Since most altcoins are based on Bitcoin’s codebase, upgrades to Bitcoin are often relatively easy to implement in altcoins. Indeed, as Segregated Witness (SegWit) is slow to activate on Bitcoin, several altcoins are taking a stab at implementing and activating the soft fork first.
However, it seems the very same politics that are holding back the protocol upgrade on Bitcoin are now seeping into several of these altcoins.
“What we are seeing is a stalling tactic from miners,” Viacoin lead developer Romano told Bitcoin Magazine. “They know that if SegWit activates on altcoins, it will make blocking it on Bitcoin even less credible.”
Launched in 2014, Groestlcoin has a total market cap of some $365,000, earning it the 163th spot on CoinMarketCap at time of publication. This makes it the smallest of the five altcoins aiming for SegWit but also the first to have actually succeeded in activating it. The required 95 percent of hash power signaled support back in January, and the protocol upgrade has been live since.
“Jackie,” who prefers not to reveal his full name, is the project lead for Groestlcoin.
As a digital currency that isn’t used much yet, Groestlcoin never faced scaling issues like Bitcoin. But Jackie said he considers SegWit a malleability fix first and foremost, which in turn enables features like the lightning network, atomic cross-chain transactions and other innovations.
“Less useful and elegant versions of lightning [network], TumbleBit and Mimblewimble were possible with the old version of Groestlcoin, but they are greatly enhanced now Segregated Witness is activated on the Groestlcoin network,” Jackie noted.
That said, Segregated Witness itself is not very actively used so far. There are no Groestlcoin wallets that support the option, so apart from some specially crafted transactions to test that the new feature worked, most Groestlcoin transactions still use the old, pre-SegWit format.
Though, Jackie added, “We’re in the process of updating our Electrum version for Groestlcoin to support SegWit transactions. That should be done before the end of this year. When that is completed anyone should be able to easily send and receive SegWit transactions.”
Vertcoin may well be the next altcoin to activate Segregated Witness.
As a result of an implementation bug, Vertcoin initially suffered a setback from their Segregated Witness integration: the blockchain forked in two. Vertcoin developer and project manager “etang600” emphasized, however, that this had nothing to do with SegWit itself — only with how they implemented it.
The issue has since been resolved and SegWit signaling has started. Requiring 75 percent hash rate support, it is getting relatively close to activation with some 40 percent of hash rate signaling.
However, one mystery miner, most likely a solo miner, controls over 30 percent of all hash rate. It’s this miner that is seemingly holding everyone back.
“We don’t know who this miner is,” etang600 told Bitcoin Magazine. “We are trying to figure out ways to contact him. But it’s still pretty early; we have only been signaling for two weeks, so we hope they’ll update.”
Litecoin, SysCoin and Viacoin and the F2Pool Dilemma
Litecoin ($200 million market cap for #6 spot on CoinMarketCap), SysCoin ($6.9 million market cap for #49 spot on CoinMarketCap) and Viacoin ($1.1 million market cap for #104 spot on CoinMarketCap) are also planning to implement Segregated Witness.
But since Viacoin is merge-mined with Litecoin, and SysCoin is merge-mined with Bitcoin, all three coins are facing the same problem: Bitcoin and Litecoin mining pool F2Pool is not signaling support for the soft fork.
In addition to benefits offered by a malleability fix, SysCoin will adopt Schnorr signatures: a signature scheme that could make both Bitcoin and SysCoin more efficient. Unsurprisingly, therefore, SysCoin backend developer Jagdeep Sidhu is hopeful F2Pool will start signaling support for the upgrade soon.
“F2Pool will probably signal support for Segregated Witness on Bitcoin and SysCoin together,” Sidhu told Bitcoin Magazine. “But I think they’re still in wait-and-see mode.”
When asked by Bitcoin Magazine last autumn, F2Pool operator Wang Chun said his system could not build C++11 and that’s why he was holding off on SegWit signaling.
Today, on Twitter, Chun suggested he may be able to finally be able to compile C++11 code when Debian 9 is released.
But some are skeptical that an inability to compile C++11 is the real reason Chun isn’t signaling support yet. For one, compiling C++11 should not be that difficult in the first place. And as Sidhu pointed out, the latest version of SysCoin is already coded in C++11. Since SysCoin recently hard forked, older versions of the software are no longer compatible, so any SysCoin miner must be able to compile C++11. That includes F2Pool.
And indeed, some altcoin developers are skeptical of F2Pool’s excuse.
SegWit signaling will start soon on Viacoin, but Romano is not very optimistic about quick activation: “It seems more likely they want to refrain from activating Segregated Witness on altcoins because that would give them even less reason to hold off activation on Bitcoin.”
Romano went even further. “Maybe F2Pool are under some hidden pressure or coercion, and are trying to make a plausible cover story. It is well known that Jihan Wu of Bitmain controls the supply of about 70 percent of the mining hardware. His mining pool is blocking SegWit on Bitcoin, and he is able to exert pressure on miners and pools by sanctioning new equipment sales should they go against his wishes.”
F2Pool operator Wang Chun told Bitcoin Magazine that he preferred not to comment at this time. But in response to Romano’s comment, Bitmain’s Jihan Wu said:
“They are customers of us, and there is enough competition in the market. (Where is the other so-called “30%” coming from?) This theory is not right on the assumption part. Wang Chun of f2pool is a very mature man, he gives no sh* to any authorities or political pressure.”