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Bitcoin Amsterdam highlights hurdles for consensus over improvement proposals

by Harry Garcia

Bitcoin core developers have always had their differences when it comes to proposing improvements to the Bitcoin protocol. These differences were evident in a heated panel discussion during Bitcoin Amsterdam 2023, where developers Paul Sztorc and Peter Todd clashed over the ongoing development of Drivechains.

Sztorc’s LayerTwo Labs has been working on BIP-300 for almost six years. This proposal advocates for the creation of layer-2 sidechains that can address various problems without requiring changes to the base layer of the Bitcoin protocol. However, Todd was highly critical of Sztorc’s work during the panel discussion.

The intense debate between the two developers highlighted the challenge of reaching a consensus on BIPs that can enhance the overall functionality of the Bitcoin protocol. Jameson Lopp, the co-founder and CTO of Bitcoin custody firm Casa, also expressed his concerns about the slow pace of improvements and protocol changes. He believes that the velocity of these changes needs to increase.

However, Lopp also acknowledged that there have been recent developments that could potentially benefit the future of the Bitcoin protocol. Projects like BitVM and SpiderChain have emerged, leading Lopp to believe that proposed soft forks could be beneficial. He emphasizes the importance of implementing functionality that improves Bitcoin’s ability to be a cryptographic accumulator and enables the growth of second layers.

Lopp argues against the idea of hardcore ossification, which some Bitcoin maximalists have advocated in the past. He believes that stifling innovation would have prevented the creation of solutions like the Lightning Network, which has helped the Bitcoin network scale and process transactions more efficiently.

Lopp referenced two BIPs, OP_CSV and OP_CLTV, which facilitated payment channels as soft forks. These BIPs played a crucial role in the development of Lightning Network. Lopp emphasizes that without such improvements, Lightning Network would not have been possible.

While consensus over base layer improvements may be challenging, Lopp believes that developers will continue building solutions that do not require permission. He warns that if Bitcoin does not continue to scale, users may turn to centralized Bitcoin banks and custodians, which goes against the decentralized nature of Bitcoin.

Overall, the panel discussion at Bitcoin Amsterdam 2023 highlighted the ongoing debate among Bitcoin core developers regarding protocol improvements. The importance of scaling and implementing solutions that boost the functionality of the Bitcoin protocol was emphasized, while the risks of ossification and centralized solutions were also discussed. It remains to be seen how these debates will shape the future of Bitcoin’s protocol and its ability to adapt and innovate.

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