There can only ever be 21 million forks of Bitcoin: a survey so far

There can only ever be 21 million forks of Bitcoin: a survey so far

Ever since Bitcoin Cash launched a “free money for existing holders!” fork, others have come forth, lured by the prospect of making an alternate cryptocurrency that anyone might care about in 2017. The standard motivation to make an altcoin being, per chapter 9 of the book: “you might get rich too if you start your own magical Internet money!”

There have been Bitcoin forks before, particularly when the transaction clog first started kicking in around mid-2015. These didn’t operate as separate full-history forks — their aim was to take over as the main Bitcoin protocol: upgrade by forking. However, none achieved sufficient miner adoption. Bitcoin XT was launched by then-core developer Mike Hearn in mid-2015 with an 8 megabyte block size, to increase exponentially with time. Bitcoin Classic launched January 2016, offering 2 megabyte blocks. Bitcoin Unlimited, around the same time, offered block sizes determined by miners, starting at 16 megabytes; it was supported by Roger Ver, the main advocate of Bitcoin Cash. (Bitcoin Unlimited futures still exist and have a trading volume.)

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) has, with considerable effort and funding from its promoters, managed to sustain itself thus far — even as, for all its claims of usefulness, it still has near-zero merchant adoption, even on the darknets. Though you can donate to the Internet Archive and buy stuff from the WikiLeaks Shop. Ver’s Bitcoin.com has also released a “Bitcoin Wallet” app for iOS and Android whose latest version defaults to Bitcoin Cash.

(The logo at the top right of this post, which appears to call it “B Cash”, is the actual logo from the official site. I strongly recommend paying a professional graphic designer when you want a logo, they pick up on potential reusability issues. Even if they do tend to prefer payment in actual money rather than cryptos.)

First cab to be second off the rank was Bitcoin Gold (BTG). This looked interesting — Bitcoin but with GPU-only mining using Equihash — or as interesting as a blatant quest for magical Internet money could be. Even that interest was slightly damped by the problem that by the launch date the code didn’t in fact build, let alone the unfortunate absence of any mining or a publicly available blockchain. Though that didn’t stop some exchanges, of the sort that never saw an altcoin they didn’t like, from claiming to trade it anyway. At a “price” that rapidly cratered from $500 to $158.

Bitcoin Gold finally went live on November 12, and events so far include blockchain splits, massive pools with over 51% of mining — the precise thing Bitcoin Gold was supposed to avert — and a scam wallet, mybtgwallet.com, which was listed on the official site for a couple of days, before it started stealing users’ Bitcoin Original (BTC). One NiceHash user told me their NiceHash had been mining Bitcoin Gold, so obviously it’s headed to the moon.

Next was Bitcoin Silver (BTCS), announced October 24, just before the launch of Bitcoin Gold — supposedly another full-history fork using Equihash. The poster of the original announcement on Bitcointalk (archive) unfortunately neglected to change the ticker symbol from Bitcoin Gold’s BTG when they did their search-and-replace. Despite having had zero visible effort since the announcement, Bitcointalk posters are still avidly hanging out for the launch, even if Bitcoin Silver is about as useful as Reddit Silver. You can already exchange it on EtherDelta, and it’s alleged to have a “price,” peaking at 1.2 cents on November 15 before returning to its usual 0.2 cent. This nonexistent object also achieved a 24-hour trading volume of around $7500-equivalent.

Bitcoin Cash Plus (BCP) — their site is intermittently suspended, here’s what it looked like on November 16 — is yet a third Equihash GPU-mining fork. Like all the most trustworthy financial institutions, the whois for bitcoincashplus.org shows it’s registered to “Domain Privacy Service FBO Registrant.” Their GitHub is empty. “Bitcoin Cash Plus brings sound money to the world, fulfilling the original promise of Bitcoin as ‘Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash'” — “sound money” being a goldbug code word for “gold.” Remember: Bitcoin is strictly limited, just like gold! If you could create new gold mines out of nothing by cut’n’paste.

Bitcoin Clashic (BCHC) is a piece of Internet performance art in the wake of the recent Bitcoin Cash protocol upgrade, whose site is a cut’n’paste from Bitcoin Cash. It’s got a Twitter, because Bitcoin Cash fans are even easier to troll than regular Bitcoiners, and a GitHub. Its whois is registered to 1337 Services LLC, which is incorporated in St. Kitts & Nevis, coincidentally the (passport) home of Roger Ver of Bitcoin Cash.

Super Bitcoin (SBTC) adds new features to compete with Ethereum and Zcash — smart contracts, zero-knowledge proofs and 8 megabyte blocks. It also has actual named developers. As well as the free money full-history fork, the developers are adding a 210,000 SBTC premine “to encourage the early developers, invest ecological construction and operate the foundation.” They’re trying to get rich from magical Internet money the old-fashioned way.

SegWit2x had been intended to take over as the main Bitcoin, in the manner of the early attempts to upgrade the protocol by forking — but some thought it could form a significant separate chain that might constitute a full-history fork with free coins for holders. SegWit2x was called off on November 8, but some thought the fork might still happen. However, the fork failed two blocks before it was supposed to activate, owing to an off-by-one error in the forking code, which appears not to have been tested.

(“Even more so with the uninitialized variable error, which is just hilarious. It’s like watching a bunch of squabbling computer science undergrads trying to write secure banking software. Oh wait, that’s what it actually is.” — DrChopChop)

One of the things a full-history fork encourages is to buy and hold the root coin in the leadup to the announced split, so you can get the free money. This attracted at least some crypto enthusiasts to buy more Bitcoin Original in advance of the now-called-off SegWit2x fork, in hope of it turning out to be a fork of value given it had non-negligible miner support. (Thus showing once again that, like all things and their opposite, full-history forks are actually good news for Bitcoin.) SegWit2x futures are of course still trading, with a price above $0 and a trading volume above $0.

Fortunately, the trusted names in Bitcoin — well, Bitcoin Cash — are warning against the splitters — well, the other splitters:

 



 



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