The next Bitcoin Cash (BCH) hard fork and upgrade, scheduled for May 2019, will not be contentious. That’s according to a group of developers representing major software producers on the network, who held a livestream meeting this week.
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Open Communication Promotes Consensus Among Developers
Bitcoin Cash schedules two regular hard fork upgrades per year (meaning miners and nodes must update to the latest software version to remain compatible). While the term “hard fork” may evoke memories of infamous disagreements and coin splits for non-devs, such events only occur when there are fundamental disagreements over how a particular cryptocurrency should function.
That doesn’t appear to be the case for BCH this time. A list of the various proposals is available on GitHub.
Representatives from the various BCH development teams discussed the plans in a livestream video conference on January 3rd. The meeting, organized by David Allen of FVNI Development Society, included: Amaury Sechet, Antony Zegers and Jason Cox of Bitcoin ABC, Bitcoin.com CTO Emil Oldenberg, Bitcoin Unlimited’s Chris Pacia (also of OpenBazaar) and Andrea Suisani, and developer Mark Lundeberg. Outside viewers were also invited to watch and ask questions.
The hope is that holding regular interactions (twice a month) will facilitate greater communication and cooperation between Bitcoin Cash’s development teams. Given the multi-team approach to BCH protocol development, misunderstandings or differences of opinion could escalate into another hard-fork situation of the type that saw nChain’s team splinter off to work on Bitcoin SV in November 2018.
Bitcoin Unlimited develops client software for both Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV.
Taking live questions and releasing videos of the discussions to the public should also make Bitcoin Cash development more transparent — and encourage outsiders to get involved if they have something useful to contribute.
Proposals for BCH Protocol Upgrades
None of the agenda items proposes major changes to the BCH protocol, at least from the average users’ perspective. However the backend efficiencies they introduce could lead to easier scaling and better security overall.
The group discussed the possibility of implementing Schnorr signatures on BCH, often touted as more flexible then the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) currently used in Bitcoin (all types). They agreed Schnorr would definitely be an improvement, but that it would need a thorough review by cryptographic experts outside the BCH world before consideration.
Other proposals were activating the remaining BIP 62 items, in particular those that could “rescue” BCH coins sent to Bitcoin BTC SegWit addresses; an ideal byte size for each transaction; the complex task of sigops accounting; and if any older opcodes (e.g.: MUL, INVERT) should be considered for inclusion.
Oldenberg raised the topic of unconfirmed transactions that individual users can add to the chain (currently limited to 25) and asked if the devs might consider an increase for the May 2019 fork. While this may seem like a lot, several BCH use cases hinge on performing more (and smaller) transactions such as tipping and dice games, and Bitcoin.com had received a number of support requests on the issue.
Developers acknowledged this is an issue, but felt a need to gather more data before deciding. Increasing the unconfirmed chain size even to 35 could increase computational strain on the network and even throw some nodes out of sync if they’re not configured the same way.
The Need for ‘Ownership’ of Proposals
One point that came up repeatedly in the meeting was who should take ownership of each item. Cox in particular felt it necessary to declare ownership to ensure progress is made, while Sechet said anyone who considered an issue important enough “should be stepping up to the plate” by taking responsibility for them.
“They don’t happen by magic,” he said. “If no-one’s doing anything about them, they’re never going to happen.”
Zegers described the meeting format as “useful”, adding that it encouraged people to take an interest in what’s going on behind the scenes in BCH development.
Allen said the group, which could include other participants in the future, should meet regularly and create a formal timeline of proposed changes and their current statuses as May approaches.
Do regular meetings for developers ensure a smoother upgrade process for BCH and other cryptocurrencies? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
Images via The Future of Bitcoin, Pixabay, Bitsonline
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