The Shrinking World of Bitcoin Maximalism

The Shrinking World of Bitcoin Maximalism

By TheDesertLynx | Digital Cash Network | 23 Sep 2020


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There exists a philosophy in the world of decentralized money that states that the first great cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is the only technology in its field with any merit, and all competitors are scams. This philosophy is Bitcoin maximalism, and while it had a significant impact on the blockchain space, it appears to be on its way to the dustbin of history.

The distinction between Bitcoin fans and Bitcoin maximalists

 
Now first, I think it's important to do make a couple of distinctions here. Not all Bitcoin fans are maximalists. Some are enthusiastic about all cryptocurrencies, while still others are simply strong believers in the potential of Bitcoin while remaining skeptical of its competitors. What I'm talking about when I say "maximalism" is the belief that only Bitcoin will have utility and value long term, and that no other project in the space brings any merit or value, with most being outright scams.

For an example, a hardcore Bitcoin fan may use LBRY and see its benefits in hosting censorship-resistant content as a net benefit. A maximalist would call the project a shitcoin and refuse to use it (or quietly back up their YouTube channel to LBRY hypocritically).

The world is moving past the limited possibilities of the present

 
The world of cryptocurrency and blockchain is rapidly growing, and with it the demands and possibilities of what the technology can achieve. Bitcoin innovated on several key fronts, and as its ecosystem grew, so did the inventions leveraging its technology. However, at some point these possibilities stalled out. Some of it was just the natural progression of a single focused technology unable to encompass every idea in existence, but much of it was due to Bitcoins inability (refusal?) to scale, which even made previous use cases no longer feasible.

For a while, these limits to growth simply caused innovators to take a pause, or attempt to build their dreams on Bitcoin regardless. But now, the proverbial water is flowing around the obstacle. Life moves on.

Key Bitcoin hopes failed to materialize

 
The main argument for Bitcoin was never to prevent it from scaling altogether, but to oppose on-chain scaling. The idea was that a limitless world of potential awaited Bitcoin in off-chain scaling solutions, which when implemented would kill off all the pointless altcoins. Reality has, so far, turned out a little different. The Lightning network still faces critical issues and has yet to reach wide adoption. The whole argument of "X or Y shitcoin will be toast when everyone's using Lightning" get weaker by the day. We're largely stuck today with the Bitcoin of yesteryear which, while great, just isn't enough to satisfy everyone's demands.

The maximalist last resort is to simply attack any progress

 
Now that the Bitcoin-only share of the crypto world is receding, and arguments of "just wait for Lightning" are losing their luster, there's only one route left to fight off the competition: attack them. We've seen a few notable recent examples of other projects getting shine and facing maximalist backlash, from Tim Draper's now-deleted tweet supporting Bitcoin Cash receiving backlash, to entrepreneurship icon Gary Vaynerchuck canceling his CoinGeek speaking commitment following maximalist outrage, to the tried-and-true "delete Coinbase because they support too many coins" line. Some of these still work right now because Bitcoin thought leaders have enough perceived standing to be able to scare away the uninitiated, but make no mistake, this is a Hail Mary move. Shouting on Twitter can only stall progress for so long.

Even maximalists are bending their rules to keep with the times

 
But the nail in the coffin was no doubt some of the most vocal Bitcoin maximalists dipping their toes in Ethereum token waters in the form of the INX token. Now, this was not a failure of maximalism because it represented some of its strongest voices relenting in their ideology, but precisely because they hadn't relented, yet were forced to use a project they strongly criticized (and somehow still maintained the criticism while using it anyway). That, more than anything, signified that the world had collectively moved on.

Is Bitcoin still great? Absolutely. Will some of its more hardcore fans still retain positions of influence in the blockchain world? Also yes. But hardcore, religious maximalism is on its way out.

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TheDesertLynx
TheDesertLynx

Crypto and liberty lover. Journalist. Living unbanked off of crypto since 2016. Free State Project mover. Opinions are my own.


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