example of their seeing what sticks approch instead of a fundamental ideological difference on Bitcoin, Chris Pacia brilliantly pointed this out in articles on honest.cash which have dissapeared completely.
A day after the fork, on Nov 16th, Bitcoin ABC released a new version of their software which contained a checkpoint to lock in the first block with the new, upgraded rules. Nov 21st a new version of Bitcoin ABC, 0.18.5, was released which added deep reorg protection in form of a 10 block deep rolling checkpoint. The use of checkpoint to protect users and the network from a deepreorg was also used by Calvin Ayre, CSW and his following as proof of "cheating" . There has been alledged that these precautions indeed ruined CSW and Calvin's plan to stealthmine a longer chain which would allow for double spends and make the chain unsafe to unusable.
The community sentiment after the split is well illustrated by Jonald Fyookball's "Bitcoin Cash is Finally Free of “Faketoshi”! Great Days Lie Ahead.".
Most applications stayed on the majority chain which quickly got the ticker BCH industry-wide. Two of the major projects that did leave to BSV were Ryan X. Charles' Moneybutton and Yours.org. Realizing the potential of these projects new alternatives quickly sprung up. Many Moneybutton alternatives sprung up including Gateway.cash, Paybutton and Badger Button. Mid November a new BCH centered blogging platform Honest.cash was in Beta to fill the market gap left by the departure of yours.org.
After the split, in December, once the CSW crowd was gone, Avalanche became the hot topic of conversation with multiple articles, videos and interviews on the concept coming out.
Just like the rest of the "crypto market" Bitcoin Cash saw an incredible run up towards the end of 2017. The BCH price started going parabolic in November and traded between 2300$ and 4000$ from Dec 20th 2017 to Jan 15th 2018. After these highs the price went on a rapid decline to between 600 and 700$ in the first half of April. The price went on a steep climb again in the second half, reaching local highs of 1700USD. Following this surge the price went on a slow decline and reached the previous level of 700$ back in the first half of July. In August, probably partly due to the signs of a split the price went under 600$ and stayed there for the remainder of the month. During the first days of September the price rose back above 600USD shortly after which it fell as low as 420$. In the months leading up to the split the price was fluctuated in the 450-550$ range with an increase to 620$ a week prior after which the price went downhill fast trading only at around 80$ mid December. The BSV split marked the first time the price went decisively under the price at the week of launch when it fluctuated between 200 and 350$.
Protocol wise Bitcoin Cash saw important improvements in the protocol with both the May and November upgrade. On the application side many of the new developments listed in Bitcoin.com's "year in review"such as Blockpress, Joystream, Coinfundr, Akari, Telescope did not grow into anything meaningful, just like all tokenschemes except for SLP fell by the wayside. The decision to move ahead with an non-consensus tokenscheme was a very important one and shows that the cash usecase at the center of importance. Much more building would probably have taken place if the community had not been infighting for atleast half the year. From a network effect point of view such splits are detrimental and for holders the year was obviously painful too. From a quality of community perspective it is not that hard to see CSW disassociating himself from the project as a good thing.
helpful resource: Collin Enstad's video essay on the split titled "Bitcoin Cash Hash War, Hard Fork and Shadiness" the transcript of which was named "The Great Bitcoin Cash Hashwar: a tale of posturing and moving goalposts"