A prominent bitcoin developer has labeled the currency a failed experiment, widening the rift over an arcane but critical technical issue that has divided the community for nearly a year.
“The fundamentals are broken, and whatever happens to the price in the short term, the long-term trend should probably be downwards,” developer Mike Hearn wrote on the blogging platform Medium. “I will no longer be taking part in bitcoin development and have sold all my coins.”
The fight stems from growing congestion on the bitcoin network caused by size limits within the currency’s ledger of transactions. If the limits aren’t raised, the result could be debilitating bottlenecks. But fixing it requires altering a system that has been profitable for those that use heavy computer power to record transactions.
Hearn has been a vocal proponent for expanding the size limits. The problem is bitcoin is open-source software, so any change has to be approved by a majority of the community, and it hasn’t been able to agree.
This isn’t the first time somebody has written bitcoin’s obituary. What is different is this obit was being written by a prominent insider, and it hit a raw nerve in the community. The price of bitcoin, which had been stable for months, dropped sharply, down 20% last week to $358. The price regained some ground over the weekend, and many are still defending the currency in the wake of Hearn’s comments.
Bitcoin has always had a divisive edge. Believers laud it as a currency that is free from central banks and a transaction system that works outside the normal financial system. Skeptics see it as a kooky currency whose values soar and crash unpredictably, a casino for computer nerds. Governments can’t even agree whether it is a currency or a commodity.