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‘Bitcoin is a Fork, Bitcoin Cash Is the Original Blockchain,’ Claims NIST Report

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:04 PM
Josiah Wilmoth
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:04 PM

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a draft of its blockchain technology primer, and — consciously or not — it takes a controversial stand on the Bitcoin scaling debate.

As currently written, the 57-page “Blockchain Technology Overview ” (Draft NISTIR 8202), which was published by the institute’s Computer Security Resource Center (CRSC), claims that Bitcoin Cash –not Bitcoin — is the original blockchain created by Satoshi Nakamoto.

“When SegWit was activated, it caused a hard fork, and all the mining nodes and users who did not want to change started calling the original Bitcoin blockchain Bitcoin Cash (BCC),” the document states. “Technically, Bitcoin is a fork and Bitcoin Cash is the original blockchain. When the hard fork occurred, people had access to the same amount of coins on Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.”

Clearly, this overview presents some factual errors. While advocates may claim that “Bitcoin Cash is Bitcoin” and that the state of the original blockchain diverges from Satoshi’s original vision for the cryptocurrency, there is no hiding the fact that Bitcoin Cash — not Bitcoin — was created through the August 1 hard fork.

Additionally, the NIST report erroneously claims that Segregated Witness (SegWit), a scaling solution activated on the Bitcoin network in August, was implemented through a hard fork, which would have made SegWit-enabled software clients incompatible with older software versions. In actuality, SegWit was activated through a soft fork, meaning that it is compatible with legacy Bitcoin software.

Indeed, aversion to activating a hard fork on the main blockchain without ample testing is one reason that SegWit2x — a proposal which would have raised Bitcoin’s block size to 2MB in concurrence with the activation of SegWit — failed to garner sufficient support and was ultimately called off by its chief advocates.

The NIST is accepting public comments  on the draft until February 23. Given the present state of this “high-level technical overview,” one expects that the institute will receive quite a few.

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