The research department of the BitMEX crypto currency exchange has announced its own Bitcoin software client. The client should compete with the Bitcoin Core Client, which is considered the reference implementation and is used by an estimated 95% of all nodes. The new “Bitcoin BitMEX Research” client is designed to reduce the network’s dependence on a single large software repository.
In a blog post, BitMEX Research discussed the merits of competing software clients and concluded that a proprietary BTC client was necessary to correct the misunderstanding that Bitcoin Core is responsible for the development of the crypto currency and “has the unique ability to change or prevent changes to Bitcoin’s consensus rules”.
Historically the Bitcoin Core Client goes back to Satoshi Nakamoto. Before 2013, the Bitcoin client that all nodes in the network had installed was called the Satoshi client, and the reference implementation was often referred to as the Bitcoin QT/Bitcoind. After the disappearance of Satoshi Nakamoto Gavin Andresen published a question in the forum of the Bitcoin Foundation about the renaming of Bitcoin-Qt. Mike Hearn, another developer, gave the client the name “Bitcoin Core”, which was accepted by the community. Many then began to call the software project a “Bitcoin Core”, but actually nothing changed.
The authors of BitMEX argue that the misunderstanding of Bitcoin core control by a few developers has arisen during and after the blocksize debate. These discussions, BitMEX Research argues, miss the point because it is up to the owner of the node to decide which client to install. In fact, Bitcoin Core does not control Bitcoin’s consensus rules. For example, the Bitcoin Core software project cannot force the nodes to upgrade or modify. This was also shown by the critical bug of the Bitcoin Core Client a month ago:
People tend to look for someone who has control over Bitcoin’s protocol rules. Before and during the Blocksize War, many thought they were miners, large companies or Gavin Andresen. One of the unexpected negative consequences of this war is that many seem to have changed their mind, believing that Bitcoin Core is in power, an equally flawed view. The truth is, as hard as it is to appreciate, that end users are ultimately responsible for Bitcoin.
Satoshi Nakamoto used to have his own opinion on the subject of a single client, as BitMEX writes. He was an opponent of it:
I don’t think a second, compatible implementation of Bitcoin will ever be a good idea. Such a large part of the design depends on all nodes in the lockstep getting exactly identical results that a second implementation would pose a threat to the network.
The Bitcoin BitMEX ResearchClient
The new client from BitMEX Research, aims to reduce network dependency on a single large software repository without taking new risks for the ecosystem. To this end, the BitMEX team does not wish to make any changes to the consensus, force a hard fork, or attempt to re-implement the protocol by rewriting the code base. Instead, the BitMEX Research Client will be based on the Bitcoin Core code base.
Since it is a soft fork from Bitcoin Core, there is no risk […] as Satoshi feared. The BitMEX Research client also does not change Bitcoin’s consensus rules, so concerns about controversial chain splits do not apply. So if the Bitcoin Core Repository is hijacked or deleted, the code base can be improved with the Bitcoin BitMEX Research Repository or another client.
The BitMEX implementation is already available on Github. Whether the client can change the dominance of Bitcoin Core remains to be seen.