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Bitcoiners Riled Up After WSJ Claims Network Relies on a ‘Handful of Mysterious Coders’

2 mins
Updated by Kyle Baird
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In Brief

  • The WSJ asserted that a small group of Bitcoin maintainers single-handedly control the network
  • The author alleges that at least once, the maintainers secretly corrected a flaw that could have destroyed Bitcoin.
  • Maintainers are being seen as the successors of anonymous creator of Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.
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In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal asserted that a small group of Bitcoin maintainers make up the foundation of the biggest cryptocurrency.

According to the report, the primarily Bitcoin network often referred to as ‘Bitcoin Core,’ is now managed by only six maintainers.

BTC Core is an open-source application that updates the Bitcoin digital ledger on the network’s computers or nodes. It sets the network’s parameters and how the nodes interact and function.

‘Maintainers’ Labeled as Secret Bitcoin Saviors

The article’s author asserts that at least once, the maintainers secretly corrected a flaw that could have destroyed the value of the largest crypto project by market cap. Developer Matt Corallo, for instance, discovered a purported inflation flaw in code in 2018.

Maintainers have been labeled as successors of the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. The article notes that a larger community of developers assists them in making sure that the software continues to run smoothly on modern operating systems. However, the ability of maintainers to create or alter the code and add them to the GitHub repository sets them apart from these ‘helper’ developers.

WSJ claims that four Bitcoin Core maintainers have resigned from their roles in the last 18 months due to burnout or legal risk. The total number since 2009 is said to be 17.

Developer Andrew Chow's Bitcoin Core tally on Bitcointalk, cited by WSJ
Developer Andrew Chow’s Bitcoin Core tally on Bitcointalk, cited by WSJ

Jameson Lopp, a privacy advocate and Bitcoin coder, told WSJ, “It becomes less and less useful. It becomes easier to attack. And so all technology has to have humans behind it, maintaining it.”

On the other hand, some developers contend that Bitcoin Core’s widespread use conflicts with the cryptocurrency’s desire to maintain decentralization. The WSJ also questions whether there is a conflict of interest in using funding and grants for this venture.

Centralization Debate: USD vs. BTC

Bitcoin proponents quickly got to memeing. A Twitter user, @BitcoinIsSaving, pointed out that the future of the U.S. dollar depends on one mysterious lawyer. Here they are referring to Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell, who is often villainized by those in crypto.

WSJ also highlighted that the list of grant providers includes businesses like Block Inc., the digital payments company run by Jack Dorsey. In response, Joe Burnett, Head Analyst at Blockware Solutions, said, “It’s crucial to understand that maintainers don’t control Bitcoin.”

Anyone can submit a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP), or a change to the code, on the open network. But, to alter Bitcoin Core, a BIP-compliant editor must receive a nod from at least 90% of the miners. Only after which do the nodes get an option to upgrade to a new software version.

Top crypto platforms in the US | February 2024

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Shraddha Sharma
Shraddha is an India-based journalist who worked in business and financial news before diving into the crypto space. As an investment enthusiast, she has also has a keen interest in understanding crypto from a personal finance standpoint.
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