There can be NO SPLIT of BCH -- Or the network dies!
That is a very strong statement**. I know this is not going to be a very popular statement. Many will immediately reach for the "you don't know how Bitcoin works" argument. Many may even say that the whole reason that BCH exists today is because a split fork was allowed. Well, I'll explain to you why these people have it all wrong.
Every Fork is different
Many people fail to realize that every contentious hard fork is different. It really matters WHY the parties are forking, not so much important the forking mechanism itself. This has already been shown to be true, because there were many hard forks in BTC history that occurred due to technical bugs which were successfully rolled back without issue. Many will point to the BTC/BCH fork that occurred as an example of a fork where the minority chain persisted and grew into a new coin itself. This was actually unique occurrence in the history of BCH and I believe we will never see a fork like this one again. This split was needed because the parties that we were splitting away from did not believe in the use of hard forks as an upgrade method for the network, and thus has doomed the network to forever defer changes to secondary wrapper layers that are built on top of BTC itself. Also this split was allowed to happen because the miners on both chains made profit from mining both. This was uniquely possible because the fundamental ideology of the 2 chains were so different that the community was completely split over it. One was to be 'digital gold' while the other was to be 'digital cash'. So the split was allowed to happen, and a hash war was averted. BUT because the hash war never happen, and the big blocker camp accepted the minority chain, and an new symbol (BCH) the need to have a war was avoided. However, there are some that believe that avoiding the hash war was a mistake. That the big blocker agenda could have eventually won, and kept the BTC ticker, and effectively kept the entire ecosystem of businesses that had already been built on top of BTC. Indeed, the big blocker camp enjoyed a support rate as high as 48% at some points in time during 2017, and it was only through a sequence of errors made by the leading client at the time (Bitcoin Unlimited) and also the pressure from a directed media campaign against the big blocker camp that slowly eroded the confidence of some of the miners who supported the big blocker side. It was finally the NY agreement with the Segwit2x proposal which killed the big blocker campaign eventually, which was signed by all the large chinese pools like Antpool and ViaBTC. It could be said that any chance of keeping the BTC ticker was 'given up on' when the big blocker camp decided not to even show up to the fight. But then from this was born BCH, and a complete RESET of the ecosystem and the community.
This time though, the crown is the same
With this upcoming contentious upgrade in Nov, the goal of both sides of the network are ostensibly the same. They both want to pursue the goal of global peer-to-peer cash, but just each in their own way. The issues this time boil down to technical disputes among developers, one camp presenting a roadmap which focuses more on forward changes while the other one that wants to first re-instate the original feature set of Bitcoin. I will not weigh in on the pros/cons of the competing roadmaps and clients on this post, but instead focus on why if a split is allowed this time around, that BCH will be effectively dead.
Businesses cannot accept a constantly splitting ledger.
Simply put, the split from BTC was bad enough. But since there is little of legitimate businesses running on BTC, the loss of those businesses was painful but was recoverable. "Hey wait a second!" you say, what isn't <so and so> business considered legitimate? What I mean by legitimate is not that they are not valid, just that the businesses are not services or businesses that are of the kind that are not borne out of the nature of the blockchain itself. For instance, businesses based on the speculation of the coin, based on providing liquidity to the coin, or prediction markets, betting, gambling, these are not what I am calling 'legitimate' businesses in this select context. Certainly there were likely a lot of small legitimate businesses like openbazaar, or notorization, or payment services for real world goods that were going on, but the vast majority of the liquidity and flow of BTC were purely speculators using BTC like a risky investment or stock. These businesses will have no problem replicating themselves on a new chain like BCH. It is not these businesses that I worry about.
It is the legitimate businesses such as inventory tracking, logistics, attestation, derivative contracts, etc are the kind of businesses that are starting to look at BCH because of its 'unlimited' scaling roadmap, and are considering using it. There are many benefits to a global shared ledger, being able to novate contracts across jurisdictions, to have transparency across political borders, and of course censorship resistance, and privacy. All of these businesses though, require that the ledger that they are all sharing MUST have PERMANENCY. Meaning, it cannot split. Imagine if you were using a ledger for all futures trades you had with multiple counterparties. You opted to use a public blockchain because some of your counterparties have clients who may want to settle in currencies which are not in your jurisdiction and they need the transfer-ability of the tokens that they have to other currencies in other countries seemlessly. But then the ledger forks and splits one day because of some developer dispute that you have no interest in whatsoever. Now there are 2 ledgers. You now have the dual problem of negotiating with all your multiple counterparties on which of the 2 ledgers you want to honor in the past (because now you have 2 tokens for every one that you had in the past) and which ledger you want to use in the future to record new trades in. What if some counterparties choose one ledger and the rest choose the other? How will this legally work out? It would be a complete mess. This mess would translate into a cost, and that cost into business RISK (in the potential form). This risk is exactly why NO BUSINESS would EVER want to use a blockchain ledger that would allow splits like this in the first place. This is the reason why most businesses use PRIVATE blockchains which they can control. Not because of some tin hat theory about governments paying them money to, but simply because public blockchains have to this point not shown to have a good solution to mitigate this RISK.
What if I told you that Bitcoin ALWAYS had the solution to this problem? What if I said that Satoshi Nakamoto even described it in his whitepaper back in 2009 but TO THIS DAY it has never been tested in real life? What is this solution you ask? Simply, it is "Longest Chain wins" rule. Yes, the same rule that BCH violated in order to be forced into being. It was necessary in the past because the people that were controlling BTC chain did not want to ever use hard forks to upgrade. That misconception needed to be removed from the community and so it has, (although not in a way that many would have liked, resulting in a BCH being created instead of a hash battle with "longest chain wins" rule.
Why does this rule get constantly overlooked as either impractical or just impossible in practice? My simple answer to that is because I believe that most people evaluating it do not consider the economic effects as much as they consider technical theoretical effects.
The "Longest Chain wins" rule (which should really be the 'most proof of work chain' but those who know, need no clarification on the wording), simply punishes the minority side refusing to upgrade by putting ever increasing risk on the block rewards that they have earned until they lose it all, all the way back to the first block that they deviated from the majority from. There is a limited amount of capital and therefore a limited about of energy, and therefore a limited amount of time that the minority chain can hold out without upgrading before they just run out of money. Therefore, you can say that the time of a divergence after a hard fork is capped. It cannot go on forever. (thanks to Proof of Work requiring ENERGY as its cost!)
So you see, we should have had this hash battle back in 2017. Perhaps the big blockers wouldn't have won, but then they could have regrouped and got more hash power, built more mining farms and tried again. This 'battle' results with more hashpower (security) being injected into the system, another positive externality. (Bitcoin is full of positive externalities.)
This time, it is time for BCH to show the world that a totally immutable, totally unsplittable global ledger is indeed possible, EVEN when developers disagree (which is bound to happen in a decentralized system!) This is exactly the way decentralized blockchains should work! Even in dispute, the ledger will plod on, punishing those who refuse to side with the part of the network that is providing the most security for everyone. It is a shame that although Satoshi wrote about how all disputes and upgrades could be decided simply by longest chain winning, that to this day, almost 10 years later, we have never seen the process work in action.
I am looking forward to seeing it work in practice. And when it does, and either the minority camp is coerced into siding with the majority leading up to the fork date, or forced economically to concede after the fork happens, either way, one chain will prevail, and then, and only then, FINALLY, businesses around the world will see that a global ledger with INDEFINITE permanence is indeed possible. And then, the flood gates will open up to businesses flooding onto BCH like the Red Sea did to Moses.
** - Statement! Not an imperative, or ultimatum.
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