Bitcoin’s Scales Debate: Is Satoshi Nakamoto back?

Marko Vidrih
4 min readJun 29, 2018

The debate between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash is due to the scaling debate. Bitcoin Cash’s approach to using larger blocks is celebrated by Roger Ver as “Satoshi’s Vision.” An alleged mail from Satoshi Nakamoto from 2015 is the claim in the way.

Despite the problems with counterfeit Twitter profiles for some time now, Twitter is the social network with the most interesting and passionate debates in the crypto scene. Be it verbose responses to Bitcoin critical writings, in-depth analysis of the crypto market, or passionate debates — much of what later becomes reflected in articles finds its beginning on Twitter.

The debates are most shared between followers of Bitcoin and followers of Bitcoin Cash. The starting point for these discussions is the scaling debate, the question of how to process as many transactions as possible with the Bitcoin protocol. Bitcoin Cash is a hard fork from Bitcoin that wants to answer the scaling debate with larger blocks. Bitcoin, on the other hand, stays on blocks of one MB, but relies on the Lightning Network off-chain solution.

What would Satoshi do — In search of the original vision of the Bitcoin inventor

Roger Ver, the best known representative of Bitcoin Cash, emphasizes that the big blocks would be the solution Satoshi prefers. Hardly a day passes without the entrepreneur, formerly known as “Bitcoin Jesus”, stressing that Bitcoin Cash is Satoshi’s vision. Representatives of this thesis are based inter alia on a post by Satoshi Nakamoto from the year 2010 on Bitcointalk.

Even before this claim was challenged by followers. In this context, they refer to an e-mail from former Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn from 2013. In a quote contained therein, Satoshi Nakamoto describes an idea that became known as the Lightning Network years later.

Now the debate has been fueled again by representatives of the Bitcoin environment. Since June 26, 2018, an entry in the bitcoin-dev mailinglist of August 15, 2015 is being discussed and forwarded to Twitter. This entry, written under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” with the e-mail address, is intended to show that the inventor of Bitcoin was extremely skeptical of the increase in block size. Here is an email:

I have been following the recent block size debates through the mailing list.  I had hoped the debate would resolve and that a fork proposal would achieve widespread consensus.  However with the formal release of Bitcoin XT 0.11A, this looks unlikely to happen, and so I am forced to share my concerns about this very dangerous fork.

The developers of this pretender-Bitcoin claim to be following my original vision, but nothing could be further from the truth. When I designed Bitcoin, I designed it in such a way as to make future modifications to the consensus rules difficult without near unanimous agreement. Bitcoin was designed to be protected from the influence of charismatic leaders, even if their name is Gavin Andresen, Barack Obama, or Satoshi Nakamoto. Nearly everyone has to agree on a change, and they have to do it without being forced or pressured into it. By doing a fork in this way, these developers are violating the "original vision" they claim to honour.

They use my old writings to make claims about what Bitcoin was supposed to be. However I acknowledge that a lot has changed since that time, and new knowledge has been gained that contradicts some of my early opinions. For example I didn't anticipate pooled mining and its effects on the security of the network. Making Bitcoin a competitive monetary system while also preserving its security properties is not a trivial problem, and we should take more time to come up with a robust solution. I suspect we need a better incentive for users to run nodes instead of relying solely on altruism.

If two developers can fork Bitcoin and succeed in redefining what "Bitcoin" is, in the face of widespread technical criticism and through the use of populist tactics, then I will have no choice but to declare Bitcoin a failed project. Bitcoin was meant to be both technically and socially robust. This present situation has been very disappointing to watch unfold.

Satoshi Nakamoto

Bitcoin XT is a 2015 Bitcoin client developed by Mike Haern. This relied heavily on increasing the block size and is now a client used in the Bitcoin Cash network.

Was it really Satoshi Nakamoto?

From the point of view of the Bitcoin representatives this is a clear statement against Bitcoin Cash. But can you really say that this is a message from Satoshi Nakamoto himself? Also in the Twitter discussion, there are some skeptical voices and a factual discussion about the legitimacy of this mail:

Be your own Satoshi — for more independent thinking

Whether the cited mail is from Satoshi or not — only the white paper and the well-known statements of Satoshi Nakamoto show that even the founder of Bitcoin can change his position. Accordingly, a single statement for or against Lightning Network on the one hand and larger blocks on the other hand can hardly be interpreted as a final verdict. Although it is interesting to see if and what Satoshi had to say about the scaling debate. That the community pursues this accordingly, is understandable, but should not be an overarching quality argument.

The crypto world is decentralized — not a cult worshiping a single white paper! This is an important, central document to build on. So let’s measure a cryptocurrency by success, rather than sticking to it.



Marko Vidrih

Most writers waste tremendous words to say nothing. I’m not one of them.