Bitcoin is coming to a chain split. Every passing second brings us closer to the moment when a second coin, Bitcoin Cash, will diverge from the main chain, allowing all the big block originalists to have their way while the rest of users can have another way. However, this isn’t just a case of a new coin being made. Something unprecedented is happening that will change the whole landscape of the cryptocurrency universe, never to be the same again.
Bitcoin thrived on “originalism”
The one great selling point of Bitcoin is that it was the first. It had the vision for peer-to-peer money, it had solid design and proven use cases. In short, it worked. What Bitcoin did was debut a workable model for blockchain technology that was solid, practical, and, from a certain point of view, flawless. One reason why so many have been hesitant to deploy any major changes over the past near-decade of its existence has been the fear of upsetting the mystical balance of Satoshi’s perfection. In other words, “We got it right the first time, don’t mess it up with useless experiments.”
Other coins were the experiments
Once Bitcoin successfully proved that blockchain technology could change the world, users naturally began to think of what else it could do, as well as how it could be improved. But rather than mess with the original coin and risk ruining everything, experiments were conducted on other chains. Now, hundreds of coins exist to serve every manner of potential use, from minor tweaks to the original model like block size/interval changes and mining and distribution differences to major overhauls of the coin’s anonymity features and governance system. But the thought behind all this was: “Let’s experiment on other coins, because they’re expendable. Bitcoin is not.”
With Bitcoin, everyone was supposed to agree
As long as it has had users, Bitcoin has had disagreements within its community as to its developmental direction. However, the rule, spoken or otherwise, was that we all had to agree in the end. We could all have our favorite altcoin and argue which was better as a hobby, but when it came to business Bitcoin was our first love. Whatever separate conclusions we came to in theory, in practice we needed to be on the same page with Bitcoin. That’s why so many fought for so long over its destiny rather than simply create (or migrate to) a new coin to have their way: Bitcoin was the real deal where we all were supposed to come together with a unified vision.
Both new Bitcoins have an element of change
Now, with the impending chain split, that pure originalism is lost on both chains. Bitcoin Cash remains the more “old school” choice with only a block size increase as a change from the original design (though still in line with the original vision), but has lost most of the network effects long maintained by the original chain, and, most importantly, has lost the most important aspect of that originalism: the name. The “legitimate” inheritor of the Bitcoin branding maintains the name and the network effects, but will fundamentally change how the data is stored in blocks and will transition to more of a settlement layer for everyday transactions rather than the direct vehicle for the proverbial cup of coffee purchase. Neither Bitcoin is Bitcoin anymore.
We’re all just cryptos now
We’ve come to that uncomfortable point in cryptocurrency’s journey where Bitcoin has irrevocably lost the one thing that made it Bitcoin: its original purity. Now, rather than the one serious coin blessed by Satoshi himself, it’s just a couple extra altcoins. In fact, that term has lost all meaning. We’re all altcoins now. Embrace it.
Bitcoin proved the concept. Now the test run is over, and it’s just two of many coins vying for dominance against a host of competitors. Welcome to the Thunderdome, may the best coin win.