Debate reignites over years-old Bitcoin Drivechain proposal

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A debate has reignited among Bitcoiners over a six-year-old Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP) to add “sidechains” on top of the network, with some warning it could increase scams on the Bitcoin network and others saying it will bring new users of the cryptocurrency.

Meanwhile, one developer claims to have found a way to achieve the proposal’s goal without a soft fork of the blockchain.

The proposal in question, BIP-300 — also known as Bitcoin (BTC) Drivechains — was first introduced in 2017, which proposed introducing “sidechains” that are separate blockchains on top of the Bitcoin network.

Paul Sztorc, the proposal’s author and founder of the Drivechain development firm LayerTwo Labs which raised $3 million in December, has explained the blockchains would allow for BTC to move onto them and create altcoins.

However, the debate over the proposal was kicked up again when a Bitcoin core developer known as Luke Dashjr rewrote the proposal’s code and requested to add it to Bitcoin’s codebase on Aug. 22.

BIP-300 would require a soft fork of Bitcoin that would be activated by miners — not unlike the Taproot soft fork in November 2021 that paved the way for the equally controversial nonfungible token (NFT) emulating Ordinals and BRC-20 tokens that launched earlier this year.

On Sep. 10, Maxim Orlovsky, the CEO of blockchain scaling solutions project Pandora, posted on X (Twitter) claiming he was able to create a two-way peg on Bitcoin without a soft fork of the blockchain which BIP-300 requires.

In an accompanying note Orlovsky explained an old project proposal could work as a BIP-300 alternative with an oracle working to validate a sidechain and “the protocol will reach consensus on whether the state reported by the oracle is correct.”

Details, so far, are sparse. Orlovsky said he would work on a paper describing the setup “in [an] understandable way.”

Meanwhile, BIP-300 proponents including Sztorc argue Drivechains will allow users to choose a blockchain security model they agree with and how they want their Bitcoin to work. Sztorc also claimed the proposal has “enormous upside” with “literally zero downside.”

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Others, including Cory Klippsten, the chief of the BTC-only exchange Swan Bitcoin, rejected the proposal — with Klippsten claiming Drivechains would increase the amount of scams on Bitcoin which may catch the ire of regulators.

Pierre Rochard, the VP of research at Bitcoin miner Riot Platforms said the proposal’s messaging relies on “speculative economic arguments rather than substantive engineering ones” and added it was “pure hopium.”

Others that lent their voice to support BIP-300 included educator Dan Held who claimed that Bitcoin is better off with more speculative assets as they “introduce new audiences to Bitcoin.”

Meanwhile, Bitcoin wallet provider Casa co-founder Jameson Lopp said he’s yet to see a “convincing concern” of how sidechains could be dangerous to the main Bitcoin blockchain.

He added if a sidechain becomes more valuable it could signal that the base chain “should implement that sidechain’s features.”

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