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Rebasing of Verge’s (XVG) Code to that of Bitcoin Almost Complete

Ever since the Verge (XVG) network was hacked back in May, and millions of dollars of the digital asset fraudulently minted, there has been an effort by the project’s core developers to change the codebase of the platform. In late June, the team at the Verge project had announced that they were upgrading Verge’s codebase to Bitcoin Core v.0.13. This was due to the fact that this codebase offered updated security protocols and a solid foundation for the project to continue on.

It is with this background, that the team at Verge have announced that they have finished rebasing Verge to Bitcoin Core version 0.13. The next move is now be to move it to Bitcoin version 0.17. This in turn will mean that the Verge network will be on the latest Bitcoin core base code complete with all the new features accompanying the code.

The team at Verge goes on further to explain this by saying:

Anyone can fork Bitcoin Core, change a few lines of code, and have a new coin. Since Verge has been around for a while, and we have our differences, the challenge has been to merge those differences onto the latest Bitcoin Core. Features like Tor, multi-algorithm, stealth addressing, are the things that make Verge different from Bitcoin Core.

Market Performance after the Sudden Market Decline

XVG has not been spared by the current sudden decline in the crypto markets. In a period of less than 2 hours, Bitcoin (BTC) dropped from comfortable levels of $7,300 to those of $6,990. As a result,the entire market was affected. XVG is down 14.8% in the last 24 hours and is currently trading at $0.0159.

The general feel in the crypto community is one of concern with September 30th being the deadline for the SEC to make a decision on the CBOE sponsored Bitcoin ETF. With only 25 days till then, it will be a tense three weeks in the crypto markets as many expect another postponement or a complete rejection of the ETF by the SEC.

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to give financial advice. Any opinion herein should be taken as is. Please carry out your own research before investing in any of the numerous cryptocurrencies available.

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Bitcoin's Next Big Software Upgrade to Feature New Language for Crypto Keys

Bitcoin may be hard to use even with consumer-friendly tools, while running its core infrastructure is even harder. However, this isn’t stopping efforts to change that.

The global, volunteer developer group behind the most popular implementation of the software, Bitcoin Core, is soon to debut its 17th major software release, one which puts to code a number of highly-anticipated changes. Of particular emphasis is improving the software’s default wallet, where user’s bitcoin private keys are stored.

Perhaps the most interesting update is the debut of a new “language,” initially proposed by prominent bitcoin contributor Pieter Wuille, known for designing some of the most radical changes to bitcoin in recent years (including Segregated Witness, which helped chip away at bitcoin’s scalability problem last year).

The idea behind the new language is to add important extra information to keys. Or, as Bitcoin Core contributor Andrew Chow put it, it provides a “sane” alternative to the problematic “account” system that was recently ripped out of the software. Simply put, it allows users to name their different accounts. Like labeling one “donations” and another “savings.”

One other significant use case of the language is to make it easier to move keys from one wallet to another. As it stands, if a user tries to move a key from one wallet to another, they might lose some of the information about how the coins can be unlocked and sent to someone else.

That’s not a big problem for many transactions. After all, most transactions have pretty simple instructions: the owner must sign the transaction with a secret key, proving the coins are really theirs. But that’s not true for every transaction. For example, multi-signature transactions require more than one person to approve any spending.

Lightning transactions, a faster and more scalable type of payment that’s still in its infancy, are perhaps the most exciting example of this.

With this type of transaction becoming more common (lightning is thought to be the best way for the platform to scale to millions of users), the new language aims to ensure crucial information isn’t lost more regularly.

With this in mind, Wuille’s new language aims to tags each key in bitcoin (both public and private) with a “label” that describes what can unlock it, “changing the way we think about wallets,” Chaincode engineer John Newbery said in a talk describing the upcoming release.

To be clear, though, this release is just a small step, the first code change to put this into practice, Newbery said. But developers anticipate the language will weave its way through the codebase in future software releases.

Mobile bitcoin core?

Other changes in the latest release are iterative, first steps that developers hope will lead to something more.

Partially Signed Bitcoin Transactions (PSBT) are another highly-anticipated change that fits the bill, coded up by Chow. (PSBT is a new format for transactions that are not fully signed yet that can be passed around until finally broadcast.)

This all sounds rather technical, but the thinking here is actually rather forward-looking, and could have an impact on a wide range of users.

Already, there are all sorts of hardware wallets on the market, small mechanical devices that are considered one of the safest ways of storing bitcoin, since it moves the keys that unlock them offline so they can’t be stolen by way of an internet connection.

But each hardware wallet – including Trezor, Ledger, and so forth – is kind of off in its own little world when it comes to how it engages with the software. In short, they aren’t compatible with all software wallets at once.

One of the easiest ways to use a hardware wallet is to leave it offline, but then connect it to a software wallet on a mobile device that makes it easy to actually make transactions.

It’s cool that this is possible – to get the security of hardware wallet but the convenience of a software wallet at the same time. The problem is that usually each hardware wallet only includes support for one or two software wallets. Trezor only supports the softwaare wallet Electrum, for instance. They can’t connect the Trezor to Bitcoin Core or whatever other software they want to connect to.

And users have long been complaining about how annoying this is. BIP 174 offers away around that. It’s a standard that every wallet can use.

Though, of course, it depends on whether wallets actually indeed choose to use it. The prospects are looking optimistic so far. Even though the code isn’t officially out yet, it’s attracted much enthusiasm, with one hardware wallet, coldcardwallet implementing the transaction signing method already.

As wallets pick up this standard, it will make Bitcoin Core in particular a bit easier to use because hardware wallets will easily be able to connect to the software.

“PSBT will enable Bitcoin Core to more easily support hardware wallets and have better offline, airgapped wallet setups. I’m actually working on hardware wallet support for Bitcoin Core by using PSBT,” Chow told CoinDesk, going as far as to argue that Bitcoin Core is a much safer way to use bitcoin than other software wallets.

“[SPV wallets] carry privacy and potentially security risks as they are trusting a third party to do the blockchain verification. Once Bitcoin Core supports hardware wallets, users can use Bitcoin Core instead, and because it is a full node, the user does not need to trust a third party that the everything has been verified correctly,” he said.

But the code change opens up a lot of options, even potentially boosting bitcoin smart contracts and privacy features. “PSBT also makes things like multisigs and CoinJoins easier to do,” Chow continued.

To this end, one user tweeted: “Excited to see all the interesting ways BIP174 will be used.”

And more

These are a couple of the changes developers are most excited about, but there are dozens of other upgrades rolled into the release. One is a “dynamic wallet creation” feature.

“A few releases ago, we introduced the ability to use multiple wallets in Bitcoin Core. However that required starting Bitcoin Core configured for multiple wallets. Now, we can load, unload, and create wallets when the software is already running,” Chow said.

Meanwhile, you might have heard of Coin Selection, an improved way of plucking up the coins go into a transaction. It’s so much better than the old algorithm that it greatly improves bitcoin’s scalability as a whole, even cutting fees.

Though the main code for the new feature was already added about six months ago, the algorithm is getting a small privacy boost in the 17th release.

That still doesn’t cover everything. The rest of the changes are to be described in more detail in the final release notes, which will be released at the same time as the final, tested code.

These might seem like small changes. Especially since few people use bitcoin and even fewer use Bitcoin Core. And there’s no question why. Bitcoin’s software takes up nearly 200 GB, about the size of a laptop. Downloading it and using it is a far cry from downloading and setting up the Venmo app on a smartphone in matter of minutes.

But the goal with these major code changes is to eventually get the code to the point where it’s not such a pain to set up, so maybe one day anyone who wants to utilize the full advantages of bitcoin can do so.

Locks image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Bitcoin's Biggest Startups Are Backing a New Effort to Keep Fees Low

2017 was a wake-up call for bitcoin supporters to say the least.

With so many people using the software amid a price boom, the fees for sending transactions swelled higher than ever before, even rising to as much as an average of $26 for a single transaction. It was a road with too many cars, leading to a veritable traffic jam.

Sure, the situation wasn’t long to last, as fees fell back to manageable levels, but the worry is this spike could always happen again – if, or dare we say it, when, bitcoin “goes mainstream.”

But fees don’t have to be as high next time there’s a spike in the cryptocurrency’s use, at least that’s the argument being put forward by those launching a new effort called Bitcoin Optech.

Led by bitcoin developer and Bitcoin Core contributor John Newbery, the effort is an attempt to help the companies that rely on the bitcoin software figure out what scaling technologies they’re missing, including those that will push fees lower.

Newbery told CoinDesk:

“Businesses were caught unawares. At the same time, there was lots of scaling tech that could have helped and that was well-understood, but they weren’t adopted yet.”

That gave him the idea that developers with knowledge of bitcoin’s underlying tech could be more aggressive in helping companies through such upgrades. For instance, the bug fix Segregated Witness (SegWit) activated last August, but bitcoin businesses were slow to adopt the change, even though it can cut fees by half.

Since it can help to improve the experience for all bitcoin users, many notable entities are interested in the effort, with investors Xapo CEO Wences Casares, entrepreneur John Pfeffer and bitcoin development group Chaincode Labs giving them the money to get the project off the ground.

The non-profit effort also boasts six member companies so far, including Coinbase, Square and BitGo, all who’ve expressed what they believe is a need for an effort like Bitcoin OpTech.

“By collaborating with leading engineers in this space, we’ll be able to achieve more than we could have by tackling these problems alone,” Coinbase lead bitcoin engineer Brock Miller said in a statement. Square strategic development lead Mike Brock said the company is “proud” to be working with OpTech.

Coming together

So far, Bitcoin OpTech has made contact with 15 to 20 bitcoin companies, saying they’re surprised by how excited they are to adopt various scaling technologies. “They’re saying something like Optech has been missing. and could be beneficial. It’s even bringing people together,” Newbery said.

In this way, it’s also helping heal relations between the various groups that have sprung up to support the decentralized bitcoin software. In the worst parts of bitcoin’s history, a rift has emerged between developers of the Bitcoin Core protocol and the industry’s companies, with the two different groups advocating for very different technical upgrades.

“The more engagement there is between industry and open source, the better,” OpTech’s announcement blog post explains.

To that end, they’ve identified a few key technologies that they can help business with right now.

Coin selection is a complicated problem dealing with the most efficient way of choosing which “coins” to send when a bitcoin users sends a transaction. Adding to the complexity, Bitcoin OpTech project manager Steve Lee stressed that the best selection technique often varies from wallet to wallet.

While “fee estimation” is another technical problem that’s hard to get right. Fee estimation tools in bitcoin wallets today often tell users they should pay fees much higher than they actually need to be paying.

Speaking about these very strategies, the Bitcoin Optech team, joined by Bitcoin Core contributor Andrew Chow, held their first workshop in San Francisco. Sponsored by Square, the event saw the developers go over some of these scaling technologies and what’s in it for the companies that adopt them.

Lee called this workshop a “good proof point” for what they’re doing in that more companies showed up than they could have hoped for. Six of the eight San Francisco companies they broached the topic to showed up at the workshop, demonstrating, in his mind, how hungry engineers at these companies are to learn about how to solve these types of problems.

“It’s hard to get their attention,” he said.

Catalyzing change

The Bitcoin OpTech team stressed, though, that they don’t want to be any sort of “central authority” telling bitcoin companies what they should and shouldn’t do.

Lee said they’re looking to be more of a “catalyst” for change.

By hosting more workshops similar to the above around the world, hopefully to give engineers the tools they need to make these scaling technologies on their own.

Meanwhile, they’ve been sending out weekly newsletters describing the most recent additions to Bitcoin Core, the most popular bitcoin client. And they have other ideas too, like creating a Slack group where member companies can keep in touch.

Another example of this is they’re looking to start what Lee calls an open-source “cookbook,” detailing various scaling changes bitcoin companies can adopt.

This documentation would be available to anyone, not just dues-paying members.

All that said, there’s a focus to Bitcoin Optech’s mission: technologies that businesses can add today

Maybe someday they’ll help companies other much-hyped technologies, such as lightning or Schnorr, since many bitcoin companies need to update their software in order to support these improvements.

But Newbery said that might be a while. They’re waiting until “they’re more advanced in their proposals.” Until then, they’ll be focused on well-understood strategies that bitcoin companies have yet to adopt.

Bitcoins and calculator image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Schnorr Is Looking Poised to Become Bitcoin's Biggest Change Since SegWit

Schnorr is coming…

In fact, the bitcoin upgrade arguably took its most significant step yet toward implementation last week when influential developer Pieter Wuille unveiled a draft outlining its technical makeup. With the release, the idea, one that’s been in the works by bitcoin developers for years, is one step closer to improving the scaling and privacy of the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency.

Effectively, this sets up Schnorr as the next big change to bitcoin, meaning it will be the largest code change since Segregated Witness (SegWit), a pivotal bug fix that prompted a drawn-out battle in the bitcoin community last year before ultimately being adopted.

At a technical level, adding support for Schnorr, a digital signature scheme, would give bitcoin users a new way to generate the cryptographic keys they need to used to store and send bitcoin. By doing so, it also paves the way for a number of exciting benefits, including tackling privacy and scalability, arguably two of bitcoin’s most worrisome problems.

“It is a building block for a variety of improvements,” Wuille told CoinDesk, adding there are even some further-out improvements that haven’t gotten a lot of attention quite yet. And while Wuille hopes the change will ultimately be adopted, he added it’s “ultimately up to the users” if they want to adopt it – as was the case with SegWit.

Co-authored by several top bitcoin developers, including the likes of Bitcoin Core contributor Johnson Lau and Gregory Maxwell, the technical, math-ridden proposal outlines the exact signature scheme that could be coded in bitcoin.

And while it’s far from that final goal, it’s a necessary piece.

Blockstream engineer and co-author Jonas Nick told CoinDesk:

“Standardizing Schnorr for bitcoin is a big step towards using it in bitcoin.”

A way forward

For one, the BIP draft helps to avoid future confusion by proposing a standard that ensures that all developers and merchants eventually implement the Schnorr signature code in the same way.

Though the full description can be read in the highly-technical BIP, the main idea is it describes the math necessary to produce Schnorr signatures, offering an alternative to Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA), the sole algorithm used to produce keys and verify transactions in bitcoin today.

Schnorr will have one thing in common with the signature scheme it seeks to crowd out, though. If plan is accepted, it will use the same mathematical “curve” that ECDSA uses to produce the keys, called “secp256k1.”

It’s a lot of tricky math, so it’s no surprise the release sparked technical discussion on the bitcoin developer mailing list.

But nothing major has come up so far and developers are optimistic, especially since one of Schnorr’s key benefits is that, unlike ECDSA, Schnorr’s security can actually be proved mathematically.

While Schnorr offers a number of improvements on its own, developers are also excited that it will also pave the way for a range of changes that can be built on top of it, such new privacy techniques.

Right now, it’s obvious when users send so-called “multi-sig transactions,” which are a more advanced type of transaction where more than one person is required to sign off on a transaction, because of bitcoin’s public ledger. But Schnorr pave the way for a technique that will make these transactions look the same as every other transaction.

Nick noted Schnorr will also lead these advanced transactions will be cheaper as well, an important improvement since transactions can grow very expensive in times of congestion.

And it seems like new tech built on top of Schnorr are being proposed on a regular basis.

“Due to the wealth of new discoveries lately I believe these technologies should be developed in a step-by-step basis, and my focus for a first step is just Schnorr and Taproot,” Wuille said, referring to the bitcoin improvement “Taproot” proposed earlier this year by another influential bitcoin developer Greg Maxwell to further improve bitcoin’s privacy.

Less detractors?

That said, there’s still a ways to go – Schnorr’s a massive project with many moving pieces.

While this BIP proposes a standard for developers to chime in on, Nick noted there’s also a code implementation that’s been in the works for ages, putting much of what’s in the BIP draft into practice.

Plus, once developers fight it out until they decide there are no longer any outstanding problems, developers need to come up with a way to actually add it to bitcoin, among other things.

“The specifics for how to deploy it in bitcoin are still being actively discussed,” Nick said.

Having been through a few so-called “consensus” changes in his years as a bitcoin developer, Wuille gave a particularly long list of things to do.

“Like any consensus change, it will be a long process involving fully fleshing out a draft for integration, publishing it, gathering comments from the technical community and ecosystem, writing implementations of both consensus rules and integration in wallet software, proposing a deployment plan, and if all goes well, get it activated,” he said.

In the email where he introduced the BIP, he added that if the BIP is “accepted” by the broader bitcoin community “we’ll work on more production-ready reference implementations and tests.”

Not to mention, there’s another potential stumbling block on everyone’s minds.

Schnorr is a particularly big upgrade. Although changes are being made to bitcoin every day, with code contributions coming from a diverse group of contributors stationed around the world, Schnorr is a rarer type of change, since it affects the most important rules in bitcoin.

SegWit was the last code change “consensus” change made to bitcoin, sparking a debate so big, those who disagreed with the change split off and created their own cryptocurrency with SegWit removed.

The most enthusiastic SegWit supporters even made hats to express their support for the code change. Blockchain consultant Francis Pouliot joked that similar advocacy hats should be made in advance of Schnorr, in case a similar vicious debate breaks out.

He’s not the only developer mulling this possibility.

“It looks for now there are less detractors than there was for SegWit,” developer Riccardo Casatta said, though adding he’s not taking any chances:

“You cannot say how things​ will go and as always, it is better to be patient.”

Welding laser image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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A Long-Secret Bitcoin Key Is About to Finally Be Revealed

A long-held bitcoin secret is about to be revealed.

No, it’s not the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, it’s a private key the cryptocurrency’s creator entrusted to several bitcoin developers that activates the protocol’s so-called “alert system,” once used to flash a text warning to those running the software in case something happened that could impact the security of their funds.

If you didn’t know bitcoin had a warning system like this, that’s because it was retired in 2016 due to security concerns and frequent confusion about its use.

“The alert system was a frequent source of misunderstanding about the security model and ‘effective governance,'” well-known Bitcoin Core contributor Greg Maxwell wrote in a public email from September 2016.

In short, some in the bitcoin community thought it could be used to change that network rules that unite users, which isn’t really the case. For example, a BitcoinJ developer once wanted to use the key to control fees, while a Bloq staffer pressed for Bitcoin Core developers to use the key to change the network’s mining difficulty.

Plus, developers were worried that if the wrong person got ahold of the key, they could broadcast false messages or potentially cause panic.

As such, to some, the reveal – being undertaken by Bitcoin Core contributor Bryan Bishop – is a long time coming.

“Folks, it’s going to be an interesting show,” Bishop tweeted, followed by a string of tweets cryptographically proving he’s in possession of the secret key, without fully revealing it quite yet.

The reveal is the final step to destroying the system. After Bitcoin Core developers released new code in 2016 without the alert system, in January 2017, a “final alert message” was broadcast, which – by law of the code – made that message unable to be overridden by any other messages in the future.

Still, the private key needs to be displayed publicly so there’s no possibility of reputation attacks against those developers that hold it.

Bishop told CoinDesk he plans to release it soon, though he’s not sure about the exact date, adding:

“It’s time. I’m thinking about releasing the private key early July at Building on Bitcoin, though it’s not finalized yet.”

Danger for altcoins

Still, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Revealing the key is potentially dangerous for any cryptocurrencies that used an older version of bitcoin’s code to create their cryptocurrency and have not disabled the alert key mechanism in their own code.

“If the copycats have not disabled the alert system, nor changed the alert key [public key], and if they have not sent what’s known as a final alert message, then once the [bitcoin] keys are released, anyone will be able to send alerts on those [other] networks,” Bishop told CoinDesk.

It’s happened before actually. Litecoin creator Charlie Lee recounted on Twitter just last week how the lesser-known Feathercoin protocol (which copied litecoin’s code) received litecoin’s alert about upgrading to the latest litecoin client.

And while that isn’t a particularly nefarious example, Bishop said, controlling what alert messages are sent on various networks “sounds dangerous.”

As such, in Maxwell’s 2016 email, he said he had spent and would continue spending some time searching through other cryptocurrency codebases. If they were found to contain the alert key code from bitcoin, he vowed to notify those projects to remove that code.

Maxwell concluded:

“At some point after that, I would then plan to disclose this private key in public, eliminating any further potential of reputation attacks and diminishing the risk of misunderstanding the key as some special trusted source of authority.”

Reputation on the line

But, two years later, neither Maxwell – nor any other Bitcoin Core developer – has revealed the key.

“It’s something we have wanted to release for a few years. Nobody took any action, though,” Bishop said.

But by now, the projects susceptible to this vulnerability have had time to remove the code and upgrade. Although, some of those projects might not have developers anymore, even though users and still trading and using the cryptocurrencies, which could mean there’s been no update.

That said, Bishop’s giving these projects one last chance by sending messages on Twitter and through other channels.

Adding pressure that could prioritize the reveal, though, is that Bishop and others are worried about attacks on their reputation. For instance, if the private key was compromised and used to sign a message with bad intentions, it could be blamed on one of the Bitcoin Core developers who’s known  to have the key.

“Nobody knows the full list of people that have access to the private key. A message could be signed by the private key, and the secrecy is a liability because some of the people who have the key are known in public to have the key,” Bishop said, pointing to the fact that those with the key that are unknown could blame people who are known to hold the key for nefarious messages.

Bishop recently used the alert key (without revealing it) to sign a simple text message that he then tweeted out, displaying how it could be used to trick users or cause confusion within the community.

Plus, he told CoinDesk, there are other long-standing vulnerabilities within the alert key setup that he plans to disclose when he reveals the key to the public.

As such, Bishop concluded:

“It would be better if the key was released.”

Antique keys image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Bitcoin Core Version 0.16.1 Officially Released

Bitcoin Core version 0.16.1, a new major version including new features and performance improvements, has been officially released, according to an announcement made June 15.

The new release reportedly includes “new features, various bugfixes and performance improvements, as well as updated translations.” Notably, this Bitcoin Core version removed miner block size recalling the deprecation of the “-blockmaxsize” option for miners to limit their blocks’ sizes in version 0.15.1. It states that miners now should apply “-blockmaxweight” option if they want to limit the weight of their blocks.

Additionally, the upgrade affected wallets which were created in 0.16 and later. They are “not compatible with versions prior to 0.16 and will not work if you try to use newly created wallets in older versions,” the release says.

The previous Bitcoin Core client version was released at the end of February, and provided “full support” for Segregated Witness (SegWit) scaling technology, which is designed to reduce processing and wait times, as well as transactions fees. Bitcoin Core developer Jimmy Song, then commented on the most notable feature of Bitcoin Core version 0.16.0, saying that “native SegWit support (bech32) is going to get much more adoption as a result of this update. This will reduce block bloat and encourage more wallets in the ecosystem to adopt bech32.”

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There's Another Bitcoin Core in Town – And It's Trolling Bitcoin Cash

Has a cryptocurrency by trolls, for trolls, finally been created?

If not, the cryptocurrency bitcoin core (BTCC) certainly comes close. And no, we’re not using the derogatory other name for the cryptocurrency most often referred to as bitcoin – the one that legendary crypto investor and bitcoin cash booster Roger Ver likes to berate. Rather, BTCC is a new cryptocurrency, which ironically enough came about from a fork of bitcoin cash. Well, a hard fork of a bitcoin cash hard fork that is.

It’s all a bit confusing, but after bitcoin cash’s November 2017 hard fork, which was executed to fix the cryptocurrency’s mining algorithm, a small group resisted, splitting the blockchain and creating a new project called “bitcoin clashic.”

But because bitcoin clashic didn’t address the issue, it faded away after a few months.

Yet, another small group of ever-persistent developers forked bitcoin clashic – fixing its issues but leaving the updates from bitcoin cash’s most recent hard fork – a couple weeks ago to create bitcoin core (BTCC).

Or in the words of the BTCC Twitter account:

“We are the cool cousin that’s a good wingman. Unlike the other one hating and trying to steal ur [sic] girl.”

That comment, while irreverent, speaks not only to the fact that BTCC is supposed to complement bitcoin (instead of compete with it as bitcoin cash is generally positioned as), but also that the BTCC devs are, in part, trolling Mr. Ver.

See, Ver has made it his mission to paint bitcoin cash as the “real” bitcoin – a protocol that better represents what Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, would have wanted. And while it’s not the original chain, Ver very often renames bitcoin, “bitcoin core” (after the name of the team behind bitcoin’s main software implementation), and has even went so far as to label bitcoin cash, “bitcoin” and bitcoin, “bitcoin core” on his website bitcoin.com.

While no one has a trademark over the bitcoin name, many are outraged by Ver’s antics, contending that his categorizations will confuse new investors. And the developers behind BTCC seem to be aligned with those opposed to Ver.

The original BTCC website (which has since been altered) trolled Ver by arguing that BTCC is, in fact, the currency Ver was really talking about when he speaks about the “real” bitcoin. And BTCC’s Telegram channel is filled with messages like “I can’t take Roger Ver no more.” Even the cryptocurrency’s main block explorer is called “truevisionofsatoshi.com,” referencing a tagline that many bitcoin cash supporters have taken to.

Plus, the team behind BTCC has also taken to poking fun at other notable bitcoin cash supporters, including John McAfee, the brash entrepreneur that made his money off anti-virus software and now shills crypto tokens on Twitter for a price.

And since trolling is a much-appreciated method for showing disdain in cryptocurrency circles, BTCC is getting plenty of attention.

Pseudonymous bitcoin subreddit moderator BashCo said that the cryptocurrency has a serious element, too, since it takes attention away from what many claim are fraudulent acts of rebranding by Ver. In this way, it might be helpful to think of BTCC as a monetized piece of performance art, one only made possible by cryptocurrencies.

Bashco told CoinDesk:

“BTCC is interesting to me because it disrupts malicious attempts to rebrand bitcoin in order to promote an imposter coin.”

Branding debate

Backing up, bitcoin cash’s launch sparked an ongoing debate over bitcoin’s “branding.”

This war started when those opposed to bitcoin cash started calling it “bcash.” While those using bcash explained that the nickname was in an effort to eliminate confusion between bitcoin cash and bitcoin, the supporters of bitcoin cash didn’t like the new moniker.

According to bitcoin cash supporters like Eli Afram, the Bitcoin Cash Australia founder, giving bitcoin cash that nickname was more than just a helpful signal.

“When bitcoin cash first forked, many in the Bitcoin Core camp were so threatened they couldn’t even call it by its name or even its ticker for short and referred to it as ‘bcash,'” Afram argued to CoinDesk.

Since then, this naming war has gone through many iterations.

As mentioned, bitcoin cash supporters see the cryptocurrency as the “real” bitcoin since it upped the block size, allowing for more transactions to happen on the network with lower fees – what they see as Satoshi’s real interest in creating a cryptocurrency in the first place. Yet, detractors say it’s not that easy – since bitcoin has amassed a huge network worth billions of dollars, technical work has to be slow and steady so as not to disrupt the technology from its use as a store of value.

Still, bitcoin cash proponents have begun calling bitcoin “bitcoin core.”

As such, those in favor of bitcoin cash aren’t seeing the new bitcoin core (BTCC) cryptocurrency as a humorous meme.

“Bitcoin core (BTCC) was created to make people think bitcoin core (BTC) is bitcoin,” said Ryan X. Charles, the co-founder and CEO of Yours, which notably moved from bitcoin to bitcoin cash after the hard fork.

Ver told CoinDesk that BTCC isn’t “even worth commenting on.”

And all this prompted Afram to say:

“There’s going to be an eternal naming war.”

A chain kept alive

But even with most people thinking BTCC is just a silly effort to fight back against bitcoin cash semantics, the developers behind the cryptocurrency, at least in their own words, trying to distance themselves from the naming war.

“The original [bitcoin cash] was kept alive as an experimental testbed, and in case there was ever a use for it to make a positive contribution to bitcoin. It was, and is, a labor of love,” an anonymous spokesperson for BTCC told CoinDesk.

Although, according to the spokesperson, the BTCC team doesn’t exactly mind being seen as a bit of a joke, but he or she went on to claim the developers are taking the cryptocurrency more seriously.

“Some members of the community decided to have some fun and leverage the publicity,” the spokesperson said. “However, the Bitcoin Core developers are committed to delivering a unique value proposition, adhering to core values and offering increased speed and enhanced privacy.”

The spokesperson even said the BTCC developers have a hard fork planned soon that will upgrade the protocol; the developers want to add confidential transactions, a privacy feature that hides user balances since they believe bitcoin doesn’t go far enough to protect people’s privacy.

Still, these comments are hard to take seriously since the cryptocurrency’s official Twitter account and Telegram channel is full of trolling comments.

Even well-known cryptocurrency thought leaders such as Casa engineer Jameson Lopp are tweeting about it in a joking manner, while bitcoin investor Alistair Milne quipped in response:

“Trolling level 10001.”

Trolls image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Maximalist for Hire: Bitcoin Believer Pierre Rochard Starts Advisory Firm

Don’t judge a self-proclaimed bitcoin maximalist by his trollish tweets.

At least not Paris-born Pierre Rochard, who many have surely dismissed because of his bombastic Twitter account, which he routinely uses to diss “altcoin” fans for “peddling trash.” But to disregard him would be to miss the nuanced theory behind his quips.

“Obviously, there are other currencies that exist today,” Rochard, a 29-year-old accountant turned self-taught software engineer, told CoinDesk. As such, “it’s a bit of a strawman to say that bitcoin maximalists think there will only be one currency. The reason crypto is zero-sum is [because] money, in general, is zero-sum.”

In his analysis, global economies typically have one currency by which others are measured or held in reserve, whether it be gold or dollars. Rochard believes bitcoin is becoming that global store of value and transactional medium for the digital world, especially since other cryptocurrencies appear to be “heavily dependent” on it as a reserve currency.

So while other blockchain experts are launching multi-coin crypto hedge funds or freelancing as consultants for the tokenized fundraising projects known as initial coin offerings (ICOs), Rochard just launched Bitcoin Advisory LLC in Brooklyn, N.Y. – call it the maximalist consultancy.

Rochard wants to provide a variety of prospective investors with unadulterated insight into bitcoin.

But unlike with a traditional financial advisor or fund manager, clients are only paying for Rochard’s time. His advice, then, won’t be motivated by wanting people to invest through him or in anything offered exclusively by his company; to the contrary, he wants clients to walk away with the tools to manage their own investments.

“I do want to also present the case against investing in bitcoin or at least being more cautious about its valuation or more rigorous about analyzing the risks of investing in bitcoin. I don’t want investors going all in on bitcoin,” Rochard said, adding:

“I think that’s the worst possible thing they could do, even though that might not make me popular on Twitter. There needs to be a cautious portfolio approach to bitcoin.”

In fact, Rochard’s wife, a financial planner herself, insisted their “very boring” retirement funds exclude high-risk investments like bitcoin.

Objectivity needed

This idea that people shouldn’t trust third parties and instead empower themselves fueled Rochard’s passion for starting Bitcoin Advisory LLC in the first place.

According to him, the thwarted “New York Agreement,” in which a group of miners and businesses proposed ultimately unpopular changes to the bitcoin software, highlighted a dire need for independent advisors in this space. Since one aspect of the update was related to keeping transaction fees low for these corporate players, Rochard believes they had a vested interest to support the agreement, even though developers were worried about the effects of that change.

“These CEOs are the main liaison between institutional investors,” Rochard said. “I want to unbundle the information from the financial product.”

Of course, as a bitcoin maximalist Rochard isn’t completely objective.

But he may perhaps have less conflict of interest than a service provider that benefits from pushing users and investors to certain cryptocurrencies, for example.

At least, in his mind:

“They [startup CEOs] are the ones providing views on the bitcoin ecosystem. As such, they have an effect on the way investors think about bitcoin. Their companies have an agenda with regards to bitcoin.”

Rochard said his fidelity belongs solely to bitcoin and related projects like the lightning network, the technology many bitcoin developers are working on which looks to push transactions off-chain so that bitcoin can scale to more users in time.

Community building

In his new role, investors who want to run their own bitcoin nodes will find Rochard to be a particularly eager educator. And it’s definitely an area where expert advice could help, since running a full node can be one, quite the setup, and two, technically challenging,

But for Rochard, it’s a crucial activity in helping users to fully realize bitcoin’s potential, and ties into his engineering work (he’s created several tools to tally and organize access to new contributions to Bitcoin Core software on Github).

“What I want to see from my own contributions to Bitcoin Core is to help accelerate the development of Bitcoin Core’s wallet,” he said.

Because the open-source wallet relies on Bitcoin Core nodes, which broadcast and tally transactions for bitcoin miners to validate, in contrast to lighter software wallets like Jaxx or Bread, which only facilitate transactions, Rochard said this is the best way to be fully in control of your money.

Speaking again to his interest in weening people off third-party systems, Rochard said, “I generally want people to be running a full node regardless of the implementation it’s in because we’ve seen a lot of reliance on third parties.”

The new consulting gig isn’t Rochard’s first crack at launching a project geared towards educating people on bitcoin.

For instance, he co-founded the Satoshi Nakamoto Institute in March 2014 with two fellow alumni of the University of Texas at Austin, Michael Goldstein and Daniel Krawisz. The institute is essentially a free archive of reading materials related to money and cryptography from as far back as the 1970s, including a collection of emails from bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

More recently, Rochard and Goldstein started the Noded Bitcoin podcast, where they interview leading developers and bitcoin community influencers.

Speaking to his love of bitcoin, Rochard told CoinDesk:

“There’s so much to research in bitcoin alone. After five years, I’m still peeling the bitcoin onion.”

Image via Pierre Rochard

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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One of Bitcoin's Biggest Investments Might Finally Be Paying Off

Bitcoin appears to finally be making headway with one of its less-appreciated, but critical challenges: recruitment.

Simply put, the number of developers contributing to the cryptocurrency’s open-source code is suddenly on the rise. Sure enough, there have been at least 21 code submissions approved from new contributors over the past 50 days – and that’s no small feat given developers have struggled for years to entice new coders to work on the project.

And while the number of merges over the nearly two-month period didn’t jump up drastically, seeing new names within the Github repository is a welcome sight given that most of the hundreds of contributions to bitcoin over the past several years have been coded by a few dozen veterans.

According to several developers CoinDesk interviewed, there isn’t a direct correlation they can point to explain the increase, though there are likely contributors. Indeed, for some it’s a strong sign serious investments of time and effort in training and academic programs are finally paying off.

“Many educational and training efforts have lately helped to introduce new developers to Bitcoin Core and the bitcoin software ecosystem,” Ferdinando Ametrano, a professor at Politecnico di Milano who has served as a program director at bitcoin developer conferences, told CoinDesk.

Ametrano is, of course, talking about efforts such as Chaincode Labs, which has a residency program in New York where prolific Bitcoin Core developers like John Newberry have been giving their time to helping new recruits.

After attending Chaincode’s first residency in 2016, Newbury has now taught 11 participants from places like Israel and Hong Kong during the most recent program in January and February.

Newberry told CoinDesk:

“It feels like we’re busier now than we were six months ago. It’s almost impossible to keep up.”

But Newbury isn’t the only one teaching.

Another possible contributor is Jimmy Song’s Programming Blockchain Workshop, which has found the high-profile developer and Blockchain Capital partner teaching roughly 250 people since the workshop launched (in multiple locations across the U.S.) in September.

And demand has been so high that he’s offering a few more sessions over the next few months.

Inclusivity boost

Of note, though, is that those surveyed believe these programs could do more than boost contributions to the code by expanding and diversifying bitcoin’s pool of contributors.

“One of the things that surprised me is what kinds of people take my class. I expected it to be all developers,” said Song.

But as it turned out, participants ranged from teenage girls to hedge fund managers and retirees.

“Growing the developer team, in numbers and in quality of contributions and everything else, is important because you need a diversity of views,” Song said. “You don’t want it to just be a couple of people that do everything.”

Others agree the hegemony within the bitcoin developer community could set back the cryptocurrency eventually.

Matt Corallo, a long time Bitcoin Core contributor, tweeted in April about the importance of diversifying the ranks, saying:

Song echoed that, noting that bugs can creep in when there are too many developers with the same mindset working on a project.

Newberry continued, explaining that the Chaincode residency and other new educational programs for bitcoin development are touching on one of the key challenges the industry has typically faced – a lack of face-to-face learning opportunities.

He told CoinDesk:

“It’s very difficult if you don’t have that face-to-face interaction with other contributors.”

‘So welcomed’

This seems to have played out with Janey Gak, who recently attended one of Song’s workshops and is now developing a cryptocurrency wallet for users in developing countries like Afghanistan.

Not only did she learn the technical aspects of bitcoin that she needed to be able to build the app, but also plans on bringing what she knows (and learns) about Afghanistan and the developing world to the Core development community.

And this, according to Song will further decentralize the network and benefit the protocol by having a diverse pool of people to check code.

Echoing this, Newberry told CoinDesk, “All bugs are shallow given enough eyes. We all see bugs other people don’t see. Having that wide range of backgrounds and experiences is very beneficial to the quality of the project.”

And adding more developers is particularly helpful given that there are only a few dozen people right now with enough experience to properly review prospective contributions, creating a bottleneck. Currently, fewer than two dozen developers work on bitcoin’s software full-time out of roughly 40 regular contributors.

But according to Gak, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to attract more developers like herself, since experienced bitcoin developers have been so responsive.

Gak told CoinDesk that after Song’s workshop, several developers reached out to her to offer their help on her project.

“The community is full of very supportive people,” she said, adding:

“I’ve never felt so welcomed in my life.”

And perseverance

But still, hurdles stand in the way.

The complexity of the protocol on which billions of dollars in value currently depends makes the onboarding process for new developers no small task.

Plus, many of bitcoin’s developers work on the project on a volunteer basis, not always the most appealing idea. Although, several sponsorships, including ones from the MIT Media Lab, are allowing bitcoin developers to turn their labor of love into a full-time gig.

Yet still, this type of expertise is rare, with demand currently exceeding the supply of capable developers by far.

Although, this is a challenge shared by all open-source endeavours.

“I’m not sure finding people is a bitcoin-specific problem,” veteran bitcoin contributor Michael Ford told CoinDesk. “Any large open-source project will always struggle to find people who are willing to work and/or give up their own time for free.”

Although, certain idiosyncrasies may compound the issue in bitcoin’s case.

For instance, Newberry said that Bitcoin Core’s rigorous review process can be off-putting for prospective contributors.

“Maybe frustration is a challenge for people,” he said. “It feels like the review burden at Bitcoin Core is very high compared to other projects.”

Indeed, Christopher Coverdale, a developer who recently contributed to Bitcoin Core for the first time, told CoinDesk he noticed it takes an unusually long time to get up to speed on the network’s meticulous standards. And while Coverdale plans to continue participating, he added that it requires perseverance.

“The senior developers and reviewers have far too many pull requests to review and have important projects to work on, so understanding that pull requests might be reviewed a week later is perfectly normal,” Cloverdale said, adding:

“I’ve also found that patience is really important when contributing to bitcoin.”

Programming Blockchain workshop image via Jimmy Song

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Bitcoin Cash Is Bitcoin? Lawsuits Won't Stop the Fight Over Bitcoin's Name

“Roger Ver deserves to go to (back to) jail for fraud.”

For those not immersed in bitcoin’s byzantine politics, it might seem strange to see Ragnar Lifthrasir, a self-described “passionate advocate for bitcoin,” wish incarceration on an early adopter and fervent evangelist the community once called “Bitcoin Jesus.”

But Lifthrasir isn’t alone in his desire to lock Ver up a second time (Ver was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2002 for selling explosives on eBay). His j’accuse was retweeted over 500 times in just over 24 hours, and a Reddit thread on the same subject featured multiple accusations of fraud and calls for jail time.

Rather, the allegations started after it was noticed that the block explorer, a tool for visualizing data on Bitcoin.com, an educational site that Roger Ver owns, had labeled what many consider the “bitcoin cash protocol,” the version of the blockchain that forked off bitcoin this past August, “bitcoin.”

Just “bitcoin.”

And for many, like Lifthrasir, that slight deviation from how the majority defines the two competing cryptocurrencies was the last straw.

Indeed, after nearly a year of infighting between the two camps, some Reddit users went so far as to call for people to report Bitcoin.com to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at the FBI. And, at time of writing, a Telegram group called “Bitcoin.com lawsuit crowdfund” has even picked up more than 900 members.

Even those who have expressed positivity toward the bitcoin cash blockchain and its potential value as yet another experimentation in the market, were aghast.

Cobra, a pseudonymous cryptocurrency enthusiast, told CoinDesk, “I think it’s criminal behavior.”

Cobra continued:

“While it’s fine for one to have the personal opinion that bitcoin cash is similar to what was described in the bitcoin white paper, presenting bitcoin cash itself as bitcoin on a commercial website visited by thousands of newbies daily looking to learn about the actual bitcoin is just deceptive and fraudulent.”

Round two … or three?  

Stepping back, the fight that Roger Ver finds himself at the center of is rather an age-old argument about who or what defines bitcoin. Is it the code? The white paper?

Or perhaps it’s the case, as Casa engineer Jameson Lopp argued, that “There is no web site, forum, social media account, foundation, code repository, conference, enterprise alliance, or organization of any kind that defines Bitcoin.”

Certainly, there have been varying interpretations, a fact made worse by the lack of clear agreement on a common reference point.

Ver’s own belief, which he’s expressed multiple times over the years, is that the true bitcoin must fulfill “Satoshi’s vision” of a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system,” a term laid down in the original white paper, published in 2009.

And this lack of strong historical agreement appears to have become fodder for Ver, who has arguably sought to highlight this fact in recent public statements.

Indeed, bitcoin’s own software has introduced more than one interpretation over the years, though the goal has always been the same, to help those running the software judge the validity of a transaction history, if and when there are competing versions.

To this day, the computing program includes something called “best chain” logic in its consensus rules, though it differs from how it was originally implemented.

At launch, the rule stated that the correct bitcoin blockchain was the “longest chain,” the one with the largest number blocks of data contributed by miners. Very early on, though, that rule was changed to follow the chain with the most “proof of work,” the computing power expended by miners, which updates and secures the blockchain.

Developers have largely agreed the change was for the better, arguing that the “longest chain” logic was flawed. However, it’s noteworthy that “longest chain” has been an element of the argument for years, even being frequently evoked by businesses in the debate leading up to the bitcoin cash fork and thereafter in other fork debates

A provocation  

Still, while Ver’s point may be rooted in a longstanding debate, his methods for disseminating his views appear to be sparking outrage.

On Friday, for instance, Ver tweeted a list of all the ways that one might consider a piece of software “bitcoin,” including criteria he credits to bitcoin cash: low fees and fast and reliable payments.

In fact, he went so far as to argue that bitcoin cash beat out bitcoin core in every category, except for “longest chain, with most proof of work.” (Because bitcoin core’s network of miners is larger, the chain unquestionably has more computational power.)

Tensions have continued to run high since then, primarily because Ver continues to refer to bitcoin cash as bitcoin.

Speaking to CoinDesk, however, he defended his actions and dismissed the threat of litigation, saying that it “seems strange” as “bitcoin is open source and permissionless.” Ver believes, in short, that he doesn’t need anyone or anything to dictate what he believes bitcoin to be.

These arguments have inspired comparisons between bitcoin and religion in the past, a theme that has emerged again in the past week.

Indeed, Ver speaks on the subject with a passion of someone giving a sermon. At a conference in April, he said that refusing to accept bitcoin cash as the real bitcoin delays the technology’s adoption, and that “means more babies are dying in countries around the world.”

It’s a comment that lent itself to a fair bit of mockery owing to its hyperbole. Still, it’s worth noting that such barbs have also been launched by those faithful to bitcoin core developers and their software.

Twitter user Armin van Bitcoin, for instance, has accused Ver of promoting “rat poison” in his marketing of bitcoin cash as bitcoin.

A lack of consensus

Still, the software’s developers appear a bit more agnostic about all the infighting.

When queried, they remarked that there’s no real answer as to what constitutes bitcoin, owing to the decentralized nature of the software.

“Ultimately, I think personally you cannot objectively define bitcoin, and I’ve tried,” said one long-time bitcoin core advocate, who goes by the pseudonym ‘Shinobimonkey.’

And there are many reasons for this.

Elizabeth Stark, CEO of a company building next-generation bitcoin technology, Lightning Labs, offered an example. Suppose a government “attacked” the bitcoin blockchain and was then in possession of the “longest valid chain” and could change its rules.

That wouldn’t necessarily be bitcoin, she argued.

“Bitcoin is a shared collective belief where the longest valid chain is a factor,” she said.

Others remarked how other decision-making frameworks are similarly inadequate.

“If someone working for Ford Motors left, and built a new car company that became more valuable than Ford, it doesn’t magically just become Ford Motors,” Shinobimoney added. “At this point, [in my opinion] it comes down to incumbency.” 

Legal action unlikely

Still, it’s almost certain that someone will try to sue Ver at this point, but according to Jason Siebert, a cryptocurrency attorney, their prospects of success are dim.

“The only people with a claim would be those that purchased BCH instead of BTC thinking they were buying bitcoin,” he wrote recently.

Even if private individuals did bring a civil lawsuit, it could only result in orders for corrective action or a fine. Ver would not receive jail time, two attorneys specializing in cryptocurrency confirmed to CoinDesk.

In theory, the Department of Justice could file criminal fraud charges against Ver, but for that to happen, his actions would have to meet the rigorous standard of “specific intent to defraud specific people.”

As Matt Gertler, senior analyst and counsel at Digital Asset Research points out, Ver’s public insistence that bitcoin cash is the real bitcoin could make it “difficult to prove that he knowingly misrepresented the truth.”

What’s more, these points are moot, because Bitcoin.com does not sell bitcoin cash in the U.S. In jurisdictions where it does sell bitcoin cash, the page clearly distinguishes between bitcoin cash and bitcoin core; there is no option to purchase just “bitcoin.”

So no, Ver is not going back to jail, but his dogmatism has dragged the scaling debate to new depths.

As Cobra said:

“Imagine if after the American War of Independence and the U.S. was born, George Washington ran around telling people that ‘USA is England’ … and said he was implementing the true vision of the Magna Carta.”

Broken phone image via Shutterstock.

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.