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Buterin and Todd Debate Over Zcash, SegWit

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Two weeks ago, Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd suggested that the ethics of Zcash, a decentralized privacy-focused open-source cryptocurrency, “would be a lot simpler” if it was proposed as a soft-fork to the Bitcoin network as a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP). In response to Todd’s statement, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin fueled a debate on the importance of market selection over politics.

Zcash is an independent cryptocurrency, like Monero or Dash that offers privacy and selective transparency of transactions, which currently is being tested in the public alpha phase. The cryptocurrency utilizes advanced cryptographic techniques and functions to provide full anonymity to users, maximizing privacy for transactions settled within the network.

On August 31, a Bitcoin community member suggested that Bitcoin-compatible technologies like TumbleBit reduces the incidence moral hazard of independent cryptocurrencies like Zcash; thus, claiming that a privacy-focused technology or service integrated into the Bitcoin network could eliminate the possibility of risks involved in the launch and build up of an entirely new cryptocurrency.

As a response, Todd stated that integrating the same technology and advanced cryptographic technique in Zcash into the Bitcoin network could be beneficial for a larger user base in the long run. He further emphasized that the roll out of privacy cryptocurrency Zcash could be significantly simpler if it was to be integrated as a soft-fork BIP.

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Buterin, who is one of the seven advisors at Zcash, heavily criticized Todd’s comment, stating that creating an actual technology carries more importance than merely proposing it. As per Todd’s suggestion, a cryptocurrency or a cryptographic technique like Zcash will have to undergo a process in which a BIP draft will have to be submitted, reviewed, and launched after the community and developers reach majority consensus. Buterin argued that the involvement politics is exactly what stalls the development of innovative technologies in the field of cryptocurrency

Buterin’s stance on the debate on market selection over politics can be put as follows; it is better for the community and industry to actually enter the development phase of a technology rather than devoting the same time frame in creating a full proposal. Buterin believes that going through the whole process of integrating a BIP soft-fork into the Bitcoin network is comparably inefficient than just simply launching the technology and letting the market decide which to use.

Peter Todd presented a follow-up argument, stating that a full proposal with code built significantly differs from a BIP proposal, as the basic framework and code will be established beforehand. Todd offered CLTV (BIP0065) and Segregated Witness as examples of full code proposals, and stated that the SegWit implementation is 99 percent of the way to a full proposal.

In contempt of Todd’s strong arguments, Buterin continued to criticize his preference of politics over market selection, which completely disregarded the fact that politics will always be around in any cryptocurrency networks due to the consensus required from miners and developers to implement or integrate certain projects.

The Zcash blockchain is set for launch on October 28, 2016 and only time will tell if Todd’s conviction is proven correct.