Bitcoin messiah or menace to the network? Say hello to Bcoin

Bitcoin messiah or menace to the network? Say hello to Bcoin

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What have you been doing for the last two years besides arguing about which scaling solution is the most practical or ideologically sound? Fortunately, Bitcoin startup company Pulse have been putting their time to more practical use, and have created Bcoin – a Bitcoin implementation that supports extension blocks (or e-blocks, or EXT-Bs) as a solution to the block size debate. If this is ringing bells for you, it’s probably because Blockstream’s CEO Adam Black suggested e-blocks as a way forward to the developer community back in 2015. It didn’t gain much traction at the time, but the landscape is very different after 2 years of petty infighting… With Core, Classic, Unlimited and SegWit all foundering as viable solutions, it could just be that e-blocks is an idea whose time has come. Make way for Bcoin.

An alternative implementation? In javascript?

So this isn’t just another scaling solution; to fundamentalists, it’s pure heresy. Forget e-blocks for a second – I’ll get back to that – the most striking thing about this project is that it’s an alternative implementation of bitcoin written using javascript library Node.js. Perhaps you’re familiar with the Satoshi quote, “a second implementation would be a menace to the network?” Either way, this is going to annoy the hell out of some people, regardless of how elegantly it addresses the issues in Bitcoin.

Bcoin isn’t just another missile in the scaling wars – although that’s what’s likely to sell it to the casual user – it’s a much deeper project that could revolutionise the Bitcoin development cycle, allowing for features and fixes to be developed and deployed in significantly shorter time scales. How? By deconstructing the notoriously-complex, nearly impenetrable Bitcoin code written in C++, and rebuilding it in javascript using the popular Node.js library. This effectively simplifies the code base, making it accessible to a much larger number of developers without compromising security or functionality. And best of all, it’s a free, open source project, which will encourage the community participation Bitcoin desperately needs right now.

No hard fork required

Don’t let all this talk of programming in a separate language wrong-foot you. It sounds drastic/ blasphemous (depending on your stance), but actually, it’s not even a hard-fork solution. Pulse’s new implementation is designed to work alongside other bitcoin versions on the same network, allowing miners to make use of its simplified code base and extended features. Once it reaches a critical approval level, features will filter down to the rest of the user base. Pulse’s lead developer Christopher Jeffrey is also working on a Bcoin Lightning layer called Plasma. It’s like they’ve thought of everything!

The best of both worlds

So why is it that under Bcoin, e-blocks are suddenly Bitcoin’s new sliced bread? And how do they work? In a nutshell, extension blocks work by processing transactions outside of the default 1MB blocks, and linking them to each block on the main blockchain. This allows for network and processing capacity to expand without actually messing with the block size for now, and in the words of Purse CEO Andrew Lee, “gives everyone what they want.” In other words, by allowing capacity to increase without changing the block size or hard-forking, Bcoin is the only solution that offers the best of both worlds. Additionally, Bcoin also fixes the transaction malleability bug, paving the way for coveted smart contracts on the Bitcoin network.

So far Bcoin has been very warmly received, and Andrew Lee brazenly predicts a 50% uptake in the next 12 months, although is keen to point out that “it needs that period of time where people can test it and evaluate it.” Several other high-profile devs have spoken up in favour of Bcoin including Bitcoin Unlimited’s David Jerry Chan who says it’s “a reasonable and better alternative than SegWit.” ViaBTC’s CEO Haipo Yang says “e-blocks will be the solution that moves forward,” and both Bitmain and F2Pool have expressed their support. I for one will be watching with keen interest to see what happens next. Hold onto your Bitcoins folks, this one’s gonna be big.

This article represents the personal opinion of the author and is not a recommendation to buy or sell Bitcoins.