Jonas Schnelli on Why Elected Officials May Not Be Good for Bitcoin

Bitcoin Core contributor Jonas Schnelli was recently featured in a panel discussion about improvements to Bitcoin at the 2016 MIT Bitcoin Expo. During the Q&A portion of the panel, an audience member asked the participants about the previous presentation by the World Bitcoin Network’s James D’Angelo in which he articulated the idea of replacing miners with elected officials.

In general, the panel, which also featured Blockstream core tech engineer Mark Friedenbach, Blockstream mathematician Andrew Poelstra and Lightning Network co-creator Joseph Poon, had a negative reaction to the concept of using democracy to handle changes to Bitcoin’s consensus rules. Schnelli used his experience with direct democracy in Switzerland to make his points.

Voting Requires an Informed Public

Although Schnelli has a positive take on Switzerland’s use of direct democracy, he does not view the system as a useful option for Bitcoin. In his view, the intricate, technical details of Bitcoin make direct democracy a poor choice for governance. Schnelli explained:

“Voting or democracy is good, but I live in Switzerland ‒ one of the only countries where we have direct democracy ‒ and with democracy you need to understand the topic you’re going to vote about. Who is able to vote about Bitcoin technical topics? Even the miners ‒ they don’t really get the technical essence of the problem.”

Indeed, many representatives of Bitcoin’s network hashrate have decided to default to Bitcoin Core on development issues. Although there is widespread support for a 2-megabyte block size limit among Chinese exchanges and mining pools, those companies are, as of now, willing to accept that change only if it comes from Bitcoin Core.

On the topic of voting on changes to the Bitcoin protocol, Schnelli added:

“Voting means you really need to fully understand what you’re going to vote about. As soon as you say everybody needs to vote ‒ everybody needs to study the problem for a couple of days ‒ is it realistic? Who is able to judge?”

Lobbying and Propaganda Come with Voting

Schnelli also is uncomfortable with bringing some of the negative aspects of politics into development decisions related to Bitcoin. He noted:

“With voting comes also, kind of, lobbying ‒ people and companies collecting money to influence people. I see that back in Switzerland where we vote about law changes, not the president. It’s all about money and propaganda.”

Trace Mayer, a longtime investor in Bitcoin and Bitcoin-centric companies, recently shared similar thoughts on who should be making decisions related to the protocol. In his view, there is no competition for the experienced contributors to Bitcoin Core. Mayer also has stated that Bitcoin is a meritocracy, which is a form of governance where power is awarded to individuals based on their abilities.

Proponents of a more democratic approach to Bitcoin governance, such as Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong and Bitcoin Classic developer Gavin Andresen, say their vision of Bitcoin governance would allow the protocol to evolve and adapt more efficiently over time.

Bitcoin Is a Technical Topic

Schnelli summed up his thoughts on democracy for Bitcoin governance during his final comments in regard to the audience member’s question. He stated:

“I mean, I like [the direct democracy in Switzerland], but it’s this political thing; it’s not technical stuff. It’s something everybody can talk about. But can the people in Bitcoin talk about what they really want?”

Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured on VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, RT’s Keiser Report and many other media outlets. You can follow@kyletorpeyon Twitter.

 

 

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OpenBazaar Integrating InterPlanetary File System to Help Keep Stores Open Longer

OpenBazaar is integrating the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) into their decentralized online marketplace. While no official announcement about this move has been made, OpenBazaar developer Chris Pacia, who is currently working on the IPFS integration, has shared some of the details related to this change with Bitcoin Magazine.

According to Pacia, the main advantage of integrating IPFS into OpenBazaar will be the increased availability of storefronts. Currently, a store operator must maintain his or her own server at all times or pay someone else to do it.

What Is IPFS?

IPFS is a hypermedia distribution protocol that enables the creation of distributed applications. The team behind IPFS is creating a peer-to-peer file system that can be accessed by all of the computing devices in the world. The brains behind this new protocol, Stanford graduate Juan Benet, has said that IPFS allows people to create websites and web apps with no central server. He added, “They can be distributed just like the Bitcoin network is distributed.”

What Are the Advantages of IPFS for OpenBazaar?

Since OpenBazaar is a marketplace with no central server, IPFS appears to be a solid option for hosting storefronts.

Pacia agrees with this sentiment. He told Bitcoin Magazine, “The main advantage is data will become more distributed and most of it should be viewable even if the originating node is offline.”

Pacia went on to describe the current issues with OpenBazaar when it comes to opening and operating a store on the network:

“We have a situation now where you have to fetch store data from only one person, and if they have a slow or buggy connection (or if they get attacked), then you can’t access that data, despite potentially hundreds of other users having that data from a previous download.”

Essentially, IPFS will allow OpenBazaar users to connect to specific stores via many other peers who already have that data rather than just the owner of the store.

Pacia continued:

“So IPFS seeds everything you download which makes the data much more permanent. It also provides a more robust DHT implementation than what we have written, and it’s better to spend our resources collaborating than trying to maintain our own.”

Many early users of OpenBazaar have complained about having to operate a server 24/7 to keep their stores “open” on the network, which is why the removal of this requirement has been a top priority for the development team behind the project.

Layering Anonymity on Top

Other commentators have wondered whether Freenet may be the best option for OpenBazaar, but it appears the network’s developers have no intention of going in that direction at this time. Pacia noted, “I don’t know [enough] about Freenet to comment on it. But what attracts us to IPFS is its scalable approach to data replication.”

Although OpenBazaar launched without native support for anonymizing networks such as i2p or Tor, OpenBazaar project lead Brian Hoffman recently reiterated the development team’s dedication to privacy.

“Anonymity can be layered on top of [IPFS],” Pacia told Bitcoin Magazine. “It won’t be too much work to enable onion nodes to connect to each other.”

OpenBazaar’s support for IPFS is not strictly theoretical, as code related to this change is already available on GitHub.

Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured onVICE Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, RT’s Keiser Reportand many other media outlets. You can follow@kyletorpeyon Twitter.

 

 

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