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Researchers Find Problems With Rules of Bitcoin

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the ruining-everything-with-math dept.

Bitcoin 301

holy_calamity (872269) writes "Using game theory to analyze the rules of cryptocurrency Bitcoin suggests some changes are needed to make the currency sustainable in the long term, reports MIT Technology Review. Studies from Princeton and Cornell found that current rules governing the mining of bitcoins leave room for cheats or encourage behavior that could destabilize the currency. Such changes could be difficult to implement, given the fact Bitcoin — by design — lacks any central authority." The main problem discovered is that transaction fees do not provide enough incentive to continue operating as "miner" after there are no more bitcoins left to be mined.

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pfft (0, Flamebait)

I. P. Freely (2969967) | about 7 months ago | (#46570613)

lol nice try Uncle Sam, we all know how you launder money to lib colleges through student loans, why should I pretend to be surprised when they return the favor with phony studies, calling freedom the boogieman and only a central authority can save us....

Re:pfft (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570659)

So the past 12 months of theft, fraud, corruption, system flawes and volatility in the bitcoin system are all just stories made up by government in your eyes? It is unbelievable the paranoia and conspiracy theories people are willing to resort to rather than believe the evidence in front of them.

Hey, lay off the guy . . . (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46571243)

Sounds to me like he just took a bath (financially speaking).

Way back when ... (5, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 7 months ago | (#46571619)

Back in the 1920's when that great depression struck, many banks folded, and people who had money in banks ended up with nothing.

No matter for what reason the banks folded depositors were the ones left holding the empty bag.

Kinda like what is happening in the various Bitcoin exchanges. No matter if it's stupidity, lack of security, or malice, it's the depositors (whoever parked their Bitcoins in that exchange) ended up losing it all.

Well ... back to the 1920's.

When the banks folded, did people abandon the greenbacks ? Yes or no ?

Same situation here ... The fact that exchanges vanishing into thin air doesn't render Bitcoins invalid.

True, some of the "rules" are flawed ( I kinda have a sense something is amissed ever since Bitcoin came out, back in 2009, but I just couldn't pin-point what is wrong with it, but thanks to those scientists at least now I know, but I digress ... ) and they may need to be changed ( ... as been pointed out, the implementation of the necessary rule change may turn out to be very hard ... ) but all in all, the system of Bitcoin, at least, for the concept of it, is still as valid as ever.

Many people are digging at Bitcoin, trying their best to make it sounds as if it's something uncertain, something ephemeral, something "flash in the pan" but if we are to look at the alternative to Bitcoin, ie, the FIAT MONEY SYSTEM, it too has been damaged beyond repair --- as so much money was created out of thin air, which means, the value of the fiat money is no longer valid.

Re:Way back when ... (3, Interesting)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about 7 months ago | (#46571697)

Geeks who run with anarchists will be the first the anarchists turn on when "authorities" are gone. The greenback has an important phrase printed thereon "For all debts public and private" (within the USA.) Bitcoin has no such mandate.

And,. yes, people did abandon the greenback in the sense the greenback worth .05 oz. of gold was replaced by one worth .028 oz. in 1934.

Two hundred-thirty-some years after independence, dollars are still circulating because people believe in them. Still, there are those old-fashioned enough to disbelieve in "new" currencies and hoard an even more ancient and worthless material -- gold. And there are nearly three billion people who live in nations where gold is more desired than fiat currencies.

The world does not move as fast as true-believing miners would have us believe. Those who drink the crypto-curremcy kool-aid are clearly operating out of some fervor based entirely on faith, not logic.

That's quite OK, as economics is simply applied mass psychology, more or less, and not a hard science. So one can excuse geeks' lack of understanding of the subject. But to ignore the impolsion of this particular crypto currency at this time is absurd.

wooo look at that strawman BURNNNNN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571287)

exchanges != bitcoin

Re:wooo look at that strawman BURNNNNN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571391)

and banks != dollars, regardless everyone gets burn't when they catch fire. If it is a strawman, please explain where all the bitcoins went from mtgox? surely if it is a strawman then their must be a mechanism in bitcoin to trace what happened to it all? Also I noticed you completely ignored the FLAWES in the system which are definitely a bitcoin problem not the exchanges.

Re: wooo look at that strawman BURNNNNN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571573)

Where the mtgox money went are both old news and irrelevant. Trade in all shapes have flaws. Where did the money go in the Wall Street crash? There are a huge number of cases where money have been lost, and so much money have been lost in the regulated market that the mtgox story seems quite insignificant.

Even if money often can be traced, it will be of no use if it there where nothing illegal going on.

And if there where something illegal going in tracing it would still be useless. You would find that someone used all the money in the billion dollar bank account buying gold or diamonds. Good luck tracing that. You would find that your trace stop at the door of someone who facilitated the transaction for alcohol or drugs. Good luck getting anything coherent out of that...

Re: wooo look at that strawman BURNNNNN (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571701)

...the mtgox story seems quite insignificant...

Mt. Gox (more than once), Silk Road, Silk Road 2, Sheep Marketplace, Vircurex (more than once), Flexcoin, Poloniex, Project Black Flag, Atlantis...The list keeps getting longer and longer...every little bit(coin) hurts.

As you say "Trade in all shapes have flaws", Bitcoin being no exception.

Re:pfft (1)

dimko (1166489) | about 7 months ago | (#46571577)

And that ABSOLUTELY doesn't happend with $$$$??? Like not even remotely as much as it happens to $$$? So far technically bitcoin has not been hacked or anything. All of problems happened with no specific relation of Bitcoin mechanism. Guess what, IRL currency get's manipulated much worse.

Re: pfft (1)

GodInHell (258915) | about 7 months ago | (#46571739)

Can't tell if serious or successful troll.

That main issue is actually the solution. (4, Interesting)

Kremmy (793693) | about 7 months ago | (#46570637)

After all of the bitcoins are mined, there is no longer an incentive to treat it in this goldrush-like manner. The only people who will have reason to run a miner are the people who use bitcoins as a currency, to be a node in their decentralized economy. Most of the problems people describe seem to be directly related to its use as a pump and dump, actually. I must wonder what's going to happen once we reach that point.

Re:That main issue is actually the solution. (1)

teambpsi (307527) | about 7 months ago | (#46570661)

The transactions are BY DESIGN to subsume the block reward and will handily make mining worth the price of admission.

Re:That main issue is actually the solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571039)

Except the research says otherwise.

In any event, the first wave of the gold rush is over. No single person can mine coins, now. It would take a single machine, even loaded with graphics cards, years to find a coin. You need to have dozens of racks of equipment to expect to turn a profit these days.

Re:That main issue is actually the solution. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571229)

>It would take a single machine, even loaded with graphics cards, years to find a coin. You need to have dozens of racks of equipment to expect to turn a profit these days.

My 60 Ghash miner that's the size of a small breadbox says differently (about 6 months to a coin, of course, that's increasing). And a double PCI card from the same company (who, amazingly, actually delivered a 600 Ghash card without lying too much this time) says that you could get a coin this month even after difficulty increases if you'd like one. And while the parts ain't cheap, the cost of admission isn't anything more than you'd spend on an old used car.

Now, as far as mining earning you more than just investing that money at the outset, you're right, you're not really buying a money printing mahcine, you're buying a money dump. But you can easily get more than 1 coin this year without sacrificing much space or melting your face off.

Wrong (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571121)

The best way to get rich is to make other people poor, so you're comparatively rich, at least in this world. That's exactly what happens. Mining would never cease and would become prohibitively expensive for the poor. It's a failed currency. Just let it die already.

Re:Wrong (1)

Kremmy (793693) | about 7 months ago | (#46571133)

This is entirely speculation until we've reached the point where the coins are no longer being issued.

Re:That main issue is actually the solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571181)

People will cash out and it will cease to exist. Growth is everything.

Re:That main issue is actually the solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571231)

when I read the first sentence as "game theory" I thought it said "game boy theory!"

main issue is the whole system (1, Informative)

globaljustin (574257) | about 7 months ago | (#46571241)

Most of the problems people describe seem to be directly related to its use as a pump and dump, actually.

No. **maybe** we'll see a viable "crypto-currency" but we have not yet.

BTC's main issue is that **whoever** controls a BTC exchange and mining operation can manipulate the currency at will, especially at the pinch points like when BTC values decrease by half at intervals. It's not just that someone could game the system, its that there is absolutely nothing preventing them, systemically and externally.

BTC has **built in** feedback loops [wikipedia.org] , from a system science perspective. Areas where problems cannot be corrected if they arise given certain conditions.

The system doesn't have a fix for certain problems **by design** because...and everyone just needs to accept this: BITCOIN IS A SCAM

Re:That main issue is actually the solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571463)

The introduction of ASIC-based miners may help this particular issue. What else are they good for? Since you have them, you might as well throw a little money into powering them to keep the system running. The guys running entire racks of them trying to *make* money will disappear but I'm sure they will sell the equipment off to hobbyists at fire sale prices. It may actually decentralize mining even more than it already is.

overblown (2)

Adam Back (2946697) | about 7 months ago | (#46570655)

The selfish mining paper makes sense in mathematically simplified game theory model but does not take into account real-world issues of latency. Anyway simple work-arounds exist eg for pooled miners, the winning miner can broadcast their winning solution to random nodes in the network, which prevents selfish mining (selfish mining depends on keeping the transaction secret temporarily delaying broadcast). Hosted mining is a problem, but people should stop overpaying for hosting mining contracts, and demand to control their own vote. The long-run economic question of fees crossing over with reward is WAY to early to declare defeat. We have large amounts of bitcoin reward for decades, bitcoin can be scaled to handle more transactions, and what do we know now about the bitcoin transaction fees & economic picture 20 years out).

Re:overblown (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 7 months ago | (#46570713)

and what do we know now about the bitcoin transaction fees & economic picture 20 years out).

That it will be a footnote in history ... just like Internet time by Swatch. Thats what we know about bitcoin 20 years out.

Re:overblown (1)

dns_server (696283) | about 7 months ago | (#46570815)

With my pebble watch and a custom watch face I can tell you that the current swatch time is @150.

Oh my (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570657)

So there is a potential problem that manifests itself in 25 years from now... We're doomed.

Re:Oh my (1)

oscrivellodds (1124383) | about 7 months ago | (#46570691)

Given the recent pace of problem discovery and theft do you really think it will last that long? I have my doubts.

Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (5, Informative)

ras (84108) | about 7 months ago | (#46570669)

Firstly, there already is a "tax" of the sort they say is needed. Currently the bitcoin relays don't accept transactions containing a tip of less than 0.6cents per kilobyte.

Secondly, there is nothing to force a miner to pick up a transaction, now. Right now, if a transaction doesn't contain a fee there is no incentive for the miner to include it in the block they are working on. Regardless of whether the miner includes transactions or not, they still get the mining reward.

Transaction fees are like an auction. The customer puts in a bid at the lowest price he thinks the miners will accept, each miner decides whether that fee makes it worth his while to include the block. If the customer wants the transaction processed quickly he will put a comparatively high fee on it so every miner will be interested. If not, they put a low fee on it.

This is called a market. It is how bitcoin is supposed to work.

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570737)

except the problem of criminals leveraging other peoples resources. When you can utilise bots to farm for you you can effectively undercut other peoples market making any legitimate miner completely unprofitable.

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (5, Informative)

ras (84108) | about 7 months ago | (#46570911)

except the problem of criminals leveraging other peoples resources. When you can utilise bots to farm for you you can effectively undercut other peoples market making any legitimate miner completely unprofitable.

Said like a person who doesn't have a clue about the shear amount of resources being thrown at bitcoin mining.

Currently, the bitcoin mining network is doing 6,549,663,840,000,000 SHA-256 hashes per second [blockchain.info] . Lets say you have a botnet of 1 million Haswell's. The fastest Intel CPU there is, a Xeon, and it can't do more than 20M hashes per second [bitcoin.it] . So your 1 million Haswell botnet will manage to capture 0.3% of the bitcoin networks mining power.

Yes, people have speculated in the past that bitcoin might be susceptible to botnets. Even if was true the vulnerability window has well and truly closed.

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571373)

and you really think all that effort in mining is going to be maintained once the coin pool is exhausted and they are only competing for transaction fees?

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (3, Informative)

ras (84108) | about 7 months ago | (#46571631)

and you really think all that effort in mining is going to be maintained once the coin pool is exhausted and they are only competing for transaction fees?

Just about all mining is done using ASIC now, and ASIC's are in an unenviable position. Unlike CPU's and GPU's or even FPGA's, they are utterly useless outside of bitcoin. So they will remain deployed until they cost more in power to run than they get in mining fees. This means the current mining power isn't going away any time soon.

Botnet's can earn a return from a variety of sources, not just mining. So the question becomes "is it worth competing against the ASIC's"? In terms of power cost a top end Intel CPU's is roughly 100,000 worse than an ASIC. So even if some miners drop out Botnet's are unlikely to win more than a minor percentage. If the rewards of mining have dropped so much that ASIC's are dropping out, then it's a minor percentage of a small number. Add to that mining's soaking up 100% of CPU time makes an infection by the bot stand out, which decreases the half life of your botnet ... and yeah, I expect it will continue even when there are only transaction fees.

Then there is the whole other question of "does it matter?" If a botnet does take over the mining pool, there is the little issue that bitcoin is intrinsically worth nothing. It's not like they have taken over a pot of gold. Bitcoin is only worth something if people trust it. So if they don't undermine it, they have something that will pay out forever. If they do undermine it, they have got control of 2^51 bits that no one in the right mind would buy and their source of transaction fees has dried up.

It's weird actually. Claiming bitcoin can never succeed because it is worth nothing has to be one of the more popular meme's. The reality is being worth nothing is one of bitcoin's core defences. So far all currencies that have been based on something tangible (like e-Gold) have lacked that defence, and have failed.

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | about 7 months ago | (#46571431)

Just because botnets aren't efficient doesn't mean they aren't worth running. Stolen CPU time is free, so some profit is still free profit. I mean, if logic and reason governed criminal activity, 95% of it wouldn't even exist.

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571585)

Stolen CPU time is not free.
Hint: Attrition rate.

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 7 months ago | (#46571597)

By the time a CPU submits a share it is stale. There are much more profitable ways to use a botnet

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571593)

Currently, the bitcoin mining network is doing 6,549,663,840,000,000 SHA-256 hashes per second

What a fucking waste of energy.

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 7 months ago | (#46571685)

Yes, people have speculated in the past that bitcoin might be susceptible to botnets. Even if was true the vulnerability window has well and truly closed.

Don't be too sure.... a large botnet could potentially do some nasty things to the availability of the network ---- particularly, a Botnet with control of sufficient number of Bitcoins to generate an overwhelming volume of transaction spam, so legitimate transactions can't get through --- by using transactions of the minimum size, Or more traditional DDoS techniques such as packet storming the IP addresses of key nodes in the Bitcoin network.

Look at Visa and Mastercard (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 7 months ago | (#46570771)

Visa and Mastercard tried this transaction fee model, and we all know they went out of bussiness. Case proven.

Re:Look at Visa and Mastercard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570835)

Visa and Mastercard can handle more than 7 transactions per second.

Re:Look at Visa and Mastercard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570947)

Your mom can handle more than 7 transactions per second.

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571257)

I think the authors know all of that. They've done the math and you haven't.

The current block reward is 25 * $577 = $14,425. This is huge compared to the current transactions fees. The "bitcoin rules" state that the block reward will drop to 0 and the transaction fees will remain, but remember that Bitcoin isn't the only game in town and miners can switch to mining an altcoin if they're not satisfied with the way "bitcoin is supposed to work".

Re:Did they actually look at the bitcoin rules? (1)

ras (84108) | about 7 months ago | (#46571727)

The current block reward is 25 * $577 = $14,425. This is huge compared to the current transactions fees.

Yes, it is huge compared to today's transaction fees. But mining fees will continue for some time yet. The bet is by the time they become insignificant mining fees won't be so small. A clue is the credit card network current roughly 10,000 transaction per second [transactionworld.net] . If bitcoin managed that at 0.6c per kilobyte (the fee bitcoin relays demand) mining fees would be $72,000 per block.

To gain an insight into the odds of that happening, Paypal processes around 9 million transactions per day, or 100 per second. Paypal's revenues were $6.6 billion last year [paypal-media.com] . That translates to Paypal making over $2 per transaction. Bitcoin doesn't offer the same service of course, but it currently charges $0.002 for a single transaction. (A transaction takes roughly 360 bytes).

remember that Bitcoin isn't the only game in town and miners can switch to mining an altcoin if they're not satisfied with the way "bitcoin is supposed to work".

You forget there are users of these coins - be they bitcoins or altcoins. In the end it is the users that pay the mining costs, be they transaction fees or mining rewards. In a word of competing altcoins, this translates to only the users having a vote on what the best set of rules are. What the miners think of the rules is largely immaterial. If you think this isn't true, try and set up a altcoin with spectacular miners rewards and see how many users you get. Maybe you will succeed where all other altcoin founders have failed.

The bitcoin foundation seems to be very aware of this underlying reality, and is behaving accordingly.

No big surprise there (5, Informative)

retep (108840) | about 7 months ago | (#46570671)

Ignoring game theory, it's easy to see how the model of mining being only paid by transaction fees doesn't make sense. After all, mining security is something that benefits all holders of Bitcoin, regardless of whether or not they perform transactions, so surely all Bitcoin holders should be contributing to that security.

How do you do that? Make everyone pay equally. Currently that is how Bitcoin works due to the inflation subsidy. (about ~10% per year right now, leading to a per transaction cost of about $50) Just keeping that subsidy indefinitely at some sane level, say 1%, is perfectly reasonable. There's other options too, but fundamentally people like a free lunch.

-Peter Todd, Bitcoin developer

Re:No big surprise there (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 7 months ago | (#46570995)

The security of people who don't spend isn't at stake. Their coins can't be stolen even if there's a 51% attack. Plus the security of people who make transactions isn't at stake - their transaction can't be altered even with a 51% attack. What's at stake is people who perform a 51% attack doing some double-spending. Even so, I don't see why people wouldn't just increase transaction fees up to the point where that is infeasible.

OTOH it doesn't seem like the worst thing if there was a low level of constant inflation. As far as I understand, that's still an option, if everybody agrees to update their client so the network doesn't fork.

Re: No big surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571699)

A 1% fee is something the major credit card companies can compete with quite handily.

Bitcoin's long term viability depends on it being a much cheaper transaction system than a credit card (and to some extent ACH transfers). If it can't do that it will be a niche payment system at best.

Cheats? (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 7 months ago | (#46570683)

You can't win unless you cheat. That is what the system in general rewards. Liars win elections, thieves win on Wall Street, bullies become sheriff. Cheats and bullies are top dogs in today's society. They are the gangsters who write the rules. Bitcoin is just another chapter. If there was no way to cheat, it would never have gotten this far.

Re:Cheats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570845)

Dude, if you are not a troll, get some help.

Re:Cheats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571155)

Troll, maybe but he's also stating plain truth. Liars DO win elections. Thieves DO win on Wall Street. Bullies DO become Sherriffs. Have a look around, can you deny the top of society ISNT full of cheats and bullies?

And yes, they write the rules too. And it's undeniable the people making the real money out of Bitcoin are cheaters and thieves. Surprised? Not me.

Quiet You! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570687)

That was by design.

Transaction Fees Change (4, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 7 months ago | (#46570697)

Such changes could be difficult to implement, given the fact Bitcoin - by design - lacks any central authority." The main problem discovered is that transaction fees do not provide enough incentive to continue operating as "miner" after there are no more bitcoins left to be mined.

I'm not sure that is an accurate reflection of the research, but if it is, it is not very good research. Transaction fees can change, and have changed. The minimum transaction fee changed from 0.0005 BTC to 0.0001 BTC during the runup to $1100, to keep transaction fees low enough for small transactions. There is a central organization, The Bitcoin Foundation [bitcoinfoundation.org] , whose authority is explicitly derived from consent of the governed; the miners and users choose to update their software to match recommendations by The Bitcoin Foundation.

If that summary is an accurate reflection of the research, it sounds like they don't really know much about how Bitcoin works. I mean, I know that much, and I've only spent a few hours reading about it.

Re:Transaction Fees Change (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about 7 months ago | (#46570779)

The minimum transaction fee changed from 0.0005 BTC to 0.0001 BTC during the runup to $1100

Which is exactly the problem they are referring to. The fee dropped to the point of being not worth it.

There is a central organization, The Bitcoin Foundation [bitcoinfoundation.org], whose authority is explicitly derived from consent of the governed; the miners and users choose to update their software to match recommendations by The Bitcoin Foundation.

Better known as ... no central authority. No governing body who can/will enforce things is not a feature, its a bug. Whats even the point? You might as well just all sit around and talk shit on a mailing list, thats just as meaningful ... and pointless.

If that summary is an accurate reflection of the research, it sounds like they don't really know much about how Bitcoin works

Funny, I was thinking the exact same thing about you.

I mean, I know that much, and I've only spent a few hours reading about it.

Yes, its fairly obvious that you don't really understand it, you might want to take that into consideration before calling out someone else's research like you know more about it (when you don't) from a couple hours on wikipedia or google, you think you know all about it. Mr Pot, meet Mr Kettle ... he's black

Re:Transaction Fees Change (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570871)

>>The minimum transaction fee changed from 0.0005 BTC to 0.0001 BTC during the runup to $1100

>Which is exactly the problem they are referring to. The fee dropped to the point of being not worth it.

Er, what? The fee went from 0.0005 BTC to 0.0001 BTC because the VALUE of the BTC went UP.

Here is a hint:

  0.0005 * $5 0.0001 * $1100.

Such arrogance.

Re:Transaction Fees Change (1)

swillden (191260) | about 7 months ago | (#46571651)

The minimum transaction fee changed from 0.0005 BTC to 0.0001 BTC during the runup to $1100

Which is exactly the problem they are referring to. The fee dropped to the point of being not worth it.

Yes, but their conclusion is wrong in two ways, because the two parameters (fee and cost) are both variables.

The fee is actually a market-driven value, essentially a distributed real-time auction. Those who perform transactions bid for the services of the miners who generate the blocks to record the transactions. You're free to place any bid you want, but if there are higher bids available the miners will take those instead, so your transaction could fail to ever complete.

The cost, in computation, is a variable that is centrally controlled. In the past it has only been ratcheted gradually upwards to counter Moore's Law and the shift from general-purpose CPU to purpose-built ASIC mining. However, the increases can be halted, which will result in a gradual decline in monetary cost per block. Or it could even be decreased, to further lower the cost. However, it is important to keep the cost high enough that blocks can't be trivially generated, which in turn will keep the fees up.

Re:Transaction Fees Change (3, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | about 7 months ago | (#46571093)

The minimum fee set by default on the client the Bitcoin Foundation maintains (Now called "Bitcoin-core") was changed.

Any other clients or anyone who feels like doing their own compiling can set the minimum fee to anything they like, including 0, but there's no guarantee their transaction will ever get included in a block if they set it very small.

Re:Transaction Fees Change (1)

Animats (122034) | about 7 months ago | (#46571657)

The minimum fee set by default on the client the Bitcoin Foundation maintains (Now called "Bitcoin-core") was changed.

Any other clients or anyone who feels like doing their own compiling can set the minimum fee to anything they like, including 0, but there's no guarantee their transaction will ever get included in a block if they set it very small.

Right The big mining pools get to decide what the transaction fee should be. Only miners can validate transactions. The default value in the wallet is only meaningful if the big mining pools are willing to accept it.

Also, remember that the block chain limits Bitcoin transactions to about 7 per second. That limit was hit a few times back in the day (last fall, when Bitcoin was booming) and no and low-fee transactions didn't get through for days, if at all.

Bullshit (3, Insightful)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 7 months ago | (#46570703)

The difficulty of mining scales with the amount of miners. If the amount of miners drops, the difficulty will drop, such that you still get a block every ten minutes or so. Then the only danger is that it is easier to mount a 51% attack, since there's less total mining power. Everyone who transacts in bitcoins will have an incentive to keep the difficulty high enough such that this is unfeasible. Plus, all the transaction fees are optional - you can put out a zero-fee transaction, or a 5 BTC-fee transaction, if you like. If the recommended fees that Bitcoin Core suggests are not sufficient then everybody can just offer more fees.

Re:Bullshit (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 7 months ago | (#46570769)

Really, what is the difficulty of mining when all coins are mined? You still need the miners, but if transaction fees don't actually make enough of an incentive then you end up with fewer and fewer miners. I'd say RTFA but you're a 'coiner reading and comprehending a counter argument isn't in you, and highlights the main flaw.

Re:Bullshit (2)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 7 months ago | (#46570891)

It's like you didn't even read what I wrote at all!

Really, what is the difficulty of mining when all coins are mined?

"The difficulty [bitcoin.it] is adjusted every 2016 blocks based on the time it took to find the previous 2016 blocks." So if it takes 14 days (2016 * 10 minutes) to mine 2016 blocks, the difficulty is exactly the same. If it takes more than 14 days, the difficulty is lowered. If it takes less than 14 days, the difficulty is raised. The difficulty has nothing to do with how many new coins are being generated.

Thus, if there are fewer miners, it will take longer to mine the blocks at the current difficulty, so when the next 2016 blocks have been mined, the difficulty will decrease.

Also note that as the difficulty decreases, it becomes cheaper and cheaper to mine. So the difficulty will adjust to whatever it has to be so it's economically feasible based on the amount of fees gotten from the transaction volume.

Re:Bullshit (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 7 months ago | (#46571167)

The point of the difficulty is to control the creating of bitcoins. The part your complaining about specifically is about what happens when there are no more coins to mine. They're saying that the fee wont be enough to keep people in. Really, but bother to read their counter argument before you spout off about it.

Re:Bullshit (3, Informative)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 7 months ago | (#46571355)

They're saying that the fee wont be enough to keep people in. Really, but bother to read their counter argument before you spout off about it.

I RTFA. I countered this point in each of my replies. Here it is again. I'll even bold the important parts:

As miners pull out, it will get easier to mine blocks. There will never be a shortage of computation power to run the network, because if half the miners pull out, it'll get twice as easy to mine blocks. If 75% of the miners pull out, it'll be 4x easier to mine blocks. If 90% of the miners pull out, it'll become 10x easier to mine blocks.

Get it? Whatever the number of miners, transactions will continue to be verified at exactly the same rate. Look at the hashrate chart [bitcoinwisdom.com] . The network was chugging along just fine in July when there were < 1,000 terahashes/second. Now there are over 40,000 terahashes/second. So if 97.5% of the miners drop out, the network will run just as well as it did in July, that is, perfectly fine.

So when you reply, tell me again why it is a problem if some miners decide to pull out? Please don't just repeat once again that the article says that the fees will be too low and thus the miners will pull out. I get that that's what the article says. Why is this an issue, given the above?

Re:Bullshit (1)

ysth (1368415) | about 7 months ago | (#46571617)

No, the point of the difficulty is to make attacks, err, difficult. Nothing to do with creating of bitcoins. If you are misunderstanding things this grievously, sit back and let other people talk for a while.

Re:Bullshit (1)

Chung Chu (3584923) | about 7 months ago | (#46570867)

and what do we know now about the bitcoin transaction fees & economic picture 20 years out). Read more ban cong inox Bac Ninh [thegioisatinox.vn]

Re:Bullshit (0)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 months ago | (#46571013)

Everyone who transacts in bitcoins will have an incentive to keep the difficulty high enough such that this is unfeasible.

Almost everyone who transcts in Bitcoins is a tightwad libertarian looking to make a speculative quick buck. They will not, ever, collectively pay for transactions when they could freeload instead. The problem with Bitcoin was and will always remain how to persuade the marks/miners to keep expending computer power once the easy coins have all dried up.

This was evident to those of us 3 years ago, who casually downloaded the bitcoin client, left it run for a week or so, and saw not one coin in return. We (by which of course I mean "I") subsequently lost interest and uninstalled the client. I see nothing which can change this basic dynamic of most people not caring enough to mine/verify. Even if bitcoiners do start adding transaction fees (I regard this as a risible suggestion), the mining blocks will have everything tied up, again driving most of the mining network away.

The network was not built with a mandatory minimium transaction fee, or other mechanism to ensure the continued interest of those verifying the transactions -- those actually making the effort to keep Bitcoin running. This is the achilles heel and inevitable doom of the currency. You cannot build a currency on the collective individualism of Randroids.

Re:Bullshit (2)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 7 months ago | (#46571053)

You might like to take a look at blockchain.info [blockchain.info] and note that just about every single transaction that's being posted right now includes a (non-mandatory) fee. It looks like your entire argument is founded upon a fallacy!

Re:Bullshit (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 months ago | (#46571099)

Two things:
1) The transaction ratios here are of the order of 80 to 1, and the blocks chains are becoming ever more difficult to verify. How sustainable are these ratios as time marches on?

2) There is an inherant bias in verified blocks. Right now transactions are being selected, in part, based on their attached transaction fees. However, as the Bitcoin craze dies down, or even becomes mainstream, I don't see the practice of transactions fees catching on as individuals choose freeloading over payment.

Re:Bullshit (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 months ago | (#46571111)

Sorry the transaction ratios are of the order of 80,000 to 1. I can't see this continuing as blocks become more and more difficult to verify.

Re:Bullshit (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 7 months ago | (#46571313)

Miners can simply choose to never include transactions below a certain fee. If enough miners do this then people can keep trying to freeload by posting free transactions, but they're going to take a really long time to get into the blockchain. Miners can and will choose to only mine blocks where the total fees are worth it to try to mine. So high-fee transactions will get in quicker, and low-fee transactions will take longer.

Besides, if miners do start to drop out, the difficulty will decrease (built-in network rule), and it'll become easier (and thus cheaper) to mine. Miners will drop out until the difficulty is such that it's worth it to mine the blocks, whatever the fees are. There's no danger of not having enough computation power to run the network.

Re:Bullshit (2)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 7 months ago | (#46571069)

This was evident to those of us 3 years ago, who casually downloaded the bitcoin client, left it run for a week or so, and saw not one coin in return. We (by which of course I mean "I") subsequently lost interest and uninstalled the client.

Yep, bitcoin has been doing really poorly [bitcoincharts.com] over the past 3 years.

Re:Bullshit (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 7 months ago | (#46571723)

That's a chart of a Ponzi scheme.

Crypto's Behave More Like Securities Than Currency (3, Insightful)

teambpsi (307527) | about 7 months ago | (#46570715)

Bitcoin for all its technical sophistication is more of a threat to "stock exchanges" or "equity allocation" than it ever will be to "currencies"

It is not suitable to a "drive-thru" transactions due to the number of "confirms" required to have veracity in the exchange.

However, it is VERY WELL SUITED to the exchange of equity -- and is, given the current settlement times, much more of a threat to public ledgers like TORRENS (property exchange logs) -- or stock/ownership exchanges.

Re:Crypto's Behave More Like Securities Than Curre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571027)

It is pretty safe to accept 0 confirmation transactions. Lots of companies do it. The risk, effort, and luck involved in doing a successful double spend are too high for anyone to bother trying to do it when buying a coffee or anything relatively cheap. If you're getting $50,000 worth of bitcoins you can afford to wait a few minutes for a couple confirmations.

Re:Crypto's Behave More Like Securities Than Curre (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571757)

This is a point I hve tried to make several times at bitcoin gatherings and seems to fall on deaf ears.
Do you have an estimate for how long it takes to process a bitcoin transaction all the way through to
multiple confirmations/part of the chain? Last one I had was 20 minutes which makes it pretty much useless
as a payment mechanism/currency and of course as the chain lengthens this can only get worse.

Bitcoin again? come on. (0)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about 7 months ago | (#46570731)

encourage behavior that could destabilize the currency

Isn't that the whole point? It's a gameable currency that can be easily stolen and is untraceable. It will NEVER be stable.

Re:Bitcoin again? come on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570889)

Isn't that the whole point? It's a gameable currency that can be easily stolen and is untraceable. It will NEVER be stable.

That is a trade-off for having a currency gameable by Joe Everyman, as opposed to one only gameable by Governments and Financial Institutions.

Re:Bitcoin again? come on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570943)

Except that is actually very traceable.
https://cse.ucsd.edu/node/2299

Re:Bitcoin again? come on. (1)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 7 months ago | (#46571003)

gameable how?

Re:Bitcoin again? come on. (0)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 7 months ago | (#46571047)

The MT.GOX theft of 850,000 Bitcoins is 7% of the approximately 12,000,000 [1] in circulation.
To put the impact of this into perspective consider that the top-50 largest holding companies have assets totaling $15,681,169,806 in thousands of dollars. Seven percent of this total is $1,097,681,886 which equates to someone stealing all of the assets for Goldman Sachs Group and Capitol One Financial Corp.

If this were to happen in the 'traditional' currency market the entire system would be in dire straights. Members of the Bitcoin foundation are trying to minimize the damage and dismiss this as 'bad actor' with poor security. Could it be that this is the first of major faults that will shutter this emerging virtual currency? [1] - https://blockchain.info/charts... [blockchain.info] [2] - https://www.ffiec.gov/nicpubwe... [ffiec.gov]

Re: Bitcoin again? come on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571185)

Now that the payment protocol has been released it should be much easier to make use of multi-signature transactions which would pretty much eliminate bitcoin theft from exchanges that actually make use of it.

Anyone trusting their bitcoins to an entity that doesn't do this would be a fool.

Re: Bitcoin again? come on. (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 7 months ago | (#46571659)

You missed the point. If this were to happen in the financial services sector you could't just wave you hand at it to make it go away. Bitcoin foundation says on their website the software is new. There are no doubt holes in the protocol that have yet to be exploited.

Re:Bitcoin again? come on. (1)

fnj (64210) | about 7 months ago | (#46571643)

the top-50 largest holding companies have assets totaling $15,681,169,806 in thousands of dollars

What the bleep? That's a pretty absurd way to write "$15,681,169,806,000".

Re:Bitcoin again? come on. (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 7 months ago | (#46571675)

I agree. What is the better way to wright it? Also, do you agree or disagree with my point?

Bitocin? (0)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 7 months ago | (#46570763)

Sounds like something you get prescribed...

Re:Bitocin? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 7 months ago | (#46571209)

Eliminates parasites.

2140 (2)

Salsaman (141471) | about 7 months ago | (#46570773)

Well, fortunately we won't have to worry about that until 2140. By which time I am sure transaction fees will be more than enough to compensate.

The future, off-chain transactions & settlemen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570795)

This won't be an issue in the future, fee's will be very expensive to cover miners costs.

The solution will be off-chain transactions and bitcoin banks (exchanges?), like coinbase (and others) - But secure ones, because hot balances won't be needed.

Next, each of these off-chain exchanges will settle each day amongst themselves (just like banks do now) using real Bitcoin transactions, and paying a large fee for it.

Finally, the settlement, between these companies will be managed by a debt based system like Ripple or similar.

SSDD: Dot-com=energy=real-estate=Bitcoin (1)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 7 months ago | (#46570881)

The phrase "same stuff different day" comes to mind when I think of the future of Bitcoin. In the last 10-15 years we have witnessed the Dot.com bubble, Energy bubble (remember ENRON), real-estate bubble (CDOs, Credit Default Swap, etc.) Bitcoin is the brave new world for the Wolf's of Wall Street.

Bitcoin advocates talk about a lot of positive aspects to the system. People naively assume that everyone will 'play by the rules' and do what is best for the long term stability of the currency. Wall Street will continue to invent creative and complicated ways to fleece others of their money. There is truly no honor among thieves. I for one will not be holding the bag when Bitcoin implodes due to dishonest games by white collar criminals.

[1] - Reference from Stephen King novel but a little more vulgar in the book

Re:SSDD: Dot-com=energy=real-estate=Bitcoin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571059)

Try this on for size: When the blockchain reward is only transaction fees, the price of electricity will be determined by how many bitcoins you can normally mine with x amount of juice. The BTC will be worth a hair's margin more than the juice, but it will be worth more. IN THE MEANTIME, I invite you to try to "cheat" this system. In the intervening years I will be enjoying watching Wall Street hold the empty bag. As another poster correctly identified Bitcoin as more of a security than a currency, the real victim will be Wall Street; traders won't be needed to verify and clear blockchain-based stock and bond transactions.

Re:SSDD: Dot-com=energy=real-estate=Bitcoin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571735)

Why would the power company sell me enough electricity to mine more in bitcoin than the price of the electricity? It would make more sense for them to stop selling electricity and start performing wholesale bitcoin mining.

All you have presented is a fairy-tale.

Re: SSDD: Dot-com=energy=real-estate=Bitcoin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571491)

Ppl are greedy and ppl are fearful... when markets start to die, bitcoin will go up. When markets stabilize, bitcoin will go back down... simple economics. Learn your history on why and what eventually happens before you spout off pop words that will not explain a phenomenon like digital cash.

What a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46570921)

Keep wasting your time on something that will never be a legitame currency.

AAAAARRRRGGGGG MAAAATEEEEYYYY's

A new cryptocurrency? (1)

gonnagetya (3580051) | about 7 months ago | (#46570961)

cryptocurrency Bitocin

Bitocin? Must be some offshoot of Bitcoin. Or the editors failed to "edit" anything and just want to be paid for sitting around, jacking off and hitting submit occasionally.

Wrong title (0)

Orgasmatron (8103) | about 7 months ago | (#46570969)

Should be "Researchers Find Their Biases".

Really, nothing new here. I blame the soft "sciences" for lowering expectations, science reporters for breathlessly reporting sensationalist drivel instead of digging in, and the global warming cabal for trying to pass off the output of their numerical models as "data".

I've read a bunch of this crap, but not all of it. Just off the top of my head, the global consensus does not in any way resemble a state machine, and writing a paper using one to draw "conclusions" about the other is a study of gullibility, not of bitcoin. So far, that one is still my favorite academic "research" into bitcoin.

In many ways bitcoin is an experiment. There are indeed open questions. With the huge number of unknowns in the system, I will continue to be skeptical of people that claim to already know how the experiment will turn out.

Re:Wrong title (0)

VikingNation (1946892) | about 7 months ago | (#46571081)

The stakes are high and people will play any game to get a piece of this action.

The MT.GOX theft of 850,000 Bitcoins is 7% of the approximately 12,000,000 [1] in circulation. To put the impact of this into perspective consider that the top-50 largest holding companies have assets totaling $15,681,169,806 in thousands of dollars. Seven percent of this total is $1,097,681,886 which equates to someone stealing all of the assets for Goldman Sachs Group and Capitol One Financial Corp [2].

If this were to happen in the 'traditional' currency market the entire system would be in dire straights. Members of the Bitcoin foundation are trying to minimize the damage and dismiss this as 'bad actor' with poor security. Could it be that this is the first of major faults that will shutter this emerging virtual currency?


[1] - https://blockchain.info/charts... [blockchain.info]
[2] - https://www.ffiec.gov/nicpubwe... [ffiec.gov]

Mining is not needed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571025)

There is a reason people started developing second generation cryptocurrencies like Ripple, Nxt, and (under development) SkyCoin. Mining has high costs, as well as significant risks. It turns out that proof or work isn't actually needed to make a cryptocurrency work, so some new and improved designs have replaced with with proof of stake based solutions. These replace brute compute power with some nice crypto and exploit the fact that such currencies already have a well defined group (the currency holders) among which to reach consensus.

While the second generation cryptocurrencies I've mostly looked into (Nxt and SkyCoin) claim to be resistant to 51% attacks, its important to note that even if such attacks were possible, it wouldn't be as bad as with bitcoin. With bitcoin, the cost of attacking the network will be comparable to the total transaction fees paid (~= cost of mining, far less than the market cap unless transactions are very expensive), and you don't really risk loosing too much. If you 51% attack a proof of stake currency, you own most of the currency, and attacking it will drive the value down, so thats a stupid thing to do.

Initial currency distribution via mining is kinda neat, but there is nothing inherently great about that (It has pretty major issues these days with bot nets and ASICs). If you have an issue with the initial distribution, it would be easy to make a clone of Nxt (or some other coin) where initial distribution was done by destroying bitcoins in a particular way (effectually converting them to the new currency). Theres no inherently unsolvable (or even hard) problem there.

We don't need to fix bitcoin: we can make other currencies (as many as we like) and move to them. Bitcoin is nice since its popular and standard, but changing it isn't going to be easy compared to making a replacement. Bitcoin has done well, but its time to learn from it and improve. Mining is more expensive and less secure than the newer options, and does not scale to fast transaction verification very well (Point of sale does not want to wait ~10 minutes).

No offense... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571253)

But other than Skycoin (maybe), both NXT and Ripple look like corporate controlled scams.

While I do thing the current generation mining needs to be altered in some form, hitching yourself even more tightly to someone else's wagon seems like folly to me.

Crypytocurrency will not disappear. (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46571299)

Unfortunately.

It is a fantastic way for, say, drug or arms dealers to move money around more or less "off-grid". C'mon, say it with me . . . L - A - U - N - D - R - Y.

As I've pointed out before, it's currency, but it isn't what I'd call money. Money, you see, is that (often colorful, often artistic) representational marker created by a sovereign government for use as legal tender. It's tracked, monitored, regulated . . . all of the things that I for one expect my money to be. Currency on the other hand (if you insist on counting cryptocurrency as currency) is something of value (not necessarily paper or coin, but those will do as well) which is commonly exchanged in a marketplace. Unregulated currency? Okay, but when something goes wrong don't come to your government (including the police and the courts, by the way) for help - they may or may not do you any good, but you have to remember that they have a vested interest in seeing you use their competing product - that is, money . After all, what are you, a tax cheat or worse yet, some kind of criminal?

Now, the government (here in the US) has no problem with seizing and liquidating those assets when they can (and they have - see Silk Road). There's no denying that cryptocurrency has a value and government's worldwide aren't about to overlook that. Protecting you and me when the next BitCoin Exchange goes *pffft* and takes our (offshore, untracked, untaxed) assets with it? I'm not sure how that works (and I doubt that many bitcoin miners are in a hurry to declare their virtual income to the real IRS).

Re:Crypytocurrency will not disappear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571419)

Currency vs. money is a distinction without difference, unless you are citing some fringe conspiracy theories.

Feel free to cite an economics textbook, or a respected economist making this distinction (even a Mises/Austrian School would be fine). Otherwise, I suggest people google "currency vs. money", peruse the results returned, and gauge for yourself how crazy they seem.

Re:Crypytocurrency will not disappear. (1)

mmell (832646) | about 7 months ago | (#46571511)

Did you make it past the links from guys who are selling stuff? I did.

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

A definition of intermediate generality is that a currency is a system of money (monetary units) in common use, especially in a nation.[4] Under this definition, British pounds, U.S. dollars, and European euros are different types of currency, or currencies. Currencies in this definition need not be physical objects, but as stores of value are subject to trading between nations in foreign exchange markets, which determine the relative values of the different currencies.[5] Currencies in the sense used by foreign exchange markets, are defined by governments, and each type has limited boundaries of acceptance.

So you're right, I'm wrong - because cryptocurrency isn't currency of any kind. Is it? Let me emphasize - ...are defined by governments.... Every other reasonable definition of money and currency both contain this kind of wording. You're right, there. Ergo, cryptocurrency isn't currency at all - just a really clever pyramid scheme.

Re:Crypytocurrency will not disappear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571639)

Except gold has been used as money for thousands of years. No one government decided it. People themselves decided it had value. So, if gold could be money, cryptocurrency can be money. And it's no more a pyramid scheme than gold or paper money are.

Re:Crypytocurrency will not disappear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571661)

I would call it a commodity rather than a currency. Others have hashed over this definition before. Obviously, those who have more interest in it gaining traction will refer to it as a type of currency/money.

However I'm not so certain I would call it a ponzi / pyramid scheme. That has a specific definition, which I believe is illustrated by the Social Security program that requires 1.6 workers to pay in for each benefit recipient in order to remain cash flow positive (and has a trust fund that never had anything but US government IOUs).

I think "bubble" is more in line with the realities of bitcoin. Insane growth and volatility, plus adherents making insane extrapolations (even in this thread there is someone suggesting a bitcoin market cap of ~21 trillion USD).

As for the government being the sine qua non for a currency, I disagree in concept, if not practice. In the 19th century US private banks printed their own currency, and its value fluctuated based on trust in the bank, distance from a branch, etc. That was viable as a medium of exchange and fit the definition (albeit regionally).

However, now? Ha, you're absolutely correct, thanks to laws. The government doesn't want anyone fucking around with their self-declared monopoly on making money. Look what happened to the Liberty dollar guy.

Come to think of it, if I wanted to make a currency it would probably have to be a crypto type if only to avoid having SWAT teams come and "no knock warrant" my door, shoot my dog, and haul me off to prison. Hm. So much for freedom.

Is it 2140 already? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46571417)

It's 2014, why are we discussing this at all? As difficulty increases to the point that it is no longer financially feasible, miners will switch coins thus giving those who stay a better return rate. And at the current rate of valuation, 21Mil bitcoins will eventually be at least worth $21 Trillion or more with the current inflation rate of the dollar. And with the full transparency of bitcoin, its only a matter of time before the whole world moves to it. So laugh indeed all you wish... these "pump dumpin cheats" are easily making back what they invest in their systems.

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