To some, Gregory Maxwell is the chief architect of the movement to maintain bitcoin’s capacity at just 1MB every ten minutes, at least for now. Something critics have long claimed it would lower bitcoin’s utility and its usefulness.
To others, Maxwell stood up on behalf of all devs and took the heat to speak on behalf of what they think was general consensus.
Objectively, he is one of the most influential bitcoin developers, the mind behind the current focus on programmable money.
He appears to have been instrumental in putting together Blockstream, a dev studio of sorts hiring many talented coders.
With the blocksize debate over, and the roadmap set, he left. “I can go back to working on the things I find most exciting… without the overhead of managing staff or dealing with the many non-Bitcoin blockchain applications which are important to Blockstream’s business,” he said at the beginning of last year.
Now and then he does show up. Just earlier this year he went through a detailed tutorial on setting up a bitcoin satellite connection.
His github page however shows almost no activity and as much as he likes the satellite, it appears to be the work of his friend, Chris Cook, who is still at Blockstream connecting earth and space.
Maxwell himself apparently no longer works on bitcoin, perhaps taking a break from software development and refocusing.
The Codable Money Table
The financially secure Maxwell deserves a holiday after shielding the many fine bitcoin developers from what devolved into a shouting match following the institution of censorship in certain bitcoin spaces.
His willingness to play the role of “Bitcoin Core” allowed others to get on with work, and perhaps allowed him to get with no work whatever.
That’s despite his likeness for making bitcoin transactions subject to if and then rules, or his likeness for smart contracts as others might call it.
“The problem with a one-way peg is that if it turns out to be a lemon, you’re stuck. You can’t get out, you can’t go back.
I realized how to go in the other direction – something that could reasonably go back and plausibly have good security.”
That was Maxwell in 2014 speaking on the then very new concept of sidechains, an idea as intriguing as almost impossible to pull off.
Now five years on, this conceptualization of connecting bitcoin – or indeed ethereum – to a new chain, has in practice turned out to be something quite different.
Liquid, as the best example of such sidechain, basically works by handing over your bitcoin to some trusted custodian or custodians who then sort of manually send it back to the bitcoin blockchain if you request.
As it stands, it is very easy to send your bitcoin to the Liquid blockchain, but if you want it back on the bitcoin blockchain, then you have to be some sort of Blockstream customer.
Doing it both ways in a trustless way appears to be almost impossible. Hence in ethereum, where they are to transfer all the current Proof of Work (PoW) blockchain based eth to the Proof of Stake (PoS) chain, it is for now one way.
Ethereans complained and some eth devs said they were surprised to see so much demand to get the eth back to the PoW chain if needed, but it doesn’t look like they have any intention to facilitate it.
That’s most likely because they can’t as they probably don’t quite know how to. To send it to the PoS chain is easy. You just read the PoW chain, burn the eth in that PoW chain, and so create an equivalent amount in the PoS chain.
Since the PoW eth has been burned, then obviously there is no eth to send back and you can’t just create such eth in the PoW chain because PoW.
While for the bitcoin equivalent, instead of burning the bitcoin, they basically just transfer it to some sort of custodian. Doing this without a custodian does not appear to be something known of as it stands.
That’s probably because it would require some sort of genius. Someone who can set up the game theoretics so aligned that it keeps them in balance.
Yet such geniuses are extremely rare, and Maxwell is certainly not a genius, but he is very knowledgable and very smart and quite creative too, just two degrees from a genius.
Apparently he is the one who came up with Taproots, although maybe he was acting as just the spokesperson. He came up with Confidential Transactions though, and quite a few things.
Yet it clearly appears he is stepping back. Perhaps for the best as a new chapter opens in the bitcoin story.