B2x Fork - What It Is, Why I Don't Support It and How I Am Trading It
For anyone who is reading this article and not aware of my background, I am a Crypto trader, and I share my trades and strategy with others entering the market. I do not claim to be a technical expert or an advanced trader. I share my experiences to help other traders enter the market and avoid making mistakes and losing money.
This article exists because, like me, there are many Bitcoin and Crypto traders who do not understand the technical side of the scaling debate but have investments which are affected by forks. I have written this as an attempt to explain, in as simple form as possible, why this fork is happening, why I don't support it and how I intend to trade it.
One thing I have noticed when trying to understand the block size debate is whichever side you are on there are people who can put together a solid counter argument. Fundamentally, both sides of the debate have valid points. I have read countless articles and posts covering this, and the conclusion I have come to is that the most likely outcome to achieving fast and low-cost payments at scale is through a combination of factors:
- Increasing the capacity of blocks through code optimisation
- Reducing the cost and increasing the speed of payments through off-chain scaling
- Increasing the capacity of the network through block size increases
What I don't support is increasing the block size as proposed by Segwit2x and I was helped to reach some of my conclusions by a post on Reddit which explains the politics of the scaling debate and is a firmly an anti SegWit2x post.
My article is mainly a rewrite of the Reddit post but adding in further information and personal opinion which I feel is necessary. I want to be clear; I am not against a block size increase, I am against the SegWit2x block size increase because it is a threat to the future of Bitcoin.
SegWit2x is a hostile corporate takeover of Bitcoin to remove the Core development team and replace it with a discredited developer, Jeff Garzik. If successful, which it won't be, it would centralise control and allow specific corporate players to have a significant voice in the future direction of Bitcoin.
I expect that some will read this and offer valid counter-arguments back, which is why this debate is so interesting. You may not agree with one side of the argument, but it does not make it invalid, it just makes it different to yours. There may also be valid technical arguments back; I have done my best to write something as a non-techie, which other non-techie investors can understand. Believe me when I tell you, the majority of people now invested in Bitcoin have no idea how this stuff works and don't care, they just want fast, low-cost payments.
I do believe it is inevitable that a block size increase will be needed for Bitcoin to be able to compete with the likes of AMEX/MasterCard/Visa, but for me, it is important how upgrades to the Bitcoin protocol are agreed.
Firstly, I want to thank Chad Lauterbach for helping proof this article; he is one of the resident miners in my Facebook group. Secondly, I wrote another article on Saturday focusing in on why the futures market will destroy B2X before it launches. In that post, I highlighted a couple of essential terms worth knowing, which I have included below but added to:
- Segwit2x is the agreement made behind closed doors in New York, known as the New York Agreement (NYA) where a bunch of parties with a vested interest agreed to implement Segwit if a 2mb hard fork followed it
- The Segwit part of SegWit2x is the implementation of the Segregated Witness, which is best explained here
- The 2x part of SegWit2x is the doubling of the block size from 1mb to 2mb
- B2X is the proposed name of the new coin when it hits the exchanges
What is a Fork?
For those who do not fully understand how the blockchain works I suggest reading The ultimate 3500-word guide in plain English to understand Blockchain on YourStory. It is the simplest and easiest to understand explanation of how the Blockchain works that I have read.
In its purest form, the blockchain is a linear collection of blocks which collect records of transactions. Everyone in the network keeps a record of all the transactions in the block and a block is closed by solving a complicated mathematical equation, this is called mining. Once the block is closed, it is sealed, can't ever be edited and a new block is created.
The Bitcoin network is maintained by nodes, also known as a 'full client', which is a computer running the Bitcoin software nodes and thus participating in the network by validating and relaying transactions. A fork happens when there is a change to the rules within that software. There are two types of fork possible, a soft fork and a hard fork and they differ by what the rule changes in the software are:
- A soft fork is where an update to the software is backwards compatible. What this means is that when the fork happens, those operating the old software will see new blocks as valid, but any new blocks they mine are seen as invalid by those who have upgraded to the latest software.
- A hard fork is where an update to the software is not backwards compatible. What this means is that when the fork happens, those operating the old software will see new blocks as invalid, and as such, to switch over to the new chain and mine valid blocks then all nodes must upgrade to the new software.
A fork almost only ever occurs as a planned event where an individual or group wants to develop Bitcoin in a way which is different from the current software, but they can't get agreement from the entire community. It is a political disagreement over the Bitcoin rules, for example, the size of blocks. If enough of the network decides to start mining this new version of the software, Bitcoin will fork, and the chain will split, in this scenario, we now have two chains and essentially two separate coins. This is what happened with Bitcoin Cash and is about to happen with the Bitcoin Gold and B2X forks.
Occasionally forks happen for short periods of time without being either a hard or soft fork. Satoshi planned for this by resolving a chain split with the longest chain winning and discarding the other chain; this is why any Bitcoins generated by successfully mining blocks can’t be spent until another 99 blocks have been mined, this acts as a disinterest for miners to mine separate chains as they will lose their rewards.
You can read more about Bitcoin forks in the Coindesk article a Short Guide to Bitcoin Forks Explained.
Why is Bitcoin Forking Again?
I am going to ignore the Bitcoin Gold fork, for now, I discuss this at the end of the article. I am going to focus on the B2X fork which is a result of the raging debate within the Bitcoin community about how to address scaling. I am going to explain this in the simplest way I can.
Bitcoin has a scaling issue, in that each block can carry a maximum of amount of data. If a block is 1MB, therefore 1,000,000 bytes and a transaction will use 495 bytes of data. Consequently, each block can handle around 2,020 transactions. A new block is mined every 10 minutes, thus 600 seconds which means that Bitcoin can process 3.37 transactions per second. If you compare this to PayPal which can handle 193 transactions per second and Visa which can handle 1,667 transactions per second you can see that Bitcoin must compete on these numbers. Further, the likes of Visa, MasterCard, AMEX and PayPal can also handle peak load volumes on busy shopping dates like Christmas Eve and Black Friday, a whole other issue which Bitcoin will need to solve.
Once a transaction is made on the Bitcoin network and has been validated by the nodes it sits in something called the memory pool also known as the mempool. Think of this as a holding area for transactions where they wait here for a miner to pick them up and add them to a block to be mined. If when miners are adding transactions to a block, and it reaches its 1mb limit, then any other pending transactions need to wait in the memory pool until the next block.
The issue this causes is that when the blocks are filling up, the miners will increase their fees for including transactions within the block, and therefore it becomes a supply and demand bidding war for having your transaction included. What this means is that for small transactions (the old cup of coffee argument), either the transactions do not get picked up because the fee offered is too low or the fee becomes too high to justify the transaction. Therefore, the Bitcoin use case will only support large transactions as it is cheaper and quicker to use cash and cards for small ticket items.
There are two primary sides to the argument for how to scale Bitcoin:
- Big Blockers: those who want to scale Bitcoin by increasing the size of the blocks
- Small Blockers: those who want to scale Bitcoin by making the code more efficient (SegWit) and using second layer off-chain solutions for taking care of smaller transactions with Bitcoin acting as a settlement layer
It is clear with this that high transaction fees are only within the best interest of the miners as no user wants to pay more for transactions than they have to. As such there will always be a conflict of interest allowing miners to lead the scaling debate. This may change in the future; the Bitcoin software is designed to halve the mining rewards every four years until all 21 million Bitcoins have been minted. We currently have over 16.6m with miners being rewarded 12.5 Bitcoins every block. The block reward is set to halve again to 6.25 Bitcoins per block mid-2020. Only at the point when all Bitcoins have been mined, and miners rely purely on transactions fees to support the network should transaction fees change to economically support them. Still, this should be led by the users in a way which makes mining economically profitable but does not allow miners to have full control over network fees.
Big Block Argument
The big block argument is that we can keep increasing the size of the block to handle more transactions and therefore there is a single record of all transactions kept within the blockchain, and this, by itself, is not a long-term solution as it can increase centralisation. Why? To understand this, we need to understand how mining works.
The following explanation from the Economist is good (edited as the block reward has changed since this was written):
"Every ten minutes or so mining computers collect pending bitcoin transactions (a “block”) and turn them into a mathematical puzzle. The first miner to find the solution announces it to others on the network. The other miners then check whether the sender of the funds has the right to spend the money and whether the solution to the puzzle is correct. If enough of them grant their approval, the block is cryptographically added to the ledger, and the miners move on to the next set of transactions (hence the term “blockchain”). The miner who found the solution gets 12.5 bitcoins as a reward, but only after another 99 blocks have been added to the ledger. All this gives miners an incentive to participate in the system and validate transactions."
Forcing miners to solve puzzles to add to the ledger provides protection: to double-spend a bitcoin, digital bank-robbers would need to rewrite the blockchain and to do that they would have to control more than half of the network’s puzzle-solving capacity.
The miners compete to solve these puzzles with hashing power. Thus the more power they have to crunch the numbers, the more likely they are to solve the puzzles and receive the mining rewards.
Successful mining comes down to scale, and scale comes from money and cost of power, as such, mining has become increasingly centralised around large operations. You can see the mining pools below and read more about them here.
Lots of the mining operations work in pools, whereby lots of miners work together and share the mining rewards. The most prominent mining pool is Antpool, owned by BitMain, who also have a piece of technology called ASICBOOST which allows them to exploit a flaw in the Bitcoin code to gain an extra 20% mining efficiency, some would say an unfair advantage, I would say it is definitely an unfair advantage. ASICBOOST is patent pending, and personally, I don't like a patented component operating on an open source network.
Miners, and mostly that means mining pool operators, must run a full node and thus, the software code Bitcoin is using. Therefore, most will support a version which drives their commercial interest rather than the needs of the users and network. That said, a miner can switch pools easily to a pool that supports their preferred proposal so mining pools making political statements is a way for small individual miners to 'vote' with their hashing power.
Small Block Argument
Small blockers want to improve the scaling by doing two things, implementing SegWit and developing off-chain scaling solutions. So, let's start with SegWit, the process by which the block size limit on a blockchain increases by removing signature data from Bitcoin transactions. The good thing about SegWit is that it also removes the ASICBOOST exploit, which is a good thing because it eliminates the unfair advantage BitMain has, reducing centralisation.
On the small blocker's side, you also have a group of developers known as Core, who worked side by side with the Bitcoin inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto to develop and improve Bitcoin and still do to this day. Whalepanda wrote an excellent article on Keeping Stock also pointing out that SegWit2x is an attempt at a corporate takeover of Bitcoin. One result of SegWit2x is the removal of Core as the Bitcoin development team and replacing it with Jeff Garzik, more on him later, but the following highlights why it is so vital to keep Core in control of the Bitcoin software.
As such, the battle has been between who gets to decide who controls Bitcoin:
- Those with a vested commercial interest, the miners and the corporations behind SegWit2x and their discredited developer Jeff Garzik?
- Those who protect the network in the interest of the many, the users and the Core development team?
Is There an Alternative?
Personally, I take a third position; I am both blockers so to speak, but this is where I am likely opening myself up to attack from either side and be accused of being an idiot who doesn't know what he is talking about. So be it. I accept we will need bigger blocks at some point but is best achieved first by making the blocks as efficient as possible and then increasing the block size as required. I also believe this is what Satoshi would have wanted. There is an interesting article on Coin Telegraph worth a read, Satoshi’s Best Kept Secret: Why is There a 1 MB Limit to Bitcoin Block Size.
Big blockers argue that Satoshi would never have supported off-chain scaling, but now he is not an active part of Bitcoin development it is not wise to argue what he may or may not have wanted (I am aware of my hypocrisy here). By departing from Bitcoin, he has forgone his role in its future development. For me, it comes down to the community now and those actively developing Bitcoin. Also, it is difficult to know what he did or didn't want; I am sure he had many thoughts he shared with others which aren't public. As the Coin Telegraph article highlights, he wasn't able to anticipate everything, for example, mining pools, centralisation of mining through ASICS and so on. He also didn't have all the answers which is why he recruited people around him to support him.
We honestly do not know his opinion on the current scaling issue, so I am ignoring these arguments until he appears out of the wilderness to prove his identity and tell us what he thinks. Even then we might not agree with him.
He did though secretly put in the 1MB limit due to some problems he saw by not having a limit, but he questioned about the size he said:
“We can phase in a change later if we get closer to needing it.” He also said: “It can be phased in, like:
if (blocknumber > 115000)
maxblocksize = largerlimit
It can start being in versions way ahead, so by the time it reaches that block number and goes into effect, the older versions that don't have it are already obsolete.
When we're near the cutoff block number, I can put an alert to old versions to make sure they know they have to upgrade.”
In my mind, Satoshi always expected a block size adjustment at some point. What I firmly believe is Satoshi knew that blocks would eventually have to be bigger to scale to anything like an AMEX/MasterCard/Visa. Even with the SegWit optimisation and the next trick Core is working on to decrease transaction sizes they will eventually, no matter which way you slice it, need bigger blocks.
Bigger blocks shouldn’t be about excluding SegWit or any other future scaling solution, it should include those things, equally SegWit and Lightning Network shouldn't be about excluding bigger blocks. Eventually, we will need to make a hard fork to bigger blocks but they can be implemented in a way that they expand as required without the centralisation of decision making by those with a vested interest in making unnecessary higher fees off the users.
In this scenario, the block size begins to auto-adjust, as you don’t want malicious attackers to spam the network without incurring a high cost, thus something like:
“If 95% of the last 144 blocks (1 day) were full increase block size by 10%”.
That would require a malicious spammer to spend days’ worth of high tx fees to get the network block size to double. But a percentage vs. a MB increase allows exponential growth that should always meet demand. There could be a second adjust too:
“If mempool is >100MB remove block size limit or set block size to 4x current, something like that, until mempool is <30MB”
This would be an “emergency block size adjustment” EBSA just like BCC/BCH has an “emergency difficulty adjustment” EDA.
But you know what, I am far from technical, I will leave this to the amazing coders and developers who really understand how to scale Bitcoin, such as the Core team.
Why B2X is a Dangerous Fork
So if I am saying that we need both solutions and Segwit2x is utilising both solutions, what is the issue?
Bitcoin was designed to give users control of their money without a central governing body, as such, it is clear that a network designed for users should be controlled by users. If controlled by large mining groups or corporate CEOs, they will ultimately work within their commercial interest which is precisely against the core philosophical design of Bitcoin.
Charlie Lee, Creator of Litecoin, has been publicly supporting NO2X and fighting the SegWit2x crowd. He ReTweeted the following, which while almost certainly didn't come from Satoshi himself, does sum up the consensus of why so many people are against SegWit2x.
"If two Developers can fork #bitcoin & succeed in redefining what #BTC is then it's a Failed Project." Holds true, regardless of who said it, as one person wrote.
Of course, Bitcoin should be controlled by the users.
It is easy to see why the miners were reticent to implement SegWit for so long and kill their unfair advantage and this is why the argument has raged for years across Twitter and Reddit, where the key players have been putting their cases forward and dismissing the others. Both arguments have validity, but personally, I believe Bitcoin needs fast, low-cost transactions in the most decentralised way possible.
Earlier this year a group came together to protect Bitcoin and ensure SegWit activated by pushing something called a User Activate Soft Fork (UASF). What this meant was they were going to make all their nodes switch to SegWit software from August 1st and thus reject all mined blocks which do not comply with the code. Meaning miners blocks would be rejected and they would lose their mining rewards.
“But Peter you just said that miners control the software.”
Okay, let me explain something, we also have nodes which aren't miners. These nodes contain the whole blockchain and are used to check that transactions are okay whereas a miner is similar to a node but can also create new blocks. If the nodes reject the mining blocks, then the miners lose their rewards. The UASF forced the hands of the miners because they would be forked off the network if they did not comply.
The UASF proved that users controlled the network and the single best way for users to continue to control the network is to encourage more to operate full nodes. While running a node has a cost it also has a number of personal benefits outlined here:
- Supports the network
- Keeps you safe
- Gives you choice
- Gives you more privacy
- It’s not that hard
- It’s not that expensive
Most importantly, you keep users in control of the network over those wanting to attack it.
Another thing small blockers want to do to is to implement off-chain scaling solutions, such as Lightning Network, which you can find out more about here. The Lightning Network is where transactions are collected off-chain allowing for fast and low-cost transactions with the blockchain as the ultimate arbiter. Big blockers understandably don't like this; they believe that all transactions should be on-chain, a fair argument too.
So, where do we go? We have two sides to an argument with equally valid cases:
- On-chain: more centralised and driven by commercial interest but keeps all transactions on the network and therefore independently verified. Not great for small transactions but great for larger ones.
- Off-chain: mode decentralised and driven by the needs of the users but keeps a bunch of transactions off the network and thus not independently verifiable. Not great for large transactions but supports small/microtransactions.
Faced with these two choices I know which I prefer but a network which supports both would be best.
The Hostile Corporate Threat to Bitcoin
There are a whole bunch of people within the community heavily invested in Bitcoin who have a commercial interest in increasing the block size. As the scaling debate started to reach a crisis point, these guys got together in a closed room to debate the increase in block size, agreeing to the adoption of SegWit if it was followed three months later by a hard fork to increase the block size, known as the New York Agreement.
Do you think a closed-door agreement fits with the Bitcoin philosophy?
There was not a single member of the Core dev team invited to this meeting, you know, those developers who have worked hard over the years continually improving Bitcoin. Why? Because they would likely not support the agreement and because these people want to do anything they can to eject Core from managing the Bitcoin code.
As the UASF forced the miners to accept SegWit, and the NYA allowed the miners to save face without going through a messy chain split and destroying their profits. Pushing through an increase in the block size requires a hard fork which is the opportunity to remove Core.
It was around this time we also got Bitcoin Cash, the other fork where Jihan Wu (BitMain) and Roger Ver (Bitcoin
Jesus Judus) were able to fork off the network, create Bitcoin Cash and continue to use his patented technology ASICBOOST to give himself a mining advantage. Oh, and he was part of the NYA.
Bitcoin Cash has seen a steady decline as the market rejects it. Will it have a future, who knows? While Jihan continues to mine Bitcoin Cash and sell his mining rewards, he primarily mines Bitcoin as this is where he makes most of his money. His decision to create Bitcoin Cash was also fundamentally against the NYA because the NYA was designed to avoid a chain split.
So we got SegWit, and now the group behind the NYA are working on their next goal, removing the Core developers from the control of the Bitcoin code. The Core developer's approach is around meritocracy and peer reviews, but those behind the NYA don't care about this, they want control over the future of Bitcoin to achieve their commercial interests and to do this they must have their developers in control. People against Core rarely understand why they take a long time to make changes, they just really fucking care about this fast approaching $100bn payment network.
The NYA meeting was pulled together by Barry Silbert, the founder, and CEO of the digital currency group, who on their website say "Our mission is to accelerate the development of a better financial system. We build and support bitcoin and blockchain companies by leveraging our insights, network, and access to capital."
Also look at the collection of Bitcoin, Crypto and Blockchain based businesses within their portfolio:
Clearly, Barry has a commercial interest in having a significant say in the development roadmap and direction of Bitcoin. He is attempting a corporate takeover of Bitcoin where he decides who is writing the Bitcoin code and how it is written.
This is why we are facing another fork, the commercial guys who want to control the Bitcoin direction are forking the code to take control away from Core and give it to who they want. It is business v coding, centralised v decentralised and this is why on Twitter you will see many have changed their name by adding NO2X after it, I included.
Let me clear again; I am not against bigger blocks, I am against the corporate takeover of Bitcoin and the removal of the Core development team.
It is clear then that the NYA is designed to place Bitcoin in the control of those who will develop it for their commercial interest over the needs of the users. As such, Barry needs to eject Core and replace them with his own developer, Jeff Garzik who is currently working on the Segwit2x code. A guy who made such critical mistakes and had to get Core developers to help fix them.
Remember the Whalepanda article I mentioned previously.
Do we want the code of our fast approaching $100bn Bitcoin market cap managed by this guy?
Jeff even responded on Twitter to my article predicting that B2X will be destroyed in the futures market:
I offered Jeff the opportunity to put his Bitcoin where his mouth is. If he truly believes in B2X then I'll swap him all my B2X coins for an equal number of BTC coins. I even offered him 2-1 and a month of grace to let B2X settle in the market.
Did he take the offer? Did he even respond? Of course not. He knows that B2X is dying and will be rejected by the users.
The Market Backlash
The following is taken from my previous article:
Bitmex posted an excellent article on their blog identifying how they will handle the Segwit2x hard fork here. They rightly identify that anyone can create a fork of the Bitcoin chain at any point. They also identify that those people pushing for the Segwit2x fork want this coin to be called Bitcoin and that it is for the community to decide this and this is why strong replay protection is required. As this does not exist they have rightly distanced themselves from it:
"It is our understanding that the SegWit2x proposal does not include two-way transaction replay protection, enabled by default. Therefore BitMEX will not be able to support SegWit2x."
They are not the only ones, Seoul Bitcoin meetup has written an excellent post asking those who signed the agreement to reconsider support, the most compelling part being:
"Replay protection is being handled in an unacceptably irresponsible manner"
If you do not understand replay protection then please read this article. A lack of strong replay protection could cause havoc and is also evidence that this fork is a hostile act.
Others have also withdrawn support:
But we should also look at who is supporting the NYA agreement:
- The miners who we know have a vested commercial interest to do what is best for them
- Around 30 companies who have ties to the Barry Silbert's Digital Currency Group who has a vested commercial interest in Bitcoin developing for him
B2X is coming, and it might not have full replay protection. Something which is concerning enough for the likes of BitMex not even to list the new coin. The lack of replay protection is going to create a nightmare for users that aren’t very savvy. We already have issues with adoption because crypto is too technical and hard to use. Try to teach full replay protection to a 'regular' user who just wants to, invest, or transact in Bitcoin, but doesn’t desire to know a ton about it.
There is going to be an opt-in replay protection, but users have to consolidate their BTC to one address and 'mark' it with a very small spend to a special address, or they have to mark all their individual BTC’s. In this instance, it could be easier to store you BTC on an exchange like Coinbase because they will do the replay protection for you before even have access to your B2X coins.
This is just too bloody complicated for the novice user, and mistakes which lead to lost coins will harm Bitcoin.
How will I trade this?
I posted to my Facebook group a week or so ago that I think it could be a good strategy to sell all altcoins and be 100% Bitcoin through the forks and diversify back out after because (based on the Bitcoin Cash fork experience), there is an opportunity to receive a bunch of 'free coins' which you can dump for fiat gains, buy more Bitcoin or invest into altcoins. I didn't have the balls to do it, but I did increase my BTC holding by 50%. It turns out this probably was the right play looking at BTC over the last week compared to altcoins.
My other article discussed what I think will happen but my position now is as follows:
- I am not going to buy any more altcoins until after the hard fork, unless a specific opportunity presents itself; I believe they are going to be under pressure until then, the only altcoin play is day trading right now which I don't do.
- I am also not going to sell any of my altcoins, even though they are under pressure I believe the market will settle, but this could be at any time. All my altcoin investments are long-term positions on projects I believe in.
- Any substantially high spikes in a specific altcoin I hold I will sell back into BTC.
- I am going to hold BTC and not trade out until after both forks.
- I will dump Bitcoin Gold immediately into fiat when it hits the exchanges.
- I will dump B2X almost immediately when it hits the exchanges and likely invest into smaller altcoins. I could be wrong here, it could win, it could become the leading chain, but my gut instinct is that it won’t, and it will get priced out in the futures market. The reason I won't dump it immediately is I believe there will be players in the B2X camp who will invest in pumping its price early on, as happened with Bitcoin Cash. I will happily take their money.
As I said previously:
"I think the market will settle back to regular trading pre-November 17th, where before the chain split the futures price of B2X will be so low that it will obviously be an embarrassing rejection of the coin. Those proponents of B2X may try and support it but similar to Bitcoin Cash this will be limited as they know they will be burning their own solid BTC to support something the market has little interested in. The 'free coins' bonus will become a red herring as it won't have the expected value which may lead to sideways or down move in BTC. Altcoins will probably start coming back into play as investors look for higher returns."
With regards to Bitcoin Gold:
Note: we do also have the Bitcoin Gold fork coming on October 25th which is attempting to change the proof of work algorithm. There is enough to concern me that this is just a scam primarily due to the pre-mined element of the fork. Still, this Reddit post should tell you enough you need to know about this. No interest, if I can transfer and dump these coins, I will, and that is if any exchange lists it.
I look forward to any feedback I receive on this post, good or bad, support or attack. If I have said anything which is technically wrong, then I look forward to researching the notes and increasing my knowledge. This is a tough topic for the average trader to understand, but I have written this article because I want to help other non-techie traders.
I trade Bitcoin and Crypto as a living and to make money but I also fundamentally believe in the core philosophical design. I would never support a corporate takeover, even if it were in my financial interest. Luckily I think that financially I will be better off without Segwit2x.
Shout me any questions you have.