Op-ed:Why Bitcoin won’t hardfork like Ethereum

Note: Jiang Zhuo’er released an op-ed to refute the words that Bitcoin might split like Ethereum. He said in the end the market will determine the fate of minority chain.

TL;DR
1. The minority fork of BTC needs to burn 200 million Yuan to survive.
2. The mining industry has the motive, determination and ability to kill the minority fork.
3. If necessary, the mining industry will adopt a more moderate transition method.
4. Change POW = ostrich policy, change the POS algorithm = Taiwan to give up the seats in the United Nations.
5. Essentially the market, not the mining industry, decides to kill the minority fork.

There is no doubt that the emergence of two coins is not in line with the interests of all parties. Once there is a minority fork, almost everyone will acquiescence or agree that the mining industry should kill the minority fork. The conduct is legit and well justified. Mining industry is like the military force in the realm of Bitcoin. US army burned hundreds of thousands of lives in the Civil War and the Chinese army spilled the blood of over one million people in the liberation war. Only some electricity will be consumed in the war of Bitcoin mining industry.

Many people are afraid of hardfork, which was originated from the fact that ETC survived from the ETH hardfork. However, BTC may not split into two coins. Just like computers, the blue screen pops up on Windows system; it doesn’t mean the same thing will happen to Mac OS. The fundamental difference between BTC and ETH in terms of technical parameters and communities will definitely kill the minority fork.

In the realm of BTC, user’s sunk costs are calculated in minutes – if necessary, they can dump their coins in a matter of minutes while sunk costs of miners are calculated in years. When the Bitcoin price crash, every stakeholder could find a way out, but miners couldn’t. However, it is the mining industry that chooses to hardfork with more and more support from mining pool. Right now users are afraid of hardfork, what goes wrong?

Simple reasons:
1. The huge sunk costs of mining industry force them to make decisions based on long-term development of Bitcoin. They need to consider the number of users and price in the following years rather than the immediate price fluctuations.
2. The mining industry understands the relevant mining technology and is aware that the minority chain needs to overcome some impossible hurdles to survive, which is not known by common users.
These hurdles include:

1. The minority fork of BTC needs to burn 200 million Yuan to survive

There is a fundamental difference between BTC and ETH: difficulty adjustment interval. BTC adjusts difficulty every 14 days and ETH’s difficulty is adjusted by block (s) or second(s). Such adjustment is to allow sustainable block generation when there is a drastic hashrate change. For example, if the ETH network hashrate drops 90%, the first block will be generated in tens of seconds instead of the usual interval. Then difficulty will be reduced in the next block. It only takes a few minutes to adapt to a 90% hashing power change. So when ETH hard forked with 99% hashing power joining the new chain, the remaining 1% of the hashing power can still maintain the normal operation of ETC.

However, the design in BTC is different. (Suppose there is a hardfork) 90% of hashrate is with the majority chain and the remaining 10% is with the minority chain. Then it will take 100 minutes for the minority chain to generate one block and 140 days to enter the next difficulty adjustment cycle. In this 140 days or 5 months, the 1M block size that is already very congested will be like being cut to 0.1 M (per 10 minute). Besides it will take 10 hours to get 6 confirmations, which makes the minority chain extremely difficult to use.
But the most fatal blow is that the theoretical output of the majority chain and the minority chain is the same in the first difficulty adjustment cycle, or 2016 blocks. As miners get the same payout on both chains, a rational miner will point his hashrate to the fork with higher price. That is to say that scenario described above will not happen. No rational miner will stay in the fork with lower price for 140 days and wait for the difficulty adjustment. All miners will switch to the chain with higher price instantly.
A. Of course someone would argue that there are small group of miners that support the minority chain. Then we may do some math to calculate the cost. Judging from the case of ETH and ETC, the price of the minority coin is assumed to drop to 20% of the majority coins. If the price of majority coin is 10,000 yuan, then the miners stay with the minority coin will lose 8,000 yuan for one coin. During the whole difficulty adjustment cycle, a total of 201.6 million yuan will be burnt in the 2016 blocks (2016 * 12.5 yuan per block * 8,000 yuan per coin = 201.6 million yuan).
B. Then someone may argue that there are plenty of speculators who are willing to put their bets on the minority chain. They could afford 200 million yuan to maintain the network. The fact is that there isn’t such a thing. It’s a common land tragedy issue. Who, among the speculators, will pay for the cost and fine a supplier of hashing power so that others may enjoy a free ride?

C, Some may argue that there might be a big speculator who bought 200 million worthy of minority coins, and then willing to burn 200 million to maintain the network so that the minority coin could rise 5 times.
It’s a good question, which leads to the second major obstacle when the 200 million one is overcome.

2. The mining industry has the motive, determination and ability to kill the minority fork
There is no doubt that the emergence of two coins is not in line with the interests of all parties. Once there is a minority fork, almost everyone will acquiescence or agree that the mining industry should kill the minority fork. The conduct is legit and well justified. Mining industry is like the military force in the realm of Bitcoin. US army burned hundreds of thousands of lives in the Civil War and the Chinese army spilled the blood of over one million people in the liberation war. Only some electricity will be consumed in the war of Bitcoin mining industry.
If the price ratio is 75:25, the hashrate distribution will be 100:0 instead of 75: 25. The winner takes all. This is the rule designed by Satoshi Nakamoto and insurmountable for the split parties. If some big speculators want to breach that rule by maintaining the operation of the minority chain so that they could speculate for profit. Then the mining industry will never sit and watch.

The so-called killing of minority chain is not simply a few 51% attacks, but a more thorough repression. From the first block of minority chain, no transaction will be included in the block generated and any block contained transactions will be orphaned. Therefore no transactions will be confirmed on the minority chain. The cost of such depression depends on the speculator’s input. If speculators manage to mine N blocks, then the mining industry only needs to generate N+1 blocks to overwrite the speculator’s chain. If speculators cease to burn money, then the mining industry will stop as well. You may find the body of speculators’ money for every cent that the mining industry burn.
This is another winner-take-all fight. There won’t be any third option but winner and loser. Speculators may be wealthier than the mining industry, but they can never possess more hashrate, determination and benefits than the mining industry. The outcome is self-evident.

3. If necessary, the mining industry will adopt a more moderate transition method
There is no doubt that mining industry is the one who desires price rise most. When it is necessary, mining will choose a more moderate approach to complete the hardfork to avoid panic and volatility in the market. There are many options in this respect, for example synthetic fork is a good project.
In simple words, synthetic fork is to implement a soft fork before a hardfork when BU hashrate is in dominant position. The Softfork will change the validity of blocks from “Core and BU blocks are both legitimate” to “only BU block is legitimate”. Blocks generated from the mining pools that still follow the Core chain will be orphaned. At this time, Core-based mining pool has two options:
a. Direct fight. Core-based mining pool may launch another Softfork, which defines BU blocks as illegal. However, with the dominant position of BU hashrate, all users that doesn’t follow the softfork will treat the BU chain, the longer chain, as the legal one. Without support from exchanges, users and communities, any minority chain that split from the main chain has no chance to survive.
b. Obedience: Mining pool vote to follow BU but actually intend to follow Core-based chain after the hardfork is launched. But the synthetic fork period could persist long enough for every market participants to realize that 100% hashrate is with BU. Then the market agrees to end the conflict to evolve to large blocks. Even mining pool continues to follow Core-based blockchain, the impact and support of which is so minor that the possibility of blockchain split could be ignored.

In essence, the synthetic fork is to divide “one step hardfork” into two “half step”. The first “half step” is to unite hashrate and then implement hardfork. The first “half step” taken by BU is like to place a knife on the throat of Core. By then, Core will face a dilemma.

4. Change POW = ostrich policy, change the POS algorithm = Taiwan to give up the seats in the United Nations

Of course, Core also has another option to threat of the mining industry: change POW. But for those who have a little understanding of mining business, it is a joke. Is it safer to switch from the largest ASIC type to a smaller one? Is there any minority chain that couldn’t be killed in the GPU-based mining industry?
The total hashrate of the GPU-based market (ETH + ETC + ZEC + XMR are counted) is equal to around 840,000 pieces of RX480 graphics card, the total value of which is around 1.45 billion yuan. If Core hard fork to change POW, which is a direct refutation to their claim that “no scaling because of danger of hardfork”. Such behavior will be unanimously condemned by the community and significantly reduce their support rate. Assuming that the price of minority coins after the POW-changing hardfork is one tenth of Big-block coins(can’t be more than that), the daily output of is worth 12.3% of the whole GPU-based mining industry, or 180 million yuan in equipment value.
Such scale of hashrate protection could be easily compromised by some major mining farm alone. Also there is fundamental difference between BTC mining farm and GPU mining farm. BTC mining farm could only be operational on the Bitcoin network while GPU mining farm serves no loyalties to any coins. It’s viable to rent GPU hashrate to attack Core-coin while profiting from shorting the Core-coin on the market.
As for the change to the POS algorithm, like I said before, Core is welcome to switch to POS algorithm. Core will not be the same Bitcoin as Satoshi Nakamoto has invented. The only way that Core want to survive with POW is to rename as CoreCoin. I would be happy to see that the Core find their way out and freely practice the idea of small blocks, rather than kidnapping the Bitcoin which , as indicated clearly by Satoshi Nakamoto, should evolve to big blocks.

5. Essentially the market, not the mining industry, decides to kill the minority fork

Someone may have noticed that all of the above inferences are based on an assumption that the majority hashrate (large block) fork has a higher price. Why wouldn’t a minority hashrate(small block) fork have a higher price? Of course it is possible, but if so, the mining industry will not initiate a hardfork otherwise the mining industry will face all the dilemmas described above. So in essence, it is the market rather than the mining industry that kill the minority fork.
Some people spread rumors around, saying that the mining industry will control Bitcoin if BU wins. This is obviously a fallacy, no one can fight against the market unless he possess more money than the market. What the mining industry is doing is in response to the scaling demands of the market, preparing for a hardfork (or synthetic fork) and wait for the market to make a decision. Only the market has the power to determine the price of big-block coins. Only the market has the power to push the button to initiate a hardfork and pull the trigger to kill the minority chain. After the market had made its decision, the mining industry will kill the minority chain ASAP to end possible confusion.
Currently the verbal debate on which fork should be name as BTC is meaningless. Market will endorse the “BTC” to the fork that owns more users and higher price. Right now the market name the forked Ethereum chain as “ETH” and the original chain as “ETC” simply because the forked chain has more users and high price.

Talk is cheap,

Show me the price.

THE END
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