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Bitcoin Development Turns Political, Faces Possible Resistance

There’s been no parallel in the history of Bitcoin’s code changes for how the code change to increase the digital currency’s block size has played out. So controversial has been this change (or lack thereof), which would theoretically enable more transactions per second, it’s been dubbed the ‘Bitcoin Block Size Debate.’ Now, Bitcoin Core, the open-source project’s main development team, is doing some much-need Community outreach in an attempt to calm rising tension and divisions.

“Most previous soft forks took place without too many people even noticing,” says Bitcoin core developer Eric Lombrozo. “They’re weren’t controversial and were activated.” The Bitcoin core developer calls the most recent soft fork proposal “unique” in the history of Bitcoin.

“When you put a network that’s worth billions of dollars, it’s kind of hard to avoid politics,” says Mr. Lombrozo, who also founded Bitcoin apps startup Ciphrex. “It should have been expected, that this might happen. It caught a lot of us by surprise.” Mr. Lombrozo preaches patience, while admitting patience isn’t easy.

“With an open source project with such stakes involved, we must acknowledge that once this change is made, it’s really hard to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to go back and change it.’ If you break it, you buy it. There’s no going back. That makes the stakes a lot higher.” He discusses openly a “huge misunderstanding” over the block size in the Bitcoin Community over the past year.

“[It] escalated to the point where people were angry at each other,” Mr. Lombrozo explains. “The fundamental basis was a misunderstanding. It did not start out that way. People used the situation to exacerbate things, and it got nasty.”

For a space seeing more innovation than ever, tensions run high in Bitcoin thanks to non-developers having vocal – and contentious – positions regarding the changes to Bitcoin’s basic code.

“Bitcoin was an experimental project to test an idea and it was too successful for its own good in a way,” Lombrozo says. “These kinds of blockchains work on a small scale and not being heavily attacked. So, as those assumptions go out the window pretty much, all other suggestions people think about don’t work either.” The Bitcoin core team, he says, is trying to scale Bitcoin in a secure fashion.

“Bitcoin has an inherent contradiction which is it’s kind of intended to be somewhat leaderless, and apolitical, but if you want to do controversial changes, right away it becomes political,” Lombrozo said. “That is an issue of how we move forward. There are in a way a lot of contentious types of situations with how to move forward.”

Bitcoin Core’s solution to scale Bitcoin, SegWit, has failed to convey its mission well-enough to allay the voices of Bitcoin’s main developers biggest detractors, who sometimes lead hoards of boisterous followers on Bitcoin’s main social media hubs.

“A lot of it is not a lack of technical understanding, but arises from a social situation,” Mr. Lombrozo laments. “People misread other people’s intentions. A lot of it is just a matter of people coming out swinging. I really hope cooler heads prevail here, and do what’s best for the technology.”

Mr. Lombrozo says the technical issues dubbed the Block Size debate are rather basic. “We are trying to do a better job communicating this and getting the word out there of everything this entails, the pros and cons, and let people decide for themselves.” Mr. Lombrozo says while some would loudly claim otherwise, the Bitcoin core team has not seen resistance from miners.

“We’re hoping we’re not going to see resistance, ” he says. “We will have to see.”

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