In February an anonymous pseudonym named Shaolinfry introduced a new idea to push the Segregated Witness (Segwit) implementation forward. The concept is called User Activated Soft Fork (UASF), which activates the Segwit protocol on a specific date and is executed by full nodes. While the idea has somewhat gained in popularity, it has also come under scrutiny from those who believe UASF may be contentious and could cause a blockchain split.
The User Activated Soft Fork Movement
Throughout many Bitcoin-focused social media forums, the UASF discussion can be seen far and wide. The basic plan is to get Segwit activated by utilizing the vote of full nodes otherwise referred to as the “economic majority.” The idea introduced two months ago by the anonymous Shaolinfry has excited Segwit supporters, and they have been rallying support for the proposal ever since. Shaolinfry’s BIP 148 proposal (UASF) states the concept may be possible because of the successful P2SH soft fork (BIP16) in the past.
Currently, the share of full nodes signaling BIP 148 is roughly around 5 percent at the time of writing, and two mining pools (Bitfury and Bitcoin India) have also indicated UASF support. Furthermore, roughly 22 Bitcoin-based companies such as Coinkite, Trezor, Bitpay, and more have publicly stated they will also support BIP 148. However, miners will be involved in the process as well, as the UASF Working Group website states;
To be clear, BIP148 is a soft fork that requires miners to activate the existing Segwit deployment. This is not the standard for UASF because normally nodes would just begin enforcement on a given “flag day” — Prior to August 1st, 2017, miners should either; update their node software to a BIP148-enforcing version; or run a BIP148 border node to filter out invalid blocks, and update their existing mining software to produce blocks with version 1 bit enabled, to vote for Segwit activation.
If the Mining Majority Ignores BIP 148 a Split Could Happen
The specific date for the BIP 148 activation will be on August 1st of this year. One issue of contention is the fear of a blockchain split which is possible in a UASF setting if there are problems reaching consensus. For instance, some people speculate that if some miners ignore the transition, it could result in a Miner Activated Chain Split (MACP). This would, in turn, lead to a minority hashrate, and another token with a separate blockchain (another “bitcoin”).
If mining pools ignore the UASF transition and only users (node operators) activate it, it is believed certain nodes will stop receiving blocks. According to some skeptics within the community, unless 100 percent of the mining majority runs the UASF code, the implementation will split the chain into two. “Some miners could opt to ignore the BIP148 rule and attempt to split the chain, but this would require a majority of miners who would be out of consensus from the rest of the economic majority,” the UASF Working Group website details warning about the possibility of this type of event.
Bitcoin.org Owner Has an Issue With Trezor’s UASF Support
Even those who support the UASF Segwit implementation seem to have issues with a possible chain split. On March 11 another anonymous pseudonym and the owner of Bitcoin.org, “Cobra Bitcoin,” has also explained that the change could alter bitcoin, without overwhelming support. The Bitcoin.org owner goes as far as to say he would like to see the removal of Trezor from Bitcoin.org’s `recommended wallet´ page because Slush’s pool operator “claims it [Trezor] is ‘ready’ for UASF.”
“In the case of a failed UASF, an altcoin is created which is not Bitcoin,” explains Cobra Bitcoin’s Github pull request. “Services that claim to support or be ready for this new altcoin don’t belong on bitcoin.org. It’s impossible for there to be two Bitcoin’s, so bitcoin.org can’t promote services that incorrectly label an altcoin as `Bitcoin´ (such as a failed UASF) or services that present the user with two different Bitcoin `flavors´ (as would happen in a contentious UASF). UASFCoin is not bitcoin, and until it becomes `bitcoin´ by gaining overwhelming consensus (almost all nodes, all exchanges, all miners and all developers), then this policy will be applied to all wallets.”
With UASF Support so Low, Does it Mean Anything?
Many people disagreed with Cobra, and some Github commenters believed Trezor’s support was a harmless gesture and merely a political statement. Furthermore, some bitcoin proponents feel that UASF signals are basically meaningless political statements anyway, as the code is not complete. Additionally, BIP 148 hasn’t received much help from the Bitcoin development community on both sides of the scaling debate.
Right now there is a lot of chatter throughout social media concerning UASF but it’s clear there isn’t much support coming from the economic majority of nodes or bitcoin’s mining sector, at least for now.
What do you think about the User Activated Soft Fork implementation? Do you think the scenario is plausible? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Phneep, Pixabay, Github, and UASFsaltylemon.org.