Bitcoin Civil War

It will be interesting to see how the next couple of months play out. Whatever happens, there are a couple of positive sides to the situation.

For one, we will see if it is possible to change the rules of the Bitcoin network even against considerable resistance.

The Japanese Constitution has never been amended. But it is very clear what is necessary to amend it. Article 96 of the Constitution states the requirements.

The Bitcoin network has never been challenged by an internal faction in the way it is now. In contrast to the Japanese Constitution, it is not very clear what is needed to push through the block size extension the Bitcoin Unlimited camp wants.

So if they succeed in their attempt, we will have a reference case what is needed to change the protocol against substantial resistance. If they fail, we will have a reference case as well, showing that the failed level of support was not enough.

This civil war will also be an interesting case to study when preparing for war with outside attackers. There has been speculation about “51%-attacks” before. But as far as I know, no one has ever actually pulled off a 51%-attack against the Bitcoin network.

In the course of this civil war, that may change. I hear that Peter Rizun, one of the supporters of Bitcoin Unlimited, is advocating for using hash power to shut down the original Bitcoin chain after a fork, mining empty blocks on that chain.

If that happens, that would be an excellent test case. A highly motivated, well-funded adversary trying to shut down the Bitcoin blockchain has not happened yet in real life.

If such an attack happens, and the Bitcoin blockchain survives it one way or another, that would be real-life proof of its resiliency.

Since all of the value of the Bitcoin blockchain comes from this resiliency against attack and the trust created, surviving such a test would be proof of its value. An eight year track record of unbroken service is valuable, but extending it defeating serious attacks shows even more value.

All cryptography has value only as far as people actually try to break it and fail (Schneier’s law). It follows that attacks on the Bitcoin network like the one Rizun wants to happen are a good thing.

We also may get a short-term increase in block space (if the Bitcoin Unlimited faction wins the civil war).

Again, interesting times for the Bitcoin network.