When it comes to power brokers in the Bitcoin industry, those that are crunching the numbers and producing the coins hold a lot of sway. Bitcoin miners are an interesting group of people. Some are evasive and tend to stay under the radar. Others are more open about their views and intentions.
Added to this there is the fact that these miners mostly operate from China where significant language barriers may exist. Hence, one would have the perfect ingredients for miscommunication between the miners and the greater Bitcoin community. At such an important time such as now, this miscommunication can indeed be quite frustrating.
This was on clear display recently when Jiang Zhouer who is the founder of BTC.Top made public comments about the fork. It is worth noting that BTC.Top, which is the third largest mining pool, has been signalling support for SegWit2X for some time. In the comments, Jiang said:
To be honest, I do not care about bitcoin now, bitcoin cash is bitcoin. I earn by mining bitcoin, [selling it] and buying bitcoin cash. We mine for the most profit and buy bitcoin cash.
It is quite hard for many people to understand the exact position that the mining pool will take. He is showing a lack of interest in Bitcoin but claims he will still mine it if it is profitable. Does this mean that he will continue to mine the legacy NO2X chain in the event of a split later this year? This would be in contradiction to what the pool is signalling for.
The signalling that miners are providing is the only way that people are able to get a sense of whether they will go ahead with the protocol changes. If these signals cannot be trusted then it leaves many people in the dark. Moreover, even though these miners may have signed the New York Agreement (NYA), they are not beholden to it and some have already withdrawn.
Can One Person Control a Pool?
Although Jiang does have his views on which coins will eventually overtake, he has to bare in mind the opinions of all the users. Given that a pool is merely a collection of individual miners who contribute hashing power, those contributing miners may also have their own views on which chain to mine.
Therefore, Jiang plans to allow those miners that are part of the pool to either mine a coin of their choice or merely switch based on their preference at that point in time. This could be a great options for those miners who like to move mining based on the profitability of the chain. When asked whether a chain split is likely come November, Jiang was also uncertain as he said that:
I do not know. We should ask bitcoin users, they decide the result
Jiang is not the only miner and Pool CEO who views it this way. Haipo Yang who runs ViaBTC also agreed. ViaBTC is the 4th largest mining pool by hashing power and is signalling for SegWit2X. Although Yang says that his pool will only be offering SegWit2X, if the legacy NO2X chain survives and users want to mine it, they will support both.
Hence, if the public views of these two individuals is indeed shared amount the other mining pools in China then this means that the current signalling for SegWit2X as well as hashing power that is likely to be devoted to it is not certain. This comes on top of the recent announcements that F2Pool would stop supporting the SegWit2X fork which has brought the percentages of signalling support down to about 85% at press time.
A Different Fork
The reason that this hardfork has gathered so much attention is because unlike previous forks (Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold), both of the coins in this fork want to be the “Bitcoin”. The SegWit2X proposal wants to change the current Bitcoin protocol and does not want to leave the current chain.
This could lead to a period of instability in the market as there are two chains that are both competing for the Bitcoin moniker. It is also an unsafe outcome as protection against a replay attack has not being implemented on the SegWit2X chain.
This “two chains” view is shared by a number of smaller miners as well as developers. For example, the CEO of Slush Pool Jan Capek thinks that there will be a split in the chain. He will be supporting core developers as he views hardforks to have diminishing marginal returns.
You also have the Jack Liao who claims that by the end of Novemeber we are likely to have 4 Bitcoins. Jack would indeed be familiar with Bitcoin forks as his company was the driving force behind Bitcoin Gold and the split that recently happened from the Bitcoin chain.
It’s important to remember that the NYA was signed back in May when there was only one version of Bitcoin. It was signed with the backdrop of a scaling crisis that many saw as unsustainable. However, since the agreement we have had the introduction of Bitcoin Cash which could change perceptions and the investments that miners have undertaken.
Even some of the strongest adherents of SegWit2X are more positive about Bitcoin cash. For example, Roger Ver who is the CEO of Bitcoin.com said that he was “very bullish” on the fork in the short term but was even more bullish on Bitcoin cash in the long run. Hence, it is indeed likely that many of the miners that are supporting SegWit2X are doing so if only to increase investment and demand for Bitcoin cash.
Whether the chain split and hardfork is likely to go ahead in two weeks is currently anybody’s guess. As users patiently watch SegWit2X signalling and announcements from the mining pools, the uncertainty continues.
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