ViaBTC Is Claiming Neutrality as Bitcoin Cash Heads Toward Likely Launch

Often described as the “ringleader” of a controversial plan to fork the bitcoin blockchain, mining pool ViaBTC is speaking out against the idea that it’s the driving force behind a bitcoin alternative called Bitcoin Cash.

A fork of bitcoin that would create a new network with new rules, Bitcoin Cash is notable in its rejection of code changes favored by other developers to boost the network’s transaction capacity.

But what separates the project from any other bitcoin fork is that Bitcoin Cash will share a transaction history with the original blockchain, dating back to the network’s inception. As opposed to creating its own tokens in, say, an ICO, everyone who owns any of the more than 16.5 million bitcoins in existence will have an equal amount of Bitcoin Cash if it’s created.

While this may sound like just another proposal (and it is one of a very large number introduced in the scaling debate of late), Bitcoin Cash took a notable step forward earlier this week when ViaBTC launched futures trading for the tokens – and trading took off (it had about $11m in volume on Thursday).

At that point, ViaBTC did something that hadn’t been done for the idea previously: give Bitcoin Cash economic value for the first time. It was a move that also further legitimized the fork in the eyes of others, one that was later followed by a range of statements from exchanges worldwide as to how they would handle the fork. At press time, one as-yet-nonexistent Bitcoin Cash token was worth roughly 2,203 yuan, or $327.

But while it’s this decision that helped push the project forward, ViaBTC CEO Haipo Yang and COO Sara Ouyang aren’t claiming responsibility for it. To the extent this perception exists, they argue it’s a Western creation, one compounded by the fact that information is often shared in rough translations that ultimately spark more confusion.

Yang told CoinDesk that, as a company, ViaBTC doesn’t even plan to mine Bitcoin Cash. Rather, as a mining pool operator, ViaBTC will enable users in its pool to mine the asset if they choose.

He said:

“It depends on the miners, it’s their choice. They can choose to mine bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash. We are just an exchange platform, we are neutral on this.”

And to an extent, Yang said the company has to be. As ViaBTC is a mining pool, it relies on other miners to use its platform (and it competes against a wide range of mining industry software providers in the process).

In this way, Yang said the exchange simply has to remain open to users. It notably launched a trading pair for the UASF proposal, a move that Yang said he doesn’t believe is in the best interest of the network.

And while the difference in tone for both product announcements is notable, he cautions that it’s not exactly his role to choose.

“We don’t think it’s a bad thing or a good thing. It’s a choice of the market. We provide the technical services to support those trading,” he said.

Closet moderate?

Best known for his vocal dislike for bitcoin’s development team (even going so far as calling for them to be fired), Yang still notably considers himself a moderate in the scaling debate.

In interview, he paints himself as someone who was willing to test out different ideas (by listing futures options on the exchange) and accept the results.

“A month ago, we released a BIP 148 futures trading, but the trading went not very good. Now, we can see the global users coming to buy and sell the BCC [Bitcoin Cash], so it’s like a lot more market fever for this,” he said.

On August 1, ViaBTC intends to suspend withdrawals so that it can begin listing actual Bitcoin Cash tokens, and other mining pool operators have said they will use the term Bitcoin Cash and the BCC ticker symbol to differentiate it from bitcoin, generally represented by the ticker symbol BTC.

And while ViaBTC previously said that it would not move to define users’ balances as “BTC”, citing “the complexity of a bitcoin fork”, Yang suggested that he’s willing to go with consensus on the matter.

Still, he seems to think and hope that Bitcoin Cash will become the dominate blockchain.

“I feel the best chance BCC will get majority hashing power and it will become the bitcoin banner,” he said.

As for whether that’s possible, given that bitcoin’s mining difficulty can adjust, remains another matter, though his thoughts on this were less clear.

Communication breakdown

Overall, Yang’s comments also point to an East-West disconnect in the scaling debate.

While the perception in the West is that Bitcoin Cash won’t be widely used, he argues that this isn’t true in Asia. He reported that a majority of ViaBTC’s users are from Japan and Korea, and that most of its exchange users are generally from outside China.

The comments, as well as some of the nuance in Yang’s positioning, suggest that the fork may also best be considered the end result of a continual lack of communication, coupled with the difficulty of carrying out long, deeply philosophical arguments with individuals who have cultural and linguistic differences.

With this upswing in support, Yang thinks that Bitcoin Cash could one day co-exist with bitcoin in the same way that ethereum and its fork, ethereum classic, continue to develop in tandem.

Yang concluded:

“I think [Western exchanges] will support it eventually. That’s a fight for the users. They have no other choice, or they will lose the market share.”

Image via ViaBTC

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