Mike Hearn was a software developer for Google. He worked on account security and anti-spam systems. A few years ago he was introduced to Bitcoin, which was a fairly unknown virtual money protocol in those days. He recognized the importance and potential of this revolutionary idea and immediately wanted to be a part of it. He quit his job at Google (that we all know is something very nice to give up on) and decided to start working on the Bitcoin protocol. When talking about the currencies’ strengths and weaknesses, it’s hard to find anyone as close to the source as Hearn is.
His words were surprising to say the least. He wasn’t talking about a system that is strong enough to take over the financial world. Instead, he pointed out obvious flaws in a protocol that is still in its infancy. So what are his main concerns that still threaten Bitcoin and, more importantly, are there solutions to counter these issues?
Every time the protocol is under attack, the team behind Bitcoin is pretty much aware of the vulnerability. So what’s stopping them of tackling these problems before they are exploited? Hearn indicates that, in order to solve these vulnerabilities, a lot of manpower is needed to implement the necessary code. That simply isn’t available at the moment. Funding for this is, primarily, obtained by The Bitcoin Foundation, and the amount of people working on the code is not that extensive. Hearn worries that Bitcoin is growing so rapidly that its programmers won’t be able to keep up with that, leaving a protocol that is both valuable and vulnerable to attacks.
Remember that first group of people we talked about earlier? This bullish behaviour is not what Bitcoin needs in order to grow. Hearn states that the people trying to pump Bitcoin are usually not at all close to the development and have no clue about the state of the code at this moment. The development team tries to act as a counterpart to these people, making sure that the world realizes that Bitcoin is still in beta. The code has flaws and weaknesses which lead to unlucky events. Hearn specifically talks about malleability attacks, which is said to be the main reason Mt. Gox was hacked earlier this year. The development team knew about malleability attacks for almost two years; they weren’t addressing it because there were even more urgent matters that needed to be dealt with. Given the impact that Mt. Gox had on Bitcoin, that is a bold statement to make. Still, it boils down to his first concern; Bitcoin needs more people actively working on the protocol.
Hearn’s interview ends with him saying the following words:
Some people think Bitcoin is indestructible, when it is not. In fact, it is very fragile.
Coming from one of Bitcoin’s core developers, this is a statement that puts us with both feet on the ground. To be clear, Hearn is a great believer in cryptocurrencies. If he wasn’t, he would not have quit his job in the first place. It’s just more healthy to be realistic about it all. It keeps us on the watch for flaws and will benefit us in the long run. Dreams are still permitted, and they can come true, just make sure to see the difference between dreams and the world we live in at this moment.
View the interview below:
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