Drama engulfed the Bitcoin industry over the weekend as longtime developer Mike Hearn announced his departure from the Bitcoin space. As Hearn announced he had divested from Bitcoin in December, Bitcoin Classic – a successor to Bitcoin-XT as a new client – appeared on the scene as a possible new implementation of the Bitcoin protocol.
Many in the Bitcoin industry celebrated the new solution, despite the reality that the coding is not done, and the main developer on the project once noted that he was an average C++ programmer. This hasn’t stopped industry leaders like Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong from championing the technology.
We could prob use a for-profit fork (similar to RedHat Linux), free/open source for non-commercial use, but enterprise customer pay $3-5k/mo
— Brian Armstrong (@brian_armstrong) January 16, 2016
Roger Ver is another big fan of the Bitcoin tech being offered by the Bitcoin Classic team.
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— Roger Ver (@rogerkver) January 17, 2016
Andreas Antonopoulous shared his opinion regarding the departure of Mike Hearn by insisting the Bitcoin industry must remained focused on the task at hand.
Best way to respond to all the drama in bitcoin is to focus. Buckle down, work, don’t get distracted. Engineering solves problems. Code On!
— AndreasMAntonopoulos (@aantonop) January 15, 2016
Trace Mayer also wanted to move on.
— Trace Mayer (@TraceMayer) January 17, 2016
In a Medium post, BitFury Mining Group CEO Valery Vavilov outlined his feeling of the current state of the Bitcoin economy. He outlined three facts to negate points made by Hearn in his farewell note.
FACT 1: Bitcoin Is Not an Electronic Payments System Like PayPal
FACT 2: Bitcoin Is Not and Should Not Be Free to Use
FACT 3: Bitcoin Transaction Processing Is Not Presently Clogged
Bram Cohen, the founder of BitTorrent, wrote about Mike Hearn’s departure from the online creation community that is Bitcoin. He wrote in a Medium post:
I characterized Mike Hearn’s farewell essay as a ‘whiny ragequit’. I did this because it is, well, a whiny ragequit. He attempted a hostile takeover of Bitcoin with Bitcoin-XT, and now that he’s predictably been made to feel like persona non grata in Bitcoin development he’s throwing a tantrum on his way out.
Gavin Andresen gave a state of new Bitcoin tech on his blog:
I’d still like to focus on protocol-level, cross-implementation issues but lately I’ve been distracted and have generated a lot of controversy (and hurt feelings) by helping out with some other implementations (first XT, latelyBitcoin Classic, maybe Bitcoin Unlimited soon.
Madness! Chaos! ANARCHY! … I hear some people say, but there is a method to my madness. When I was lead maintainer of Core I had the following top-three priorities:
1) Keep the system secure. 2) Keep the network reliably processing transactions. 3) Eliminate single points of failure.
Ultimately, Mike Hearn released a followup after he became the center of the Bitcoin industry discussion over the weekend:
Some people suggested that there is some sort of banker conspiracy, because after I privately concluded Bitcoin wasn’t working I took a job with a startup that’s looking at how to apply distributed ledger technology in the existing financial system (R3 CEV). This isn’t a secret: there were stories in the press about it in November. It was also mentioned in the New York Times article. I didn’t mention this in my post because R3 is not a Bitcoin company, or even a cryptocurrency company, and there is no “BankCoin” or “R3Coin”. So this is really nothing to do with them and conspiracy theories are just a waste of time when there are more serious issues to consider.
Todd McDonald commented on the official R3 blog:
The resulting kerfuffle has led to a few quite detailed (and somewhat enjoyable) conspiracy theories on The Internets, mainly saying that R3 instructed Mike as part of some coordinated ‘attack’ on Bitcoin. If only we had such control over a brilliant mind like Mike. He is a programmer after all …
… How can the whole thing not make you tired, no matter what ‘side’ you are on? And as I have mentioned before, this concept of one side or one approach ‘winning’ over another, or that there even is a contest, baffles me. Success for R3 (or any of the handful of companies in this space) does not need to come at the expense of Bitcoin. It is more likely that traction for either camp would be a massive positive for the other. Put simply: I personally own (a small amount) of bitcoin AND also think that Bitcoin holds little merit for large, regulated financial institutions as it is currently constructed. In the words of William Goldman, “nobody knows anything” but it doesn’t stop us all from giving it a go.
A week of uncertainty has left the Bitcoin industry picking up the pieces. That another solution has been offered hints that there is no consensus, and divisions are growing starker.
Image from Shutterstock.