by Evan Sixtin
Gregory Maxwell, core developer for Bitcoin, and one of the founders of Blockstream, Inc., a well-known and slightly controversial bitcoin and blockchain technology company, posted a message on the bitcoin-dev mailing list on January 19, 2018, announcing that he had quietly resigned from his position as CTO at Blockstream last November 2017.
The post explains that he now wants to focus primarily on deep protocol work for Bitcoin and he prefers to do this independently. Maxwell seems to feel that the burdens of responsibility associated with his position at Blockstream limit his time to tackle the problems that he finds more interesting and important to Bitcoin‘s development:
“So for me this means that I can go back to working on the things I find most exciting … without the overhead of managing staff or dealing with the many non-Bitcoin blockchain applications which are important to Blockstream’s business.”
Maxwell is a free software developer who came to Bitcoin from Mozilla. He founded the for-profit company Blockstream, Inc. in 2014 along with Adam Back, Mark Friedenbach, Matt Corallo, and Pieter Wuille. In his latest announcement, he explains, “Back when we founded the company I was concerned that there was significant underinvestment in Bitcoin technology…We hoped that Blockstream could help act as an anchor of support for technology development.”
Samson Mow, Chief Strategy Officer at Blockstream, lists a few of Maxwell’s contributions to Bitcoin while working for Blockstream in a blog post acknowledging Maxwell’s resignation, “To name just a few of his contributions to Blockstream and the greater ecosystem: sidechains, strong federations, confidential transactions, confidential assets, and most recently, his brainchild, Blockstream Satellite.” Greg Maxwell is also responsible for creating the homomorphic key derivation used in BIP32 and trustless privacy-preserving techniques such as CoinJoin and blinded proof of solvency.
There is a lot of speculation as to why Maxwell, a founder of the company, resigned from Blockstream Inc. and why he did it so quietly back in November 2017, only announcing it two months after the fact. Was it his choice or was he requested to do so? One Reddit thread suggests that Maxwell was involved in a hacking incident which occurred on Reddit back in November and this has led to his resignation from Blockstream. A Steemit article by “stellabelle” claims “he finds it incompatible to be employed by Blockstream and work on developing Bitcoin at the same time.”
In the ugly battle for dominance between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, we have seen that Gregory Maxwell has been a target for accusations and mockery as demonstrated by this fake Twitter account with over 4,000 followers. Maybe Maxwell resigned because he doesn’t want to be distracted by this type of immaturity anymore? Maxwell’s resignation just at the time of Lightning Network’s grand debut does seem conspicuous. Blockstream has a lot invested in Lightning, and if Maxwell continues as CTO of Blockstream, he might be forced to focus more on Lightning than Bitcoin Core. His interests and priorities are focused more on Bulletproofs/confidential transactions, signature aggregation, improved propagation, and synchronization. More than likely, he just wants to follow his passions. He also mentions his intention to work on “the continuing maturation of Bitcoin as a viable subject matter for academic researchers.”
Perhaps the most curious line from the announcement by Maxwell, or GMax, as he is sometimes called, is this:
“From what I’ve been told Blockstream plans to continue to contribute to awesome technology in Bitcoin, as demonstrated by their Lightning webstore this week, but if they didn’t, that wouldn’t be a problem for Bitcoin.”
It seems unlikely that Maxwell, as co-founder of Blockstream, would so suddenly lose any insight as to the path Blockstream is taking, the line seems disingenuous. Could Blockstream, Inc. be sinking and Maxwell decided to jump ship? The Lightning Network’s security has been severely criticized by many. Could we be in for an incident on the level of The DAO hack leading to a severe crash of bitcoin value? Is Maxwell offering some cryptic encouragement to remain positive that Bitcoin will survive if Lightning fails?
These are all just nonsense speculations with nothing backing them. However, it must be admitted that speculation and drama are a large part of what makes cryptocurrency exciting. Maxwell’s resignation may well be considered a bad omen by many in the community and seem to offer some kind of insight as to what is to come, or it may be an indication of a serious conflict of beliefs and ideals concerning the direction that Bitcoin is taking. Or it may just be another competent and passionate individual, like Fred Ersham, leaving a large company he helped to build because it was limiting him and painting him into a corner.
Good luck Greg, and thanks for all the hard work you have contributed and will continue to contribute to the Bitcoin network.