Community Reacts to Bitcoin Unlimited Bug, Calls For SegWit Activation

On March 15, Bitcoin Unlimited suffered from an attack that led to a 6-hour downtime for miners and node operators. Miners lost over $200,000 in revenue and nodes crashed, bringing the node count of Bitcoin Unlimited down from 800 to roughly 300.

This particular attack or software crash didn’t necessarily have a major impact on the Bitcoin network. However, it signified that the Bitcoin Unlimited team most likely don’t have the experience and expertise to lead the development of Bitcoin. The March 15 software crash is Bitcoin Unlimited’s second bug exploitation in 2017.

One major criticism toward Bitcoin Unlimited and its development team was that the bug itself wasn’t discovered by the Bitcoin Unlimited development team. In fact, Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd stated that multiple people found the exploit “well before the BU team.” Todd explained: “Likely someone had an attack pre-prepared and was waiting for BU to find it.”

It’s about prevention, not recovery

Network issues and technical problems including Bitcoin’s Blockchain congestion and scalability issues aren’t detrimental to the Bitcoin network as developers can work together to find efficient and innovative solutions to address potential problems.

The major factor behind the Bitcoin network’s prosperity and rapid growth over the past few years is the presence of the Bitcoin Core team which is well funded and supported by the community. Prior to Blockstream, the Bitcoin Core development team was composed of volunteer developers that were struggling to allocate most of their resources, including time, to develop Bitcoin.

Apart from the Bitcoin Core development team, in contrast to other Blockchain networks, the Bitcoin network has a truly diverse open source development community wherein developers propose solutions to potential issues and facilitate peer-to-peer review.

For instance, well-known Bitcoin privacy and scalability solution Mimblewimble was introduced by an unknown developer or a development group within the open source community.

In regard to Bitcoin Unlimited, proper robust, efficient and reliable solutions can’t be implemented into Bitcoin with an all-star team of developers. Bitcoin needs a diverse and open community of developers, as Bitcoin and security expert Andreas Antonopoulos emphasized.

Antonopoulos wrote:

“This isn't about individual competence. It's about a process with diverse and laborious review, which catches bugs before production. If you depend on every dev being a "dream team," you can't scale. It takes a diverse team to be able to produce quality code, consistently.”

He further noted that Bitcoin development isn’t about fixing issues after they’ve already emerged and done damage to the network. It is about preventing them from being exploited with a transparent peer review process.

“It's not about preventing bugs from being written. It's about preventing them from going into production. That takes a team & process,” he added.

Most members of the Bitcoin community, including industry leaders and experts such as Coinbase Director of Engineering Charlie Lee, former BTCC COO Samson Mow, Abra CEO Bill Barhydt as well as the CEO of SatoshiLabs - parent company of hardware Bitcoin wallet manufacturer Trezor - and Slush criticized Bitcoin Unlimited for the exploitation of an internal bug.

It will be interesting to see how the miners react to the Bitcoin Unlimited bug exploitation and if Segregated Witness (SegWit) support will grow as a result.


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