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Author Topic: Bitcoin Development: Lack of Progress?  (Read 2802 times)
BittBurger
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March 03, 2014, 01:20:34 AM
 #1

This is an issue that has been eating at me for awhile.  

Mostly because I don't know the answer.  And I could be *completely* wrong.  So i am posting this to get some insight from those who know better than me.

It seems to me that there are very few, if any software updates to the Bitcoin protocol.  And a "to do" list that must be growing by the day, with nobody addressing the issues.  

Yes.  I am aware.  They can't move too quickly.  Its an important system.  Must be done right.  Etc.  

Nevertheless, how is the core dev team going to keep up with the expansion / enhancement needs of Bitcoin at this current snails pace?  And when I say snails pace, I mean basically no pace.  The months roll by and I hear nothing about periodic enhancements, upgrades, security issues.  Bitcoin of March 2014 should make Bitcoin of March 2013 look like an ancient relic.  We should be sitting on a powerfully enhanced tool that silences all Bitcoins critics.  We *TELL* everyone that Bitcoin is a flexible, living, growing piece of software, so whatever issue they bring up can be addressed by code modifications.   But nobody is doing code modifications.

Yes there were a couple updates, maybe in the last year I believe, right?   A couple notable things in each one.   Then .... months of silence.  Meanwhile the press, the economists, the naysayers continue to condemn bitcoin for things that we could safely add to the code.   But nobody is doing it.  I saw Gavin mentioning some frustrations with those who demand enhancements but don't provide the resources to actually code them.  I realize there is probably a very good explanation for the utter lack of progress of anything significant.  But the question is:  Is anything being done to address it?  

If Bitcoin is to survive, my understanding is that its claim of being "enhance-able" needs to actually be accurate.  My perception, after daily involvement for the last 11 months, is that little or nothing is getting done.  

Is that a correct perception?  Why, or why not?

Thanks.

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March 03, 2014, 01:57:58 AM
 #2

In my opinion, the development is really, I mean really slow.


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March 03, 2014, 02:56:22 AM
 #3

At the Bitcoin level things need to be simple. I think Einstein said to, “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler."

If you let something become too complicated then you have something like Mt. Gox that completely collapses.

The most important thing is to create a platform that works. Then let others build things around the platform.  If some feature can be handled outside the Bitcoin level, then leave it out. There is a big community around Bitcoin. Anytime the protocol changes then everything built around it has to take into account potential changes as well.

Just my thoughts.

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March 03, 2014, 02:58:35 AM
 #4

You ask a complex question. There are several problems and actually there is more than one answer.

The TL;DR answer IMO is no, there isn't a lack of progress. Bitcoin as it stands today works. It's for the most part secure. It has been attacked in theoretical and real world ways, scrutinized, built on top of, and still it powers ahead. At the end of the day that's all you really care about, that the system works as it should.

Now is it perfect? No, but the same could be said about the Internet and TCP/IP. Yet, how much is done with the Internet and TCP/IP today? A lot.

Another problem with your question is the definition of "progress". Gavin, as the current lead developer, has indicated some of the things he is actively working on, like the payment protocol and floating transaction fees, but that doesn't immediately translate into produced code. Writing good software is more than about actually writing lines of code. It also involves planning, especially for complex applications, and Bitcoin is certainly that.

The next thing to consider is Bitcoin isn't your typical programmed application. Usually, and many people can relate to this, businesses hang out a "down for maintenance" sign whenever they need to do major modifications. That's not an option with Bitcoin. As some aptly describe it it's like working on a 747 going hundreds of miles an hour; if you make too big a mistake the whole thing could crash and burn, or at least scare the hell out of the passengers. Not many people are eager to put themselves in that situation, so major changes are not taken lightly.

Last, there is a very real problem with open source software, which is under funding. There are brilliant developers contributing core code to  Bitcoin, but as of now Gavin is the only one getting paid for it. Just think how great Linux is as an OS, and completely free at that, yet how dominant Windows is in the world. It comes down to funding. Brilliant people working on Linux don't care about average user experience and marketability, as long as things work for them that's good enough. That's not the approach of a profitable software company like Microsoft.

So could Bitcoin core development use a boost? Yes, I agree it could, a financial one. Other than that, it's made up of scrappy coders sacrificing whatever labor they can to make it work well enough.
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March 03, 2014, 03:08:41 AM
 #5

This to me is why a semi private development like ripple will be the one to beat presently.  Opensource code with a privately funded development.  Sure decentralization is valuable and should be recognized as the lifeblood of any noncorruptable system of finance.  But the existing financial system we have is and will hopefully remain viable long enough to smoothly, step by step transition into a pure p2p system as bitcoin can be with the p2p exchanges and improvements so needed working on.  This makes ripple a clear contender on a level that is insurmountable to the current state of the bitcoin environment.
BittBurger
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March 03, 2014, 03:17:37 AM
 #6

Thanks guys.

Is there any risk to progress when you have a decentralized development team, and nobody technically managing the project? 
Nobody handling the list of bugs and enhancements, making sure they get done in a timely manner, and nobody to load test or fully QA the system?
PS:  A developer acting as project manager usually isn't the best idea in my experience as a project manager.

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March 03, 2014, 03:29:49 AM
 #7

Successful open source projects need a Benevolent Dictator for the life of the major code changes, otherwise you have chaos.

When Satoshi left that was the end of major changes, as only he had the authority to push them through.

Project management is a difficult nut to crack. I would appreciate any advice from others on this. I mean the management of the business affairs and marketing. Putting this in the hands of a foundation seems to be corruptible.

Developers such as a myself are loath to deal with lots of extraneous time wasting details that don't pertain to the code.

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March 03, 2014, 03:37:33 AM
 #8

... This makes ripple a clear contender on a level that is insurmountable to the current state of the bitcoin environment.

I really like the idea of Ripple, but the current problem I have with it is there seems to be no way to verify how many ripples exist. If people complain about Satoshi possibly having 1M or about 5% of all bitcoins, when there is a known amount, what can they say about the creators of Ripple?

Also, keep in mind things change. I believe everyone involved in Bitcoin does better as time goes by, if for no other reason than price appreciation. Another example is that Gavin is formally paid to work on Bitcoin now, via the Bitcoin Foundation, as opposed to early on when it didn't exist.

Thanks guys.

Is there any risk to progress when you have a decentralized development team, and nobody technically managing the project? 
Nobody handling the list of bugs and enhancements, making sure they get done in a timely manner, and nobody to load test or fully QA the system?
PS:  A developer acting as project manager usually isn't the best idea in my experience as a project manager.

Yes, I think there is somewhat. That might have been on display with the unintentional version 8 software bug/fork. At the same time I think management of the project is somewhat crowdsourced. For example, I don't contribute core code but I think about the overall system and potential issues with possible solutions all the time. The block size/scalability issue is the biggest example of that. I've weighed in often on the subject and actually have my own ideas for solution which are separate, but complementary to the official answer at the wiki.
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March 03, 2014, 03:50:32 AM
 #9

I really like the idea of Ripple, but the current problem I have with it is there seems to be no way to verify how many ripples exist.
https://ripple.com/wiki/RPC_API#account_info
https://ripple.com/tools/info
You're free to verify this and more also by running your own node.
There is also a bunched together amount released by RippleLabs (https://www.ripplelabs.com/xrp-distribution/) with no further/cryptographically verifiable proof behind that. It looks like about in the right ballpark though, from looking at the distribution of XRP between wallets atm.

Unlike Bitcoin, Ripple does not mainly exist to transact XRP (ripples) though, it mainly exists to facilitade trade. Some people here seem to have a similar vision in mind for BTC (using them as "bridging, globally accepted" currency to make transactions faster by buying them on one end and selling them on the other) so these might feel a bit threatened by XRP than others - if you are interested however in using ONLY bitcoins or holding them for longer periods of time, ignoring XRP and pushing for Ripple is a smart move imho.

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March 03, 2014, 04:02:16 AM
 #10

I really like the idea of Ripple, but the current problem I have with it is there seems to be no way to verify how many ripples exist.
https://ripple.com/wiki/RPC_API#account_info
https://ripple.com/tools/info
You're free to verify this and more also by running your own node.

Yes, I've looked over some of Ripple's documentation. How does a node verify the amount of XRP in existence? From what I could see the basis is supposedly a "genesis ledger" as opposed to a genesis block, but there seems to be no way to access the genesis ledger.

There is also a bunched together amount released by RippleLabs (https://www.ripplelabs.com/xrp-distribution/) with no further/cryptographically verifiable proof behind that.

That's a numeric statement posted on a website. That doesn't cut it.

It looks like about in the right ballpark though, from looking at the distribution of XRP between wallets atm.

That doesn't cut it either. It needs to be mathematically verifiable.
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March 03, 2014, 04:17:43 AM
 #11

I really like the idea of Ripple, but the current problem I have with it is there seems to be no way to verify how many ripples exist.
https://ripple.com/wiki/RPC_API#account_info
https://ripple.com/tools/info
You're free to verify this and more also by running your own node.

Yes, I've looked over some of Ripple's documentation. How does a node verify the amount of XRP in existence? From what I could see the basis is supposedly a "genesis ledger" as opposed to a genesis block, but there seems to be no way to access the genesis ledger.
Ripple uses something similar to a block chain with UTXO set attached, called ledger.

The oldest available ledger is #32570 (with about 100 entries) so this is currently the genesis one, the older ones are presumably lost or at least not available until JoelKatz finally publishes the transactions that took place in these first 1 1/2 weeks so these ledgers can be restored back to 0. Since then there is a unbroken hashed chain of headers (also cryptographically linked to the transactions and account state at each point of time). Nodes verify this by getting the most recent finalized ledger and continuing from there. Since transactions in Ripple only operate on account balances, not on inputs like Bitcoin, and you can only branch at the top not "mine" on an earlier "block", there is no explicit need for keeping history, not even headers.

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March 03, 2014, 04:26:28 AM
 #12

Since transactions in Ripple only operate on account balances, not on inputs like Bitcoin, and you can only branch at the top not "mine" on an earlier "block", there is no explicit need for keeping history, not even headers.

There is no explicit need for keeping history... So there is no need for keeping a ledger, in other words.
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March 03, 2014, 04:36:55 AM
 #13

Suggestions:

Set up a website - possibly a new forum - where users advertisements, like on bitcointalk.org, would go mainly to a fund designed to pay devs. In additon to Gavin, there could be 1 or 2 more full time/part time devs if possible. Then there could also be a list of features that are wanted, and there could be bounties for these. Either these tasks could be assigned to someone proving to have the necessary skills and be paid pr. mini project, or people could compete and if their contribution were accepted, it would be included.

Bitcointalk.org forum have collected a shitload of funds, and have already assigned a software firm with the task of developing new software for the forum to a rather costly price.

Perhaps some of the forum funds could be directed towards bitcoin development?

Another suggestion:

I'm not sure if it would be a good idea to force an extra fee on all or some transactions to fund bitcoin development, I'm sure most would reject that. But what about having another foundation (!) or atleast some way of managing bitcoin payments and rewards to developers, perhaps by making a fund that regularily pays out to devs and for bounties and the way it would receive money would be from mining pools, exchanges and other willing bitcoin services, that would be willing to pay say 0.1 to 0.3% of their profit towards such a fund.

After all, this would benefit everybody, as devs would have more incentive to work with the bitcoin software development, and that would then benefit the contributors as they would be able to run their services on top of a better system that's more scaleable, more secure, and overall better.

Then another discussion would have to take place as how to mange and distribute those funds. But before that's even discussed, it would need to be established that this is something the community wants.

I would not object to some devs working on bitcoin actually taking painstakingly measures to stay anonymous, to stay under the radar so to speak - so if there was a concerted attack or compromise on devs, at least some devs would be remaining.

I'm sure there are many skilled people who could contribute code, but for most people they also need to make money, so not everybody can work for free, at least not full time.

Also if a model like the one described above came to fruition, it would be important to do the outmost to ensure that there would be no main special interests or corruption in that arrangement. I do also think that bitcoin services contributing could all have a small graphic on their site, explaining that they contribute to the bitcoin project, which would be a good thing to have. Shocked For example: "Official Bitcoin project contributor".

Because we have the block chain, then all devs could have their btc address published, so it would be easy for anyone to follow the bitcoins and ensure they was used for the predetermined causes.
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March 03, 2014, 04:42:03 AM
 #14

Do you all think we will see major enhancements like being able to handle (far) more than 7 transactions per second?
In a reasonable timeframe from now?
I truly believe that one is "top of the list" important.  For obvious reasons.
I heard some discussion about adding (at least the ability for) a chargeback option, which could be switched on and off by merchant systems.
Ability to do refunds, etc.  The basic things necessary for Bitcoin to be a currency with actual commerce, versus just a store of value.

-B-

Bitcoin's true purpose defined in Satoshi's message on the Genesis Block:
"The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks"
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March 03, 2014, 04:51:20 AM
 #15

Do you all think we will see major enhancements like being able to handle (far) more than 7 transactions per second?
In a reasonable timeframe from now?
I truly believe that one is "top of the list" important.  For obvious reasons.
I heard some discussion about adding (at least the ability for) a chargeback option, which could be switched on and off by merchant systems.
Ability to do refunds, etc.  The basic things necessary for Bitcoin to be a currency with actual commerce, versus just a store of value.

-B-

Chargeback, isn't that a nogo with bitcoin, and isn't that exactly a selling point for businesses? If you have received payment, you have received payment, and there's no undoing that.

Businesses who wants to give the customer money back can simply aks the customer for his bitcoin address and then send the bitcoins back. Who's proposed chargeback, and what does the proposal look like, and why on earth do we need this? Non-reversible payments is exactly what makes Bitcoin was it is, or at least it's one of it's strong features.
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March 03, 2014, 04:56:46 AM
 #16

I heard some discussion about adding (at least the ability for) a chargeback option, which could be switched on and off by merchant systems.
It's called escrow.

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March 03, 2014, 05:02:45 AM
 #17

Do you all think we will see major enhancements like being able to handle (far) more than 7 transactions per second?

I don't think that will end up being a limiting factor for Bitcoin.

I heard some discussion about adding (at least the ability for) a chargeback option, which could be switched on and off by merchant systems.
Ability to do refunds, etc. 

That's not talking about how Bitcoin works fundamentally. That won't change. However, there are many other transaction types possible. Any added features we see with Bitcoin will likely be optional usage additions, which can enhance usability. The way basic transactions work won't change.
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March 03, 2014, 05:04:31 AM
 #18

Solution build something that compliments it the Oil to Bitcoins Gold
Ethereum watch the video for the explanation
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March 03, 2014, 05:08:53 AM
 #19

Ethereum is great, no doubt.  As are the other efforts (MasterCoin, ZeroCoin, etc).

Just wish we could make Bitcoin "be all it can be" first.   There are a lot of things that can be added safely, which have been in queue a long time.

-B-

Bitcoin's true purpose defined in Satoshi's message on the Genesis Block:
"The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks"
View it on the Blockchain | Genesis Block Newspaper Copies
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March 03, 2014, 05:17:28 AM
 #20

You guys are all aware that:
Bitcoin 0.9 RC 2 has just been released
The Payment protocol BIP 70 has just been released (I actually used it with bitpay the other day).

I think releases maybe have slowed down a lot (?) but it's hardly the case that nothing is being done.

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