Dead… Yet Again
Five years ago, Mike Hearn left a great job at Google and joined the small cadre of dedicated Bitcoin Core programmers that propelled the technology to where it is today – on the cusp of becoming a hugely disruptive force in the oligarchic, klepto-world of finance. However, in a highly publicized blog post, Mike said “good riddance” to Bitcoin. In a fit of disgust, he sold all his bitcoins and boldly declared the Bitcoin experiment a failure.
Mike threw in the towel because, after two years (and still counting), the rancorous “Maximum Block Size” (MBS) debate is still raging across a fractured Bitcoin community. Currently, the maximum transaction block size is hard-coded into the Bitcoin Core source code as 1MB.
This 1MB max size handcuffs the protocol’s throughput to approximately 7 transactions per second. Compared to established payment systems like PayPal, which can handle hundreds of thousand of transactions per second, 7 tps is a drop in the bucket and a major hindrance to scaling Bitcoin up to hundreds of millions of users (the current estimate of users is (I think) around 1 million).
In one MBS camp, we have those who want to keep the maximum block size as is and concoct some fancy-schmancy, risky, pervasive code changes to scale Bitcoin up. In the other camp, we have the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (KISS) group, of which Mike Hearn was a member. Unlike the former group, which likes to jawbone a lot without releasing any code, the KISS group, led by Mike and Gavin Andresen, actually released working code that allows for larger block sizes in the form of “Bitcoin XT“.
But alas, Bitcoin XT did not succeed. Not enough miners chose to run the code. Incredibly, those miners and businesses that did deploy Bitcoin XT were hit with DDoS attacks from advocates of the fancy-schmancy camp.
Shortly after Mike’s post went public, the doomsayers came out of the woodwork yet again. The press has had a field day:
- FastCompany: Bitcoin A “Failed” Experiment, Says Departing Developer
- Business Insider: A lead developer just quit bitcoin, saying it ‘failed’
- New York Times: A Bitcoin Believer’s Crisis Of Faith
- Reuters: Lead developer quits bitcoin saying it ‘has failed’
- The Guardian: Senior bitcoin developer says currency ‘failed experiment’
- Forbes: Bitcoin Declared An “Inescapable Failure”
- Fortune: Prominent Bitcoin Developer Declares the Digital Currency a Failure
I guess it’s time to add to the 88 obituaries already documented on the “Bitcoin Obituaries” site. Mike’s post isn’t featured there yet, but I’m guessing it will be soon. As for me, I’m stickin’ with Bitcoin for the long haul – boom or bust.