All that's left now is for users to vote on what they would like to see happen. And at the moment, it's a total mess. Powerful Chinese mining pools staunchly disagree with Hearn and Adresen, while some Bitcoin businesses are enthusiastically on board. The noisy online crowd of miscellaneous miners and node-runners change their minds on a whim.I called up Andresen and Hearn, who are currently residing in Massachusetts and Switzerland, respectively, to ask about the controversy and what they think will happen next.
"We're getting close to that limit in terms of transaction volume on the Bitcoin network."
We can imagine: what would happen if Satoshi really did appear, and he signed the message so there's no doubt, and he said, "After all these years, I've realized that Bitcoin is a stupid idea, banking is the way to go, and I'm looking forward to using my Mastercard to pay for everything because it rocks?" Would everyone say, oh, we'll just go home and switch off our computers and give up? No, probably not. That would be weird. But people's ideas do change.Andresen: If he had a really good reason for it…Hearn: If he had a really good reason.Andresen: Again, it's all about the idea, not the person.A sizable group of Chinese mining pools have come out against your proposal. What's going on?Hearn: It's a bit disappointing, the way these Chinese mining pools are acting right now.BIP101 was initially 20MB blocks, and this was based on simulations, testing, various calculations, and hardware extrapolations. These were the reasons behind picking 20. And they said, "Oh, our internet connections are very slow in China and very expensive. We can't do 20. We can do eight." They had a meeting and said, okay, we're going to do eight. Apparently, eight in China, in some dialects, rhymes with the word "prosperity" or something, so this is a lucky number. So we said, okay, now we'll do eight. And then they turned around and said, "No, actually, what we want is a different proposal that isn't implemented in code." They've changed their mind.
"The Bitcoin community can't go through this process every time it needs to have its protocol tweaked."
It seemed at the time to be a big drama—it's nothing compared to this—but it was also pretty traumatic. And the details of that debate are so arcane, even I can't remember what they really were. There's going to be more changes in the future. This isn't the last time that the Bitcoin protocol will need to change. We actually have a backlog of changes that need to be made to the protocol, and they should be technical no-brainers. But we thought that taking away an artificial cap on capacity was also a no-brainer.Andresen: I think that's right. I mean, I'm not an expert on governance of open protocols, but there are people in the world who are experts on how you—I hate this word—how you get stakeholders to come together and come to an agreement and evolve protocols over time. I'm going to rely on people who have experience doing that to hopefully give some advice that will hopefully be listened to by all the players in the Bitcoin world, so that going forward, we don't have these messy debates that really arise from a crisis of governance. How do decisions get made? How do we just not debate endlessly? How do we come to a decision that everyone is equally happy and unhappy with?This interview has been edited for length and clarity.CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Mike Hearn claims to be the first person ever to use Bitcoin. This is incorrect. The first Bitcoin transaction was sent from Nakamoto to Hal Finney. Hearn's claim is that he was the first Bitcoin developer to use the cryptocurrency. This article has been updated. Motherboard sincerely regrets the error.
"Up until about April of last year, we did have a process of making decisions. And that process was: Gavin made decisions."