Last spring a group of companies decided in a closed room deal to hard fork the Bitcoin blockchain to help scale the network. The hard fork was seen as a compromise by combining two scaling solutions such as SegWit and a 2MB increase in blocksize. This fork is referred to as SegWit2X, aka B2X.
There were two main problems with this arrangement. The first being that a handful of corporations cannot unilaterally decide the fate of Bitcoin without the entire ecosystem getting on board. The second being that their hard fork would eliminate the extensive peer review development process called BIP (Bitcoin Improvement Proposals).
Not only would the hard fork have eliminated the important peer review process, it would have replaced an entire group of developers with a one man team. When dealing with a $131B market cap investment, it’s important that any changes made to the protocol are methodical and rigorously tested. Trying to eliminate this peer review process is completely reckless.
Bitcoin is open-source technology and a financial system based on community consensus. A hard fork is a rewrite of certain elements of the code, which makes it incompatible with old nodes that fail to upgrade. This means that nodes on the network that don’t upgrade can end up stuck on a dead chain. In order for a hard fork to be carried out safely, there must be unanimous consensus throughout the industry, otherwise the fork is considered contentious.
Many people within the Bitcoin community opposed the hard fork and a NO2X campaign was launched. People would take to social media and voice their opposition by tagging their names with NO2X. This movement picked up momentum as many global Bitcoin communities and businesses voiced their opposition.
After several months of campaigning, NO2X was successful and the same handful of companies called off the hard fork. The one B2X developer moved on to work on launching an altcoin ICO.
A Catastrophe has Been Averted
There’s been a small group of people trying to keep the B2X fork alive, which likely would have turned into yet another altcoin airdrop. For those who don’t know, an airdrop is when bitcoin holders receive an altcoin from a forked branch of its blockchain. Anyone can create an airdrop so the majority of these fork offshoots have very little to do with the main network.
Today just 2 blocks before activation, all B2X nodes froze on block 494782. The crashed nodes were caused by a technical error in the code. This is exactly what happens when you try to eliminate the extensive peer review process in Bitcoin development and replace an entire team with a single part time developer. If it weren’t for the NO2X campaign being a success, it’s possible that the entire Bitcoin network would have crashed.
This isn’t the first time alternative competing implementations of Bitcoin nodes have failed horribly. Bitcoin Unlimited nodes once crashed due to a bug, with 70% of them dropping offline. Even the alternative BCASH hard fork had a horrible start with the network being unusable during the first few days. For months their blockchain would oscillate between fast and slow block times depending on the difficulty adjustment. Miners would game the system due to hyperinflation during periods of fast block propagation. They recently had to hard fork to fix this issue.
The many technical errors seen in “alternative” Bitcoin nodes is another reminder why the BIP peer review process and testing is imperative to Bitcoin development.