Update 29JAN2018 9:27 PM: It looks like the NIST team responsible for the report will be issuing an edit on paragraph 8.1.2.
Update 29JAN2018 10:28 PM: Made a minor edit so that it is clear that the SegWit soft fork occurred after the Bitcoin Cash hard fork.
A lot of Bitcoin Cash (BCH) supporters have been making the claim that Bitcoin Cash is the real Bitcoin (BTC). Bitcoin supporters have been quick to point out that it was Bitcoin Cash that hard forked off the Bitcoin blockchain, so the argument doesn’t hold much water. And then counterargument after counterargument is made.
Now some Bitcoin Cash supporters are running victory laps over the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) apparently declaring that Bitcoin Cash is the real Bitcoin. This is odd since cryptocurrency is very political in nature and its point is to get people’s money out of the government’s clutches. This isn’t the time (it’s never the time) to celebrate being validated by the government.
NIST gave their opinion in the draft of NISTIR 8202 Blockchain Technology Overview. The Bitcoin Cash supporters celebrating this quote from a single phrase (and some are falsely quoting this): “Bitcoin is a fork and Bitcoin Cash is the original blockchain.” But I’m not sure that these people read the entire paragraph—but if they did, they have a terrible understanding of what happened when Bitcoin Cash made their hard fork off the Bitcoin blockchain. Paragraph 8.1.2 reads:
In July 2017, approximately 80 to 90 percent of the Bitcoin computing power voted to incorporate Segregated Witness (SegWit, where transactions are split into two segments: transactional data, and signature data), which made it possible to reduce the amount of data being verified in each block. Signature data can account for up to 65 percent of a transaction block, so a change in how signatures are implemented could be useful. When SegWit was activated, it caused a hard fork, and all the mining nodes and users who did not want to change started calling the original Bitcoin blockchain Bitcoin Cash (BCC). Technically, Bitcoin is a fork and Bitcoin Cash is the original blockchain. When the hard fork occurred, people had access to the same amount of coins on Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.
NIST makes a fatal mistake. SegWit was not a hard fork—it was a soft fork. Previously, on August 1, 2017, Bitcoin Cash created their hard fork, but they leave that out in their analysis.
I have a hard time believing that this error was a misunderstanding or honest mistake. How could it be? How could you mess something up so fundamental?
Be careful out there. And for the love of all that is good, don’t trust the government.
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