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Hold the fork: No 2x but everything else goes to Scaling Bitcoin Event

"Bitcoin is the currency of the enemies."

If accusatory thinking like that of Tadge Dryja was exposed, his target was relegated to theoretical targets on the first day of Scaling Bitcoin on Saturday. Held this year at Stanford University, the fourth edition of the event, which began filling the crisis of the Bitcoin era, saw significantly less discussion of the issues facing the roadmap of the open source project.

For example, despite its dominance in media titles, some panels have addressed the concept of ranges, or suggested that concurrent cryptocurrencies based on bitcoin might be able to outperform Bitcoin in terms of technology or adoption by the users.

Indeed, the absence was noted by the participants, who described the conversations as positive and optimistic about the future of the project because recent attempts at such efforts have largely failed .

"For [developers] [a contentious fork] is not even a possibility," said Wayne Vaughan, CEO of the blockchain Tierion startup and attending the conference. "Everyone is focusing on what they're going to build in addition to bitcoin."

In fact, the most important reference to the controversial software Segwit2x, which will be presented to the network in a few weeks, came from Bobby Lee, CEO of BTCC, bitcoin start-up and a proposal supporter, who told the public that he would not answer on the subject.

Rather, Lee focused his time on a pleasant discussion on generally safe topics – namely, the progress of bitcoin facing governments and the rising price of assets, which both overshadowed the widely divergent views on the effort

Thus, this year's edition of Scaling Bitcoin may have been marked by the lack of speed in the discussions – with the SegWit code change adopted in August, there appeared a silent consensus on the fact that the short-term pressures

This indifference was present as the way in which the most theoretical changes could or could be introduced into the network appeared secondary to results that simply left one guessing the current state of science on the subject.

In a speech, Ian Miers of John Hopkins University introduced BOLT, an anonymous payment channel design aimed at speculating on how payment channels, or high-level networks now possible with the introduction of the SegWit code, could have more discreet intermediaries.

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Miers noted, however, that Bitcoin's rules would have to change to accommodate the proposal, though it showed a disdain for more political details.

"Whether it is a fork or a sweet fork, I have long since stopped paying attention to this discussion," he told the audience.

Private channels

As expected, payment channels were one of the most visible topics of the day, with three sessions focused on how these proposed layers could become more private.

Pedro Moreno-Sanchez, from Purdue University, gave an overview of the current designs of the Lightning Network, the most successful version of payment channels for the bitcoin network, and which, although possible, faces difficulties in implementation.

Lightning network payments are only to the blockchain and therefore have a different design structure than the network itself. And that's why researchers fear what could happen when the star network is finally launched, with peers who unite to identify and scam users who are looking to engage in new ones. types of relationships that offer design.

"It's unclear what this chain will look like, if all the peers on the way hear, they can identify you, and even worse, you'll find yourself in this context if everything is centralized, you Do not have to worry about collusion, "Miers said, explaining the current challenges.


"The reality of the question is that centralized Lightning could get worse for Bitcoin in terms of privacy."

To help deter these results, the Moreno-Sanchez and Miers discussions focused on zero knowledge techniques, an older cryptographic concept that seeks to allow parties to verify the accuracy of information without exchanging information. sensitive data.

The work of Moreno Sanchez, conducted with four other Purdue researchers, presented two payment channel implementations based on a new smart contract type, while Miers was a work iteration introduced in 2016, now more relevant given that the Lightning Network is closer to launch.

Elsewhere, author of the White Paper Lightning Tadge Dryja gave a lecture on discrete log contracts, a work that suggests how the so-called oracles, or third-party data providers, might work in Lightning Networks, regulating Conditional payments between users like being sought for insurance payments or occasional bets.

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All, however, focused on the exchange of information between parties and on the optimal conditions in which interactions would occur to maintain the beneficial properties of bitcoin transactions on the bitcoin blockchain more transparent. .

Again on the chain

Unlike past years, the event also revealed open to discussion of topics that may have been taboo – a decision that seems to have led some convention organizers and former supporters to boycott the conference this year. (Notably, many developers of Bitcoin Core, the most used software client, were absent.)

For example, Peter Rizun and Andrew Stone, the developers best known for their work on alternative bitcoin Bitcoin Unlimited software, presented research supporting the idea that bitcoin could or should be reinvented to include more blocks. important.

However, less a terse question-and-answer session, Rizun and Stone's speech received a warmer welcome than in the past. In Milan, for example, the developers went so far as to organize a local event to present their work.

And while developers did not shy away from saying that bitcoin block sizes and transaction fees were negative, they better fit their ideas into format.

In this case, the developers presented data on the speed with which transactions can be accepted in the bitcoin memepool, thus changing their work on block propagation, or how the network could move larger blocks between counterparts.

Rizun and Stone's work seemed open in the light of past critics who had proposals for larger blocks such as those that might weaken the bitcoin node network, or computer customers who store full copies of the bitcoin node. blockchain bitcoin.

Rethinking Attacks

Also note the inclusion of discussions on the bitcoin work proof consensus protocol, the aspect of technology that is of most interest to the mining industry. cryptocurrency.

However, here too, the conference shows signs of past divisions, with a relatively small participation of minors this year, including only one – BTCC – which plays a decision-making role in upgrading its software.

Elsewhere, Min Chen, CTO of the Canaan bitcoin mining chip manufacturer, continued the company's recent positive public relations campaign with a speech that positioned the company as being open to alternatives to the proof of work, especially considering the technical community's anger over the actions of miners in the past.

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Chen's comments were as well-meaning as they were light on details of how the company would push the network toward that goal.

Still, it may be best to view the talks as a showcase from a different perspective, as Chen rejected the idea that minors should always be considered as attackers, as opposed to participants in the negotiations. network that provide a useful resource. ]

For example, Chen explained how blockchain protocols have often sought to limit the capabilities of minors, rather than thinking of how they might help the problems the network is facing.

"Protocols should be quantum and non-quantum, and if the quantum computer can bring 1000 times more efficiency to your system, it will reduce average costs," said Chen, at least calling on the idea that in the nascent field of cryptoeconomy. , the role of incentives is paramount.

She concluded:

"It's important to make sure that being a contributor is more economical than being an attacker."

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which participated in the organization of the Segwit2x agreement. DCG holds an interest in BTCC.

Images by Pete Rizzo for CoinDesk

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