Bitcoin has always been seen as the king of the world of cryptocurrency due to its network effects and first-mover advantage, but ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees thinks bitcoin could be replaced as the top dog if a scaling resolution is not found this summer. Voorhees shared this point of view on the most recent episode of Epicenter with co-hosts Brian Fabian Crain and Sébastien Couture.
The debate over scaling Bitcoin has been the main topic of conversation in the ecosystem for the past two years, but it appears that the network will get the long-awaited Segregated Witness (SegWit) upgrade by August 1st.
During his appearance on Epicenter, Voorhees discussed his support for the SegWit2x proposal, his impression that many Bitcoin users aren’t paying attention to the scaling debate and whether Bitcoin needs an improved system of governance.
Is SegWit2x Bitcoin’s Short-Term Scaling Solution?
SegWit2x, which is supported by a large number of Bitcoin companies and miners, is a proposal for adding SegWit and a hard-forking increase to the block size limit to Bitcoin. Voorhees described himself as a “big proponent” of the proposal during his appearance on Epicenter, saying that it’s the “only viable, actual option to moving Bitcoin forward.”
“I want SegWit on Bitcoin as soon as possible,” said Voorhees. “I also want a hard fork to a larger base block size as soon as possible, and SegWit2x hopefully will make those things happen.”
Voorhees said that he is also bullish on the possible success of SegWit2x due to the declared support of the proposal from over 80 percent of the network hashrate.
According to Voorhees, the activation of SegWit2x will move Bitcoin out of a “trough of misery” that he believes the digital cash system has been in for the past two years, though he also believes the deployment of these changes has the potential to cause some volatility in the near term.
“This stagnation has been really horrible for Bitcoin,” said Voorhees.
In Voorhees’s view, the activation of SegWit2x on the Bitcoin network will lead to a rally in the bitcoin price that “will be unlike anything that people have ever seen before.” He also believes the activation of the scaling proposal will allow everyone in the ecosystem to refocus on building on top of Bitcoin rather than debating over the base protocol.
At one point during his Epicenter interview, Voorhees admitted that he almost doesn’t care which scaling proposal is activated on the network.
“I just want something to happen,” said Voorhees. “If this summer fails to find some kind of resolution to this debate, then I’m pretty bearish on bitcoin, and I think it’ll probably be replaced.”
Bitcoin’s Userbase is Much Larger Than /r/Bitcoin
Voorhees also discussed the Bitcoin community as a whole during his appearance on Epicenter, and he noted that Bitcoin’s userbase is much larger than some may realize.
“The community is so much larger than Reddit, and people that live on Reddit don’t realize this,” said Voorhees.
While the /r/Bitcoin subreddit is still a main hub of the community, Voorhees pointed out that both Blockchain and Coinbase have 10 million users each. By comparison, /r/Bitcoin has roughly 250,000 subscribers.
Voorhees then told a story of going to a recent Bitcoin meetup in Berlin, Germany, where Blockchain CEO Peter Smith asked the audience how many of them had heard of the SegWit2x proposal. According to Voorhees, about 5 percent of the crowd raised their hands.
Does Bitcoin Need a Better System of Governance?
Voorhees’s story about the Berlin meetup eventually turned into a broader conversation of how changes should be made to the Bitcoin protocol. Crain pointed out that some of the newer altcoins coming onto the market, such as Tezos, are heavily focused on the issue of network governance.
“It’s a slippery slope,” said Voorhees. “When you start having structured governance, you start moving toward an organization that can be compromised. As difficult as Bitcoin has been in making progress on this one debate, it also is showing immense resilience to change, which is good and bad — it depends what the issue at hand is. You have to be careful if you want something like a blockchain project to turn into a more traditional-looking organization with a hierarchical structure and certain people who make key decisions. That’s not necessarily the best way that a blockchain should exist.”
Voorhees then admitted that he does not know the best governance model for a blockchain, but he thinks it’s great that there is so much experimentation taking place in this area right now.
Watch the whole episode here in which Voorhees also talks about investment in the crypto space, the future of Shapeshift and its new Prism platform:
Kyle Torpey is a freelance writer and researcher who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured in VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, New York Post,The Next Web, American Banker, and other media outlets. You can view all his work at kyletorpey.com or sign up for his personal newsletter.