How Time-locked Bitcoins Could Incentivize Smooth Hard Forks
There’s been a lot going on as far as development goes with the latest alternative clients and the Segwit2x plan also known as BTC1 on Github. One particular subject that came up on the BTC1 repository was the idea to incentivize the development community with time-locked bitcoins to smoothly activate a hard fork.
Time-locked Incentive for a Bitcoin Hard Fork
The hard fork has gotten a bad name over time mostly because of the contentious fork that took place with the Ethereum network. Hard forks aren’t forward-compatible, which means that the entire ecosystem of miners, wallet providers, exchanges, and merchants need to upgrade to the new code. The Segwit2x plan aims to activate Segregated Witness (Segwit) and follow up with a hard fork a few months down the line.
This week Oleg Andreev, product architect of the blockchain network company Chain introduced Issue #72 to the Github repo called “Time-locked incentive for Bitcoin hard fork.” The scheme Andreev says is to incentivize the community with coins that cannot be spent for a period of time until after the completion of a successful hardfork. The idea comes at a time when Segwit2x offers a compromise of both Segwit and a 2MB hard fork, but the problem is some people think the second part of the agreement won’t be fulfilled.
“It is well-known that cryptocurrency development can be incentivized by long-term time-locked coins,” explains Andreev. “Meaning, that the coins cannot be spent in the peak of a bubble, or right before a disaster that was not prevented or worked around. For instance, Greg Maxwell claims that Blockstream uses such scheme.”
What Are Time-locked Bitcoins?
Time-locked bitcoins cannot be spent until a specified time or block height by using a distributed contract recorded on the blockchain. Over the years there have been added improvements to this type of time-locking infrastructure with code development like Check-Lock-Time-Verify, Relative locktime, and Check-Sequence-Verify. Bitcoin luminary and author Andreas Antonopoulos discusses the subject of time-locked bitcoins in his book “Mastering Bitcoin: Programming the Open Blockchain.” Moreover, in 2016 Thomas McCabe gave instructions on how he successfully spent a time-locked bitcoin transaction.
“Bitcoin’s scripting language is very powerful, but access to resources with regards to learning how to build a script is scarce,” details McCabe.
‘Measuring the Amount of “Skin in the Game” to Gauge Responsibility’
Chain engineer Andreev believes this technology could smooth the process of completing a successful hard fork.
“Considering that any hard fork by definition carries an increased systemic risk: from producing chain splits inadvertently (due to overlooked software incompatibility), to splitting the market and shattering the faith in the technology and perspectives of our social experiment.”
It makes sense to introduce a special kind of time-locked incentives that get unlocked only on a hard-forked chain. Such incentives allow community to measure the amount of “skin in the game” to gauge the responsibility of the people behind a hard fork proposal.
Andreev gives specifications to his idea, and a few other developers including Jeff Garzik thought the concept was interesting. Additionally, Andreev’s proposal offers forward compatibility and “the code is expected to be modified to preserve the spirit of the proposal for the future hard forks,” explains the developer. Adding an incentive to smoothly activate a fork or fund bitcoin development, in general, is a unique concept but it’s likely this plan won’t be included in the Segwit2x working group’s current roadmap. There are multiple comments and suggestions made by developers that won’t make the final cut including funny ones like finding the Mt Gox missing bitcoins.
What do you think about incentivizing hard forks with time locked bitcoins? Let us know in the comments below.
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