Could a bitcoin hard-fork resulting in 2 viable coins be okay?

bitcoin hard fork

Why hard-fork?

There is no compromise for a major change to bitcoin that 95% of the network will agree to. Bitcoin core is partly ossified.

The only way to make meaningful improvements is to hard-fork. Can we accept that after the hard-fork there will be 2 separate networks with different rules.

Most likely outcome = 1 chain survives

The most common and probable outcome of a hard-fork is that there is 1 clear winner which is the 1 surviving chain. This happened with bitcoin’s previous hard-forks and all hard-forks I know of except the etherium DAO bail out.

In fact there are attacks the chain that has the majority of the hashing power can weaponize against the minority chain to make it more likely to die.

What if both chains survived

There are “nightmare scenarios” you hear about hard-forks that split the network. Like people not knowing if bitcoins they received are real bitcoins and messy things like that. This would only happen if the split was unintentional and the chains were competing to be the only chain.

A hard-fork that is planned to co-ordinate enough hashing power to make the new chain sustainable while allowing the old chain to continue as normal can be clean.

In that case the 2 chains are separate and distinguishable and none of those nightmare scenarios we hear about bad hard-folks would materialize.

This is not an attack

There is no need to see a fork like this as an adversarial action. Those making the new project and those wishing to maintain the old project need not have any ill feeling or bad intentions toward each other. They just have different opinions about what should be in the code base and they want their solutions to be tried.

If the fork is well planned and executed most bitcoin products and service providers would end up supporting both coins.

Downsides

Some people would be confused by the 2 different assets. However they would have different names and do different things.

Some people would mistakenly think the bitcoin coin supply had doubled, making it not sound money.

However the alternative might be to never meaningfully improve bitcoin. This would doom it to fade into irrelevance as more scalable, private and user friendly alternatives take over. If that is the alternative then a hard-fork that splits bitcoin to achieve better scalability, privacy and user friendliness might be the better option.

Long term

If such a fork were successfully executed it would set a precedent and both the new and the old fork would eventually be forked again in similar ways. The vast majority of such attempts would fail due not getting enough hashing power to achieve security on the new fork.

Only forks that are well planned and make a compelling case that their changes benefit users could survive.

Alternative implementations on the same network

Bitcoin should have specifications allowing multiple alternative implementations to exist on the same network. This would be good but not a definitive solution for 2 reasons.

1. On the current bitcoin network no such specifications could get broad consensus to be implemented in the first place. For example, should anything about block size be in the specifications? If so, what? So to implement such specifications you would need to fork to a new network anyway.

2. Even if specifications were implemented, that would only work for projects that agree with those specifications.

On the current bitcoin network almost no change to the specifications could get broad consensus. Meaning anyone wanting to make a meaningful improvement outside of the current specifications would still be in the same situation of needing to fork.

I could be wrong

The above is mostly a devil’s advocate though experiment that I am not sure if I fully agree with. Heck I still think we should decrease the block time to 2 minute for a 5 X scaling boost. I just think the idea of a non-adversarial, well planned, deliberately splitting hard-fork, which allows 2 chains to continue is worth discussion, so I am discussing it.

This idea will seem less controversial when it becomes obvious the current proposal of segwit as a soft fork will not be activated. Segwit can’t achieve 95% consensus and neither would flexible transactions or bitcoin unlimited or an adaptive block size limit or mimblewimble or, confidential transactions or anything else. So what to do?

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