Cryptocurrency trading platform BitMEX has announced its intention to launch Bitcoin Bitmex Research, its own Bitcoin software client to compete with the industry standard Bitcoin Core. This was revealed in an announcement posted on the official BitMEX blog.

According to the announcement, the purpose of the project is to disprove the “misconception” that the Bitcoin Core software repository is uniquely able to control changes to Bitcoin’s consensus rules, and that a deletion or takeover of Bitcoin Core’s repository by hostile elements would compromise the existence or stability of Bitcoin.

Competing Software Project Types

For a better understanding of the schematics for this project, BitMEX classifies the competing software projects with Bitcoin Core into three different groups namely competition between chains, competition between independent implementations and other software projects which neither reimplement the codebase or change consensus rules.

BitMEX explains the first category as “…when the competing software project deliberately has a different set of consensus rules to the implementations the users currently run”. According to the platform, using this approach comes with the risk of the coin being split into two chains so in order for it to be effective, a new coin has to be introduced or the competition will be between two different coins or chains. This ultimately means potentially creating a new coin with codes written by the same team as any other approach would betray the concept of competing.

The second category is the reimplementation of bitcoin without using the Core code, which according to BitMEX, is when a new coding language is applied to try to absorb some benefits other languages may have, typically without using code from Bitcoin Core. This kind of competition is considered to be high risk as it increases the likelihood of an unplanned chain split.

Research quoted by BitMEX previously concluded:

The alternative client needs to match the consensus behaviour of the software users currently run, even matching bugs or unintended behaviour in the majority client

The final category, which avoids the routes taken by the first two occurs when the consensus rule or code database are neither changed nor re-implemented. BitMEX researchers say that this can be achieved by “creating a software fork of the project and then making only non-consensus changes”.

The Power of Bitcoin Core

According to BitMEX, the purpose of this project is to establish that Bitcoin Core is not as important or indispensable to Bitcoin as it is perceived to be. This is because Bitcoin’s consensus rules are not deined by Bitcoin Core, but by clients that “economically significant” users run. In other words, the very operating framework of Bitcoin is decentralised because it is determined by the independent client choices of users and not by a single code repository.

The article further states that in the event of the deletion or hijacking of Bitcoin Core by hostile entities, Bitcoin would in fact remain largely unaffected as users may simply switch to another repository or a number of repositories at once. Bitcoin Bitmex Research, which is built on the third competing codebase framework is thus designed to fit into that role.

An excerpt from the announcement reads:

Since it is a software fork of Bitcoin Core, it carries none of the risks of not being bug for bug compatible, like Satoshi was concerned about. The BitMEX Research client also doesn’t change Bitcoin’s consensus rules, so the concerns about contentious chainsplits do not apply. Therefore, if the Bitcoin Core repository gets hijacked or deleted, the codebase can still improve using the Bitcoin BitMEX Research client or any other set of clients.