Nobody saw this coming, and what happens next is a mystery.
Images: Shutterstock. Composition: Jason Koebler
Perhaps because a controversial network split in Bitcoin was cancelled by its organizers last week, the cryptocurrency space has been left thirsting for some drama. Thankfully (or not, depending on how you see it), an anonymous person or group has delivered with a completely unexpected rebellion they’ve dubbed “Bitcoin Clashic.”
Yeah, like Sean Connery saying “Bitcoin Classic.” The former James Bond actor actually appears in the campaign’s advertising, we assume without his authorization.
So, what fresh hell is this? The trouble all started when Bitcoin Cash, itself an earlier fork of the original Bitcoin blockchain, underwent a scheduled hard fork on Monday that implemented some updates in the code. When a hard fork occurs, a new blockchain with new rules is created and everyone in the community is expected to move to the new chain, leaving the “legacy chain” to wither. This actually happened, and everyone assumed that the fork had gone smoothly. But no, oh no no nooooo.
On Tuesday, Jihan Wu, co-founder of Bitcoin mining giant Bitmain, announced on Twitter that a new block of data had appeared on the legacy Bitcoin Cash chain. Someone, apparently, was dedicating computer power to mining “blocks” of data on the old chain, for some inscrutable reason. It might have been a fluke due to some un-upgraded software. But a day later, reports of more blocks on the legacy chain started coming in on Reddit.
And then, the mysterious campaign kicked into overdrive: A flashy website for “Bitcoin Clashic,” a new name for the legacy Bitcoin Cash chain, appeared, and so did a Twitter account. On Thursday, a mining pool for Bitcoin Clashic (where anybody can contribute computing power to generating blocks) popped up, with its own Twitter account. While the Bitcoin Clashic website still says that compatible digital wallets "will be updated soon," Marek Palatinus, CEO of Satoshi Labs (manufacturers of popular hardware wallet Trezor) tweeted that Trezor does in fact support Clashic out-of-the-box.
There’s no blockchain explorer to watch Bitcoin Clashic’s progress, although the Twitter account promises that one is coming. There’s also exchange support, and the mined coins are worthless. So why, oh why, is someone doing this? It could be a pure troll by somebody with a lot of time and money to burn. Clashic is advertising itself as “Satoshi’s true vision” (Satoshi Nakamoto is Bitcoin’s anonymous inventor), which is already a rallying cry for Bitcoin Cash. So, they could be taking the piss. Alternatively, someone may really be making a go at turning Bitcoin Clashic into its own currency.
Honestly, in the often surprising and irrational world of cryptocurrencies, it could go either way. Legacy chains have become entities in their own right before, as was the case with a digital currency called Ethereum Classic (perhaps the inspiration for Bitcoin Clashic) when Ethereum forked last year. At the time of writing, Ethereum Classic isn’t exactly thriving but it is chugging along.
Beyond the identity of the person or group behind it remaining a mystery, it’s unclear if any of these Bitcoin Clashic websites or Twitter accounts or mining pools are connected. The Bitcoin Clashic website was created on Wednesday and is hosted on GitHub, and the owner uses Whois protection to hide their identity.
All this is to say: Never, ever doubt Bitcoin’s propensity for a good gag or a gamble. And Bitcoin Clashic, at this point, could be either. Or both.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Bitcoin Clashic has no wallet support, but Satoshi Labs (makers of Trezor) CEO Marek Palatinus, known as "slush" online, tweeted that Trezor does in fact support Clashic. Motherboard regrets the error.