“Wow, this is not just controversial, but downright unpopular.” That was my reaction this past week, upon reading the social media comments concerning the Bitcoin Cash infrastructure funding plan (IFP). I have a few things to say about this, so I thank you for your attention in advance.
I alluded to this in my previous article, but let me say it more explicitly: I was one of the key people who helped set the initial IFP proposals into motion. I take all of this seriously and I want what’s in the highest and best interests for Bitcoin Cash.
For me, this was never about getting money, or even about the Electron Cash project getting money. (We didn’t even have a notion of “whitelist” in the beginning). The fact there is now a short whitelist (which I did not create or approve of) and a common assumption that I am supporting this because I’ll profit from it is both false and damaging.
My intention was always to help ABC get the funds they need to hire great developers. I took Amaury’s suggestions about funding infrastructure seriously, and I know from experience the great value of hiring and working with superstars.
Not very long ago, Bitcoin Cash was a 3% chain. I resonated with the idea of supercharging our growth using money that would be mostly subsidized from the SHA-256 ecosystem and the concept of just doing a 6 month period.
Although there is some actual, concrete criticism for the IFP, it is buried under considerable noise and made murky by both fresh and long-standing biases (some earned, some unearned) against Amaury Sechet and Bitcoin ABC.
The arguments in the vein of “Stop thief! Amaury is changing the protocol to pay himself.” not only miss the mark in terms of not actually discussing anything about the IFP, but they aren’t even true, as the pool operators have historically been asking for this for years, and I know because I’ve been talking to them for years. And understandably, they are tired of footing the bill for Bitcoin Cash (which has probably cost millions), so I understand where they are coming from.
Various people have written opinions on why IFP is bad, but there’s really only one line of criticism that’s compelling for me, although it is a big one. And that is, a line in the sand is crossed. Once the distribution of the coinbase is up for discussion, it can forever be a point of contention. Can you imagine if people voted to have more than 21M coins “just this one time?”
Some things are better left set in stone, and the whitepaper specifically states that [the coinbase award] “starts a new coin owned by the creator of the block”.
I had always viewed this situation from the humble context of being a struggling 3% chain. I think once BCH flips BTC (which is inevitable if BTC doesn’t scale), then we once again are truly Bitcoin and such a ‘cheating’ mechanism would be clearly off limits. Whether or not this is a boundary that would hold in practice in our specific case is an unanswerable question.
But given this context, (and under ideal conditions), I don’t think allowing the IFP is nearly as bad as some people in the community think. But that is just my opinion, subject to being wrong.
One assumption I had when I first considered this idea, was that it wouldn’t be tremendously contentious. Perhaps mildly, but not in a major way. But this does seem contentious in a major way.
How do I know? It’s because a lot of the people I consider my peers and fellow value creators in Bitcoin Cash are strongly opposed. It is not just the usual Anti-ABC troublemakers screaming.
The level of contention far exceeds the quality of the arguments being made against the IFP. As I mentioned, a lot of the heat is due to built-up pressure from Amaury/ABC, and this dislike of their leadership seems to have been combined with the distaste for the IFP itself, into one big “NO” from much of the western community.
Unfortunately for ABC, that doesn’t really matter. Contention is still contention in this case and needs to be considered with all the seriousness it demands.
Although I think ABC mishandled the situation, they do not deserve as much flak as some people are giving them. First, it is hard to blame ABC for doing something their bosses want them to do and that will also benefit from. Secondly, ABC did make an honest attempt to form a consensus with both Bitcoin.com as well as the miners, and did incorporate changes to the plan as desired by other parties.
Could they have done a better job? Absolutely.
At one point, after the first proposal from Jiang Zhuoer had been published, I had spoken with other key opinion leaders in the space. We had started working on a similar plan, but with a much longer whitelist. More importantly, we were spending time talking to people in such a way that everyone felt included in the decision making process, and getting key opinion leaders on board so that the whole thing could be done fairly and with a minimum of contention.
Unfortunately, instead of agreeing that I should proceed with my approach, others insisted they would handle it themselves, and at this point the community reception is what it is.
Even if there was no contention (or minimal contention), the risks of “messing” with the protocol need to be weighed against the money to be gained. When there is serious contention, other risks also need to be considered, especially price depreciation.
One very positive and exciting note is that some of the pool operators believe (based on their forecasts) that there can be a very huge crypto prices after the next bull run, which can last 2-3 years. Maybe $100k BTC and $20k BCH.
Jiang Zhuoer told me the last thing they want to do is cause a split right before the bull run.
I should point out a perceived conflict of interest: Assuming ABC is the main beneficiary of the IFP, they are not incentivized to care as much if there is a hashwar, a split, or a dump because they will receive more coins. But this doesn’t necessarily align with the rest of the ecosystem, particularly the mining pools and other investors.
One motivator for me in initially wanting the IFP to succeed is to make sure Amaury and ABC can continue to provide a rock solid engine for Bitcoin Cash and maybe move a bit faster on their roadmap.
The fear was, if ABC doesn’t get money, Amaury could quit and BU will take over.
Bitcoin Unlimited (BU), although seen by some as a viable alternative implementation, is not an acceptable substitute for the mining pools to use, due to bad leadership decisions within BU, which I’ll explain another day.
If the IFP does not get activated and Amaury leaves the project, then the BCH community must be ready, willing, and able to fork the ABC code and put the best, most trustworthy, and competent people in charge of it.
This is something to keep in mind.
The miners and mining pools should closely observe the sentiment of the western Bitcoin Cash community. Although there is the possibility for growing support and the dropping of pitchforks, it is also quite possible the contention will only solidify.
Whenever there is a significant amount of community uproar, the risk of a fork is higher, and if this is the case, the miners should not activate the IFP, because the risks don’t justify the rewards to Bitcoin Cash as a whole.
I still think the IFP can potentially be a good idea in theory if the conditions are right. Who knows, maybe things will look bright and sunny and completely different in 3 weeks. If the IFP cannot be activated now, it should be considered and debated under calmer conditions, with more time to plan.