For bitcoin, November is a step into the unknown.
After years of debate on the best path forward, a new code proposal called Segwit2x is set to put the cryptocurrency – the world's largest by value – to the test. And while it boasts significant support from miners and businesses, it remains unclear whether the new code will change bitcoin's rules, or if another new cryptocurrency will be created (one already being branded bitcoin2x by some).
Quite simply, there's never been a larger change to the platform, nor one that has been the subject of such criticism and scrutiny.
And it might not be all free money. As developers are keen to note, this is bleeding-edge science; in short, we're in uncharted territory, and if past forks are any indication, decisions could lead to consequences – for users, investors and the market at large.
To help readers navigate the upcoming hard fork, CoinDesk is assembling our best content on the issue, allowing readers new and old to get up to speed in real-time.
So, what exactly is Segwit2x? And how does it work?
First thing's first, it's both a proposal that seeks to change bitcoin's technology and a formal written agreement reached between certain parties interested in that change.
In CoinDesk's official explainer, we'll walk you through the basics: from how the protocol works to why Segwit2x represents something we haven't quite seen in the world of blockchain.
Who supports who?
Now that you're caught up, we can dive into the dissent.
As an open platform, bitcoin thrives on the "co-opetition" between various parties. But as the following articles show, this delicate balance has been thrown into discord.
An open-source protocol, bitcoin relies on a group of volunteer and startup-sponsored developers to fix bugs, propose changes and maintain operations.
As such, it may be particularly noteworthy that on the subject of Segwit2x, members of this group continue to maintain that they're emphatically not involved. Back in May they protested widely, and as our recent reporting shows, not much has changed.
The large companies that operate the machinery required to solve bitcoin's puzzles and approve its transactions, miners are a more evasive bunch.
Originally supportive of the move, that confidence may now be waning. Notable here is the decision-making role miners play, and how this indecision could contribute to November's results.
The group that's seemingly put the most weight behind the change, startups use the bitcoin protocol to offer services to customers. In this way, they've perhaps had the most direct relationship with the technology, paying its fees and building infrastructure on its code.
Startups remain optimistic changes to the blockchain will correct concerns around scalability, though as new statements show, they're preparing for worst-case outcomes.
- Bloomberg – Bitcoin is Having a Civil War Right as it Enters a Critical Month
- Forbes – Will This Battle For The Soul Of Bitcoin Destroy It?
- CoinDesk – Why Are Miners Involved in Bitcoin Code Changes Anyway?
As shown above, the fork is a divisive issue.
But, that's not to say there haven't been attempts that aspire to look at the situation analytically in an attempt to find a less impassioned perspective and those that don't attempt to do this at all.
Below, we provide a notable selection of reactions and takes that have added to, or helped to represent, aspects of the discussion.
- CoinDesk – Why Segwit2x Is Doomed to Fail
- Bitcoin Magazine – Why Segwit2x Makes No Sense
- BitPay – BitPay's Perspective on Segwit2x
Of course, there's a deep history at play here.
Discussions have gotten taken out of context and arguments have turned fiery, leading to some confusion in the market over who's right and who's wrong, if there's even a direct answer there.
While both sides generally want the same thing – bitcoin to be used by more people – the sides argue whether that's a near-term or longer-term problem.
Still totally lost? Well, you're in good company...
- CoinDesk – Bitcoin's Battle Over Segwit2x Has Begun
- CoinDesk – Bitcoin's Broken Record: Why the Scaling Debate Isn't Going Away
- CoinDesk – Calm Before the Fork? Segwit2x Goes Silent as Bitcoin Split Looms
- CoinDesk – BitPay Is Growing? How Suspicions Are Fueling Bitcoin's Fork Debate
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which helped organize the Segwit2x agreement.
Image via Alex Sunnarborg for CoinDesk