Adam Back, an original cypherpunk, inventor of Hashcash and co-founder and CEO of Blockstream. We address the controversy around BIP 119: the soft fork proposal to add “covenants” to Bitcoin. There is also talk of Luna’s collapse.
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Flexible smart contracts are a USP of Ethereum and other blockchains. Currently, Bitcoin only enables basic smart contract functionality, such as a timelock that specifies when a transaction can be spent. BIP 119 proposes to add more flexibility to apply restrictions to transactions via a new program operation code (opcode) called CheckTemplateVerify (CTV).
CTV would allow conditions on UTXO spending that would limit, not when it is spent, but how. These are called “commitments”. It is envisioned that CTV could significantly improve Bitcoin by enabling the development of a series of new and powerful applications; these could bring new benefits in terms of security, privacy and scalability.
The concern is that CTV is a significant change and could open up potential unknown security risks, or that while this feature is desirable, it could be better achieved with a different technical approach
BIP119 was authored and enthusiastically promoted by Bitcoin developer, Jeremy Rubin. It has now been around for 2 years, and although Rubin has generated support for BIP119, he has also been criticized by prominent Bitcoiners for his approach and so far there does not seem to be a consensus among the development community. protocols on the implementation of the proposal.
Consideration, approval, and activation of Bitcoin changes is methodical and slow. Moreover, such changes normally involve the development of competing ideas and a collaborative approach to combine the best elements of these efforts. Notable critics feel that the BIP119 is promoted too forcefully and that more time is needed to test and consider alternatives.
The pressure to innovate will always be there. The problem is Bitcoin’s USP: it has never been hacked. It was hard won. So it looks like BIP119 doesn’t get a formal consensus just yet. Rubin, however, could bypass Core developers and implement a UASF. Could we be about to test the limits of Bitcoin’s rough consensus process again?