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Suspended Not Abandoned? Jeff Garzik Is Reworking the Segwit2x Code

The controversial scaling proposal Segwit2x may have been officially called off this August, but that doesn’t mean its former lead developer is giving up on plans to keep its codebase alive.

In fact, Jeff Garzik, better known as the CEO of blockchain startup Bloq, now believes his prior work could be revived in a way that promotes interoperability between the increasingly fragmented set of protocols bearing the bitcoin name (see: bitcoin, bitcoin cash and bitcoin gold). And in a new interview, he revealed that he is working on forthcoming updates to the software, called BTC1, with this goal in mind.

While he admits he’s not sure how successful the effort will be, Garzik nonetheless framed it as one aimed at unifying a bitcoin developer community that saw no shortage of infighting in 2017.

Garzik told CoinDesk:

“I hope that bringing multiple chains together in one software will, in some small way, bring multiple developers from multiple communities back together.”

Still, the development is notable given the software’s history in achieving the opposite.

After all, the BTC1 code is most associated with Segwit2x, a failed attempt by business and miners to change the rules of the bitcoin protocol. Forged at a meeting in New York in May, the agreement called for the block size parameter to be raised to 2MB, while also pushing for an upgrade called Segregated Witness, designed to both improve and expand bitcoin’s block size.

However, while SegWit was enacted, the block size increase, formally coded in BTC1, was officially called off not weeks before it was supposed to go live amid significant pushback and criticism from developers.

‘Bitcoin cousins’

But while a handful of new cryptocurrencies have been created out of new bitcoin software versions over the past few months, Garzik stressed that the goal of the new BTC1 iteration is not to create a new currency.

“It’s not a new chain. That’s the key innovation of BTC1,” he told CoinDesk.

Instead, Garzik’s concept relies on developing a new version of the Bitcoin Core software – the most popular implementation of bitcoin – though one in which the code can support multiple different cryptocurrencies. In this way, BTC1 will follow whatever changes are added to Bitcoin Core.

Garzik went on to compare the software to ethereum, which allows new cryptocurrencies to be issued on its blockchain, something that’s possible on top of bitcoin, though perhaps not as easy as it is on competing protocols.

“The focus will be on multi-coin support of ‘bitcoin cousins,'” he said, defining “cousins” as coins with software that shares 97 percent or more of the code with the original bitcoin software the Core developers manage.

With BTC1, as Garzik envisions it it, users won’t have to download one litecoin node, one bitcoin node and one bitcoin cash node. Rather they just download one BTC1 full node and it supports all of the chains simultaneously.

As far as what coins (of the more than 1,300 total coins that have sprung up over the years, many with code nearly identical to bitcoin’s) will be supported by BTC1, Garzik plans to be choosy, at least at first, adding only “successful” networks that have attracted significant attention from users. In his eyes, at least so far, litecoin, zcash, and maybe bitcoin cash meet these criteria.

He added:

“Since six bitcoin forks were created in December alone, it’s not realistic to support all of them.”

And he’s being strict with this stance, arguing for neutrality, saying that it even applies to United Bitcoin, a recent bitcoin fork for which Garzik serves as chief scientist.

“I would like to see United Bitcoin adopted, but by my own metric, it’s not there yet,” he said.

Beyond the coin

Garzik also plans to take the idea beyond cryptocurrencies.

Taking inspiration from Red Hat, a Linux company that Garzik worked at for more than a decade, he sees Bloq using the new BTC1 software to bridge the corporate and open-source worlds. Just as the open-source software Fedora feeds into the Red Hat product, Garzik believes an open-source BTC1 software can feed into Bloq.

In this way, Garzik claims Bloq developers won’t be the only developers working on BTC1. Garzik plans to open development up to anyone that wants to participate, including a “handful” of developers that worked on Segwit2x.

Although this idea sounds very different from the code’s original intent, Garzik argues this was always his plan – to move the BTC1 software forward whether Segwit2x succeeded or not.

He said:

“BTC1 was always supposed to be longterm. Segwit2x was always supposed to be a one and done. And BTC1 was always supposed to be the entity that continued even after Segwit2x’s success or failure.”

Yet, the new iteration of the codebase also has benefits for Bloq – which recently announced it’d be launching a cross-blockchain cryptocurrency called metronome – as well.

According to Garzik, many of the software implementations that forked off bitcoin, especially older coins, have vulnerabilities within them because they aren’t as heavily developed as bitcoin, for instance. These bugs can cause serious issues for Bloq’s current enterprise customers, and so the company would benefit from having open-source code that supports the development of different cryptocurrencies simultaneously.

To that end, Bloq and some of its customers (which will be announced in the next 60 days) are funding at least 50 percent of BTC1’s future development, Garzik said. Interoperability between coins is something many crypto enthusiasts are interested in, envisioning a future which Garzik calls a “multi-coin universe.”

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Bloq and helped organize the Segwit2x agreement. 

Jeff Garzik image via TEDx video

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Interested in offering your expertise or insights to our reporting? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.

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Jeff Garzik Startup Bloq to Launch New Cryptocurrency in Token Sale

“‘Tis what it ’tis.”

Call it a statement on the times, but Bloq CEO Jeff Garzik isn’t exactly expecting a warm reception to the news his startup is launching a new token.

Long a controversial figure at the center of the debate on how best to scale the public bitcoin blockchain, Garzik’s company is today announcing what it believes will be a solution to the infighting he perceives as keeping money out of the established cryptocurrency market.

Revealed at Money2020 in Las Vegas, Bloq is unveiling metronome, a cryptocurrency that seeks to claim a series of firsts in crypto-economics, including offering users the ability to switch the same token back and forth between blockchains as desired.

“It’s sort of a best-of-all-worlds cryptocurrency,” Garzik said, describing it as a “boxcar” that could ride on top of any compatible blockchain.

Garzik told CoinDesk:

“You can run it on the etheruem, ethereum classic, quantum. That’s one of the key ways that this is self-governing, for the first time, you’re not tied to a single blockchain, you can run metronome contracts on any EVM compatible blockchain.”

As for how it will impact the Bloq business model, today focused on enterprise services, Garzik and co-founder Matt Roszak indicated they believe the project is consistent with the firm’s “multi-token, multi-network” vision for blockchain development.

Launched in 2016 with the goal of bringing Red Hat-inspired services to bitcoin, Garzik echoed a familiar refrain in an interview, voicing his belief bitcoin is still destined to form the “root of an Internet of blockchains,” others of which may have different use cases and attributes.

In this light, Garzik framed metronome as seeking to offer a utility to those who want to a more reliable store of value and foundation for distributed applications.

“We feel that there is a consistent demand for a cross-chain option. I point to the major uncertainty of proof-of-stake and proof-of-work, where the proof-of-stake system is going to change the money supply, but [ethereum] hasn’t stated how much it will change,” he said.

That said, Garzik said metronome isn’t exactly a bit to replace the prevailing public blockchains available on the market, so much as to tailor them to a different audience.

“You can expect the bitcoin maximalists’ from the ethereum maximalists’ reactions, but it’s building on the strength of existing blockchains, it’s not trying to elbow them aside,” he said.

No ‘existential risks’

But if some of the more acrimonious debates in the cryptocurrency world seem besides the point, Garzik’s involvement appears to have left him with inspiration for his latest work.

As outlined in the metronome white paper, one of the chief selling points of the token is that it boasts “zero founder control” after its launch, and as such, is resistant “to the whims of individual or community discord” by functioning as a series of smart contracts.

All told, metronome is comprised of four types of smart contracts, which allocate the distribution of new tokens, regulate supply and liquidity and move funds between accounts.

Praised as a feature by the Bloq team, Roszak believes this sophisticated automation will encourage large investors who have yet to put money into public cryptocurrencies for fear of the seemingly erratic decision-making by developer groups to do so.

“When they analyze cryptocurrency, the analysts engineers and economists sitting at the committee, they’re saying they pick the top two – bitcoin and ether. Then they say, well there’s forks, ‘civil wars,’ ‘proof of Vitalik,'” Roszak posited. “They’re cryptographically secure but these components create surprise and risk.”

In contrast, Roszak framed the Metronome token as “fixed and locked in stone,” attributes he suggested should counter these concerns.

However, Roszak seemed to shirk the idea that the nascent state of blockchain technology could pose problems give the fixed nature of the distribution system of the cryptocurrency. Rather, he sought to stress that while the monetary network is set, flexibility will be provided in the ability of the token to port the system between blockchains.

“Having that rigidity of knowing exactly what the token does and behaves, that certainty, seeing that mintage curve is not available in any other cryptocurrency,” he said.

Monetary network

Equally unique, however, is how the token will seek to operate on launch.

As described in its announcement materials, metronome is opening with an initial auction of 10 million MTN, with 8 million MTN being made available to the public and 2 million being set aside for Bloq as the principal development team.

Any proceeds of the sale will be sent to smart contracts that will manage the distribution of the funds, which Garzik said will distribute the proceeds “over decades” to metronome users.
As an example, there will be a stable allocation of new metronome tokens daily, with about 2,880 MTN created during the first 40 years.

Here, too, Garzik sees metronome as offering an innovation in a market where most cryptocurrencies are scheduled to reduce their supplies to zero.

“That’s one of the worries about the bitcoin-type supply curves, and it’s assumed and hoped that that will pay to sustain the system. But, that’s just a hope,” Garzik said.

Still, it’s here where metronome perhaps could run into issues similar to the ones it’s seeking to avoid in its designed. Noted in the white paper is how certain groups could take steps to alter the supply rate.

“A consortium could agree to fork the MTN supply with a new MTN contract on the same or different chains, by exporting funds they control to the new fork,” the white paper reads.

That such decisions could also form the subject of infighting is not addressed in the paper.

Sale details

That said, Bloq is aiming to move swiftly on the launch of the token, setting a date for the first week of December for its token sale.

According to Roszak, the Metronome code has undergone three audits since it was first written, with Ethereum Foundation member Gustav Simonson, Demian Brenner, CEO of smart contract review services provider Zeppelin, and Martin Swende, security lead at the Ethereum Foundation, auditing the code.

On release to the public, Bloq will aim to use a descending price auction model by which tokens become less expensive to purchase as the sale progresses.

Still, it’s worth noting that similar models have been tried without success, with a so-called Dutch auction system put in place by distributed application project Gnosis seeing its tokens raise $12 million, selling out in a matter of minutes.

Yet, it was the current state of the code that was perhaps the biggest selling point toward a sale.

“Today, you can raise money with a good idea, but as some of these things get pressure-tested, you’ll have to launch with code, then you’ll have to launch with users,” Roszak said.

He concluded:

“We’re launching with code that’s ready.”

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Bloq.

Metronome image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at news@coindesk.com.