What is Going on at Blockstream?

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Blockstream, the for-profit corporation that hires a number of Bitcoin Core developers, has made a string of announcements recently suggesting a potential pivot.

The more interesting such announcements is the resignation of Gregory Maxwell. According to Wikipedia, he and Adam Back led Blockstream, but Adam Back is of course the CEO, in effect Maxwell’s boss.

Did Adam Back drive Maxwell out? We don’t know, but that’s the speculation among the chattering classes.

With the blocksize “debate” now seemingly settled and bitcoin apparently stuck at 1MB, it might well be Maxwell was no longer needed.

Not least because the company is now considerably expanding its focus. Curiously, they recently announced the launch of a Cryptocurrency Data Feed.

Data feeds are… well, data. They provide informations for usually traders regarding price movements as well as historic information, for a fee of course.

It is as far away from protocol development as you can really be, raising the question of what exactly is Blockstream thinking? Are they just all over the place, with no vision nor direction, or are they simply pivoting towards a coders for hire shop?

We do not know, but what we do know is that tensions are clearly increasing between the Lightning Network (LN) development teams, which now seemingly see each others as competitors.

There are a number of LN versions, with the two main ones being Blockstream’s, written in C, and the Lightning Labs version, written in Go. A spat of sorts begun between the two recently after Blockstream suggested their LN version was good to go.

“This is the lnd slack, please take c-lightning discussion to other places,” Elizabeth Stark of Lightning Labs charged in slack, with William Casarin stating: “since I’m not a lnd dev I’m heading out. cyas”

“There’s a lot of great excitement for LN but some cold water is reasonable too,” Alex Bosworth from Lightning Labs stated before adding:

“LN’s privacy and security properties are good, but different from on-chain and they are not perfect. Existing implementations have some critical bugs and upcoming breaking changes. LN is just starting.”

Lightning Labs is seemingly angry at Blockstream, with Stark stating in a now deleted tweet that bug tests should be on testnet not main-net, especially when developers are losing money.

Blockstream recently announced they had launched a store that only accepts c-lightning payments, seemingly giving rise to the feud between the once close knit teams.

Without a “common enemy,” they might now have to fend off for themselves as they race to launch what has been promised to be the solution to all of bitcoin’s scalability problems.

But does Blockstream really care? With Maxwell gone, are they now just a generic blockchain company trying to do what so many others are trying to do in a fast moving field that has races within races?

Blockstream announced late last year they were assisting a Japanese firm with a number of seemingly private blockchain related projects, including tokenizing fiat. So is the protocol becoming a very much secondary matter for them?

We’ll have to wait and see. But a start-up that frantically announces in months a Blockstream satellite, data feeds, a store, a bug filled Lightning Network, tokenized fiat, among other things, does appear to be very much all over the place.

So where this company is going remains unclear, if indeed it is going anywhere at all. Especially now that some of their key developers are leaving, or have already gone.

 

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