Know The Coin: Interview with Bitcoin Cash Developer Corentin Mercier
Hey there! This is ChangeNOW, a leading instant crypto exchange service, and welcome to the first episode of our very own Know The Coin show, where we interview the representatives of all the wonderful cryptos in the space. Today our Marketing Manager Pauline Shangett is talking to a very precious guest - a Bitcoiner and software engineer Corentin Mercier. Having an extensive experience in crypto, Corentin is busy making Bitcoin Cash as great as it can be!
Hello, Corentin! Would you mind telling our listeners a couple of words about yourself, your background and the team you are working with? It seems like the crypto world knows only the key makers of Bitcoin Cash, like, say, Roger Ver, Jihan Wu, or Craig Wright. Surely, there are a lot of people who deserve recognition in the space.
Sure. So, my name is Corentin, I’m 20 years old, I was born in France and I live in Asia. I’ve been using bitcoin since 2015 when my bank account got shut down because I was underaged, and so I turned myself to Bitcoin and that’s where I started my journey. So, I was hired by Bitmain when I was 19, was sponsored by CoinSpice and I helped maintaining bitcoincash.org as well as other Bitcoin Cash-related platforms. I work with various people from bitcoin.com, Bitmain, Coinbase, and BitcoinABC.
ELI5 about Bitcoin Cash in a couple of sentences or, rather, your vision of it.
Bitcoin Cash is a new kind of money, an electronic cash system, so that means you can send money directly to anyone else in the world instantly and basically for free through the Internet. You can do this no matter how old you are and no matter where you are from, no matter what your skin colour is.
How did Bitcoin Cash come to fruition as an improved, true version of Bitcoin, or rather a system of accessible instant money which can actually be used as a means of exchange, not just a store of value? How did the idea emerge and who was the initiator?
I wouldn’t say Bitcoin Cash is an improved version of Bitcoin, I would say Bitcoin Cash appeared to be the electronic cash that works. That was Bitcoin in the past, before 2016; then, it was only one Bitcoin, and it was working great, but some people hijacked the Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin’s Github repository as well as r/Bitcoin and some other platforms, so that they limited the network capacity in order to advertise their solution called the Lightning Network. So I would say that Bitcoin Cash is just the continuation of what Bitcoin should have been and what Bitcoin was for a very long time before some people hijacked the Bitcoin Core project.
So, Lightning Network was actually a controversial decision, it was not supported by most, at least at the very beginning?
So, yeah, it just doesn’t work right now, I can’t get set the network up with my iPhone, for instance. So, in the meantime, you have Bitcoin Cash that works with on-chain transactions, it was the vision of Satoshi Nakamoto — just having on-chain transactions; basically instant, basically for free. And some people from the Bitcoin Core repository decided that they don’t want to emphasize meaning, they don’t want to increase the network capacity. The first to go was Amaury Séchet, that’s where I guess Bitcoin Cash really started, August of 2017.
As we’ve already said, Bitcoin Cash is basically Bitcoin as Satoshi Nakamoto wanted it to be. But how exactly does it differ from the Bitcoin Core code as of right now? To my knowledge, Bitcoin Core is a lot more expensive and thus a lot of less viable as a form of payment, since the network capacity has been lowered, the TPS is slower, and the transactions are a lot more expensive than Bitcoin Cash. Right?
From the code, there are 2 main points, which are block size and a code feature called replace-by-fee. Replace-by-fee was introduced in Bitcoin in order to increase a fee of the transaction to make the process faster. But the problem with this is that it destroys the instant transaction, basically you can not have an instant transaction anymore, you have to wait at least a block to be calculated, which is about 10 minutes or 20 minutes depending how much you put in fees. So we don’t have instant transactions in Bitcoin Core. The point is the block size, so this has the deal with fees. The Bitcoin Core project didn’t want to increase the block size, meaning they wanted to limit the capacity of the network. So that only the transactions with the highest fees could go through. So, we saw fees going up to 50 dollars in December 2017. So I think these are the two points that differ most from the code.
And how many core contributors are there? How many people are actually maintaining the code, introducing updates, and so on and so forth?
In Bitcoin Core, they have only one team and one node. Bitcoin Cash is a bit different, because there are many different nodes. I think there are at least 8 that currently run in the network. And so there are 8 teams. I’ve been working with Bitcoin ABC, where there are like 5 people in the team, and another one from Bitmain, called Copernicus, so there are like 5 to 10 people. There’s also another team, more than 10 people in that one, so I would say there are at least 50 people working at the core code full-time, but there are thousands of contributors from Github, since this is an open-source project.
So, since the project is open-source, it means you are moving closer and closer to true decentralisation, or basically everyone gets to introduce something they’ve come up with, and have a chance for it to be released as an update?
That’s correct. It’s not because the project is open-source that it’s gonna be decentralised, though; for instance, the BTC code is open source as well, yes, but the people who control the Github repository, they’re not gonna allow, for instance, increasing the block size. In Bitcoin Cash, since there are many different teams, you can always try and have a workflow with the team that you prefer, for instance. I think, having more teams contributes to decentralisation, yes.
And coming on to what you’ve just said, we all know that in November 2018 there was an event that influenced not only Bitcoin Cash in particular, but the crypto world as a whole, and I’m talking about the November Hash War. What, in your opinion, was a reason for it or how did it influence the developers, of rather how did the developers influence it?
I think, one person, or one team came up with this optimisation, the team was nChain, and th person was Craig Wright. So, they wanted to increase the block size in a really quick way, like, they released their software a couple of weeks or a maybe month or so before the actual fork, before the code froze. I can’t say Bitcoin SV is not working; we still have instant and cheap transactions, but the blocks are actually pretty empty, so there is no real improvement in Bitcoin SV. It was increased in a very fast way and I’m not sure of the reason for that. But certainly we lost some valuable people who went with Bitcoin SV. But still it was a minority fork, and this can happen in any open source project.
ABC stands for Adjustable Block Size - you might actually have to explain it to me a little bit further, cause from what I understand, for example, the blocks can differ in size depending on the transaction load, so we have small blocks when there are not so many transactions and they get filled up quickly, which means transactions are confirmed faster. And when there are a lot of transactions, there is more block space to fit them in, right? So, this actually influences transaction speed and the TPS in a positive way?
Yes. First, in Bitcoin Cash there is no replace-by-fee feature, which means every transaction is instant as long as it is broadcast by the nodes. There is a big chance it’s gonna stay in the network.
I think, it was calculated that you would need 100000 dollars to replay a transaction within first 10 minutes before the block is validated, so smaller transactions are all instant and yes, since the blocks are larger and they are much larger than the transaction load, every transaction is gonna be included in the next block within 10 minutes. That’s how it works.
Onto the next question: how private are Bitcoin Cash transactions? Are we talking Bulletproof or zk-SNARKS coins, like Monero or Zcash, or the traditional level privacy like most cryptos offer?
So, it’s just like bitcoin is, and like Bitcoin has always been, so you have one public key, one address, and no name associated with this address, so you can send and receive money from or to this address. Now, this could lead to some privacy concerns, if you, let’s say, send this money to your Coinbase account, when you have your documents submitted to Coinbase or any exchange where you can be tracked back in a way. So, there are tools like cash shuffles that allow you to mix transactions and make them pretty safe and much more private. So you are using it the right way, you could be completely anonymous. Now, this is not a default feature like in Monero, because it adds complexity to network, right? So, you have a certain level of privacy by default, but if you want to maximize it, you always have tools, like Cash Shuffle, for instance.
You mean, cash shuffle like in a lot of Bitcoin mixers, like blender.io, for example? It works basically in the same way, for instance?
I’m not sure about blender.io, but yes, there are a lot of coin mixers, and many ways to make your transactions more private. You can even do it manually. I mean, there’s no name, or nothing is associated to the address, so you can always mix it and always play with it in order to achieve privacy.
OK. Thank you. Now, what do you think about Bitcoin Cash’s mass adoption? To my knowledge, BCH is one of the most widely accepted coin by the merchants all over the world, especially, for example, in Europe, where there are lots of merchants and lots of ATMs that accept Bitcoin Cash. And are there any other major adoption milestones that Bitcoin Cash is planning to overcome?
I think many places that used to accept Bitcoin now accept Bitcoin Cash because it works just as Bitcoin did. And I think there is still a way to go till we have global adoption, especially in some countries. I think there are two main points to make it easy for you to possess and use bitcoin cash in that case. Meaning, working on wallets and having intuitive apps and tools to manage your assets or to accept payments, like payment processors. I think, this is one point, and the other one could be the legal aspect. So, when I was with Bitmain, I used to live in China, where, you know, it is much harder due to the government banning exchanges, stuff like that, so I think there is also the legal aspect to take into account. There is a lot of work to do with both areas, in intuitive and application layer.
I think, it’s pretty viable for Bitcoin Cash to overcome Bitcoin at some point, because, as I’ve already said, it’s much more viable as a means of payment than Bitcoin. So if I go on the Internet and I see a merchant who is accepting Bitcoin Cash, I can be sure that my transaction, first of all, will be processed almost instantaneously, and, second of all, I will pay a lot less in fees than with Bitcoin, for example.
Now, let’s move on to the market talk. What do you think is happening with this crypto winter and will it clear up anytime soon, in your opinion? Maybe there are any services or projects that you have faith in, as in those that will be seen as market growth points anytime soon?
I think, no one knows if the market in gonna go up or down in the short term. I know it will clear up at some point. Just the thing that no one knows in the short term; I think an event like crisis or some kind of event that’s happening in France these days — taxation problems, stuff like this, could really help towards more adoption and then a market that will rise again. I think, projects that aim to attract people, and make it easy for people, by letting them save money — who doesn’t want to save money, right? So, I think, this will lead to more adoption and then to market that’s of course gonna rise again.
What do you think about Bitcoin Cash in these conditions, in this environment? I know that you guys have some plans for the future, so maybe you have some thoughts about that?
I think whichever currency that ends up being electronic cash is gonna win in the end, maybe it’s gonna be a competition, and I even think competition is good, since it leads to a better service, a better product.
And regarding Bitcoin Cash in the future, we just need to work on more adoption, we have a network that works, every transaction is basically free and instant; of course there is more to do, but I think adoption is the most important thing to achieve right now, and the work on the application layer, because we have a network, — now we need to have the tools that will enable people to use this network.
Also Bitcoin Cash always aims to increase the block size, to make sure there is enough space for the network. Yeah, the goal, I think, for BitcoinABC, for instance, one of the Bitcoin Cash major nodes, is to have 1 terabyte block size to fill; I think, 10 transactions for 45 million people per day. So, this is the current road map for Bitcoin Cash.
So, if, for example, people started getting their salary in crypto, the planned block size of 1 terabyte, would actually allow for almost everyone in the world to get their wages in Bitcoin Cash?
Sure! I get paid 100% in Bitcoin Cash, and I pay my rent in Bitcoin Cash as well, so I think it is really possible for people to get paid in Bitcoin Cash. Actually, it’s funny you are talking about that, because I created a tool with people from bitcoincash.com a few months ago, which is a payroll app. It’s called Brocсoli.cash and basically you add your employees in the list, and every month you send one payment and it broadcasts a transaction automatically to all your employees. So I actually created a tool with that, and I’m getting my wages in Bitcoin Cash, in this case it would really lead to more adoption.
Speaking of the future, will we be able to see any Bitcoin Cash updates anytime soon, for example, in 2019?
Yes. Every 6 months we upgrade a version of the Bitcoin Cash node, I think next one is on March, 15th this year. Every 6 months there is an update or an upgrade.
OK, thank you, and thank you so much for your time! Stay tuned for more updates from the Bitcoin Cash team - there’s more coming from them on March 15th!
Hope you've enjoyed this interview - stay tuned for more!