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Mike Hearn: The Problem with Bitcoin is its “Terrible” Leader

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:47 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:47 PM

Former Bitcoin Core developer and current R3 employee, Mike Hearn, has claimed that Blockstream – a blockchain-based startup comprised by a group of Bitcoin core developers is the source of the refusal behind Bitcoin’s block size increase. He also cites that Bitcoin’s “leader” is Blockstream co-founder and CTO, Gregory Maxwell.

In a post made on a public forum today, Hearn directly asserts that Blockstream co-founder and CTO Gregory Maxwell – also a Bitcoin Core developer – is the reason for the refusal to “bump” Bitcoin’s block size. Beyond the revelation, Hearn directly calls Maxwell a “terrible decision-maker.”

Former Core developer Mike Hearn weighed in with his statement about Blockstream in a public discussion on social news aggregator Hacker News. The primary discussion  of the public news thread pertained to The New York Times’ coverage of Ethereum as an up-and-coming competitor to Bitcoin, following the alt. currency’s rapid growth and rise in prominence.

Hearn’s comment was in response to another user who was debating the differences between Ethereum and Bitcoin. The user opined  that the cryptocurrency is basically flawed without a “genuine respected leader” and is “doomed” in design due to the stalemate between the cryptocurrency’s community on key decisions such as the block size debate. The lack of a leader, he argued, along with a lack of clear directive, leaves room for competition from alt. currencies such as Ethereum.

In response to this, Mike Hearn stated :

Bitcoin’s problem is not a lack of a leader, it’s [sic] problem is that the leader is Gregory Maxwell at Blockstream and he’s a terrible decision maker. Blockstream is the source of the refusal to bump the block size.

Indeed, the block size debate did not stalemate. It resulted in the small blockists winning, due to the much more aggressive tactics they used (e.g. hiring a bunch of developers then asserting they’d all quit forever if the block size were changed).

The comment concerning Bitcoin from Hearn is among the first in the public realm following his much-publicized departure from the cryptocurrency’s development, the community, and the cryptocurrency itself. Hearn deemed the cryptocurrency a “failed” experiment following his failed effort to increase the capacity limit of the block size.

Noting that he has reached the “inescapable conclusion” that Bitcoin “has failed”, Hearn further stated at the time that the cryptocurrency’s price will spiral downwards.

The fundamentals are broken and whatever happens to the price in the short term, the long term trend should probably be downwards. I will no longer be taking part in Bitcoin development and have sold all my coins.

Mike Hearn is now employed at R3 as lead platform engineer, joining the private blockchain consortium that counts 42 of the world’s biggest banks as its partners in its private blockchain development endeavor for the current financial industry.

BlockStream’s Relevance in the Bitcoin Ecosystem

Blockstream, a startup comprising of a group of core Bitcoin developers gained significant venture capital backing toward the end of 2014. In the same year, the startup released a whitepaper covering Sidechains that will directly coexist with the blockchain. The aim of a sidechain is to reduce the Interchange Settlement Lag (ISL) during transactions when bitcoin is moved between accounts while maintaining the decentralization and security features of the blockchain.

The following year, the startup rose to prominence after releasing the source code of ‘Sidechain Elements’ – a codebase for developers to experiment and build sidechains for the Bitcoin Blockchain.

The end of 2015 saw Blockstream announce Liquid, the first-ever interoperable sidechain for bitcoin exchanges that will enable major traders and licensed exchanges with instant, secure transactions via a sidechain(s) in a two-way peg with the Bitcoin blockchain. Liquid is expected to be released this year.

More recently, Blockstream announced that it raised $55 million in a Series A funding round, bringing the total capital raised in the initial funding run to $76 million. The finances will be used by the startup to further develop its sidechain innovation.

Featured image from Shutterstock.