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Bitcoin Software Wars: Whirlpool Developer Calls for Boycott of Ocean Mining Pool

Last Updated December 7, 2023 3:23 PM
James Morales
Last Updated December 7, 2023 3:23 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Whirlpool’s developers have accused the Bitcoin mining pool OCEAN of censoring its transactions.
  • The accusation comes after OCEAN started rejecting transactions containing what it deems to be excessive data.
  • OCEAN’s developer Luke Dashjr implemented the restrictions in response to Ordinals inscriptions, which he said are spamming Bitcoin.

Launched on October 31, OCEAN is a new non-custodial Bitcoin mining pool designed to protect the network from censorship. At least, that’s what its developer Luke Dashjr claims.

But barely a month after its debut, the team behind Samourai Wallet has accused the mining pool of censoring transactions originating from the Whirlpool Bitcoin mixer. With Samourai calling for miners to boycott the platform, the controversy casts doubts over OCEAN’s intention to resist censorship.

Bitcoin Knots Upgrade Invalidates Whirlpool Transactions

Samouri’s objection to OCEAN stems from the mining pool’s incorporation of the Bitcoin Knots software, also developed by Dashjr.

According to Dashjr , Bitcoin Knots’ latest upgrade, version 25.1, fixes a bug that allows people to “spam the blockchain” by bypassing limits on the amount of data that can be attached to each transaction. 

While Dashjr has insisted that his latest code is needed to secure a major network vulnerability, the “bug” it supposedly fixes is also the mechanism on which the entire Bitcoin Ordinals ecosystem is built.

For Bitcoin nodes running Knots, the latest upgrade effectively invalidates all Ordinals inscriptions. Dashjr has also stated his intention to extend the changes to future versions of Bitcoin Core.

Although not its original intention, since OCEAN implemented Knots v25.1 on Wednesday, December 06, the data limit it imposes has prevented miners from validating Whirlpool transactions. 

In an X post asking miners to direct their hash power toward other pools, Samourai said 

People should “make it absolutely clear to the pool that you do not agree with their privacy enhancing transaction censorship policy.”

For his part, Dashjr blamed  Whirlpool for the issue, implying that the protocol’s higher-than-standard data output was a bug in need of fixing like Ordinals inscriptions.

What Happens Next?

For now, OCEAN doesn’t have anywhere near enough hash power to meaningfully restrict Whirlpool transactions or Ordinals inscriptions. And for most miners, transaction fees from the latter present far too lucrative an opportunity to pass up.

However, if Dashjr gets his way and the same restriction is incorporated into future versions of Bitcoin Core, the implications could be much more serious as the software is by far the most popular way to run a Bitcoin node.

Of course, both Bitcoin Knots and Bitcoin Core are open-source. Just like OCEAN can choose to not include certain transactions in the blocks it generates, node operators are free to decide whether to relay them or not. 

In the end, the debate centers on disagreements over Bitcoin’s fundamental values. 

Purists like Dashjr denounce use cases they perceive to be unnecessarily clogging up the network. Meanwhile, supporters of Ordinals and Whirlpool argue that as long as people are willing to pay for the block space, they should be free to inscribe whatever Bitcoin data they like.

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