The post-bitcoin bug reckoning continues. Developers have graciously divided the blame for the bug—which presented an opening for would-be hackers to crash the network and inflate bitcoin’s price—among themselves. Developer John Newberry, in a tweet, said he had seen the code but had assumed someone “smarter” had it covered. (They hadn’t.) Bitcoin “maintainer” Wladimir van der Laan, meanwhile, tweeted that “the whole community screwed up by not reviewing consensus changes thoroughly enough.” (Which leaves the question—have they reviewed the recent patch thoroughly enough?)
As this happened, Matt Corallo, the developer who found the bug and helped patch it, continued to chastise the community for its rose-tinted retrospective on the bug’s successful, albeit two years late, apprehension. Some 87 percent of miners, he reminded followers, have yet to upgrade to the patch. (Though the Bitcoin team separately asserted that 50 percent already had.) Given that miners are so nakedly self-interested, we don’t really want to rely on their goodwill, do we?
Goodwill, indeed, is hard to come by in this dog-eat-dog world. Consider this bizarre story. Derivatively named crypto wallet provider “Blockchain” is suing derivatively named crypto wallet provider “Blockchain.io” (formerly Paymium) for trademark infringement. Blockchain (the plaintiff) argues that the defendant is covertly piggybacking on its good name as a pre-ICO marketing ploy. Yet the plaintiff has chosen the two companies’ strikingly different logos, rather than, say, that they share exactly the same name, as the proof of this egregious impersonation. Crypto lawyer Stephen Palley called it an “odd argument.” TRUE.
There’s been another case of deliberately mistaken identity. Charlie Shrem, the founder of BitcoinFoundation.org, took to Twitter to decry a “scammer” using his name to falsely promise bitcoin donations to his real life friends and family. Mercifully, Shrem's friends clocked real quick that he would never do such a thing—one friend was “relieved” to discover that the source of Shrem’s newfound magnanimity was, in fact, a Twitter scambot.
Can the rich not just hoard their great wealth in peace anymore? Yes, they can. A Wall Street Journal investigation found that Jed McCaleb, the co-founder of international banking and crypto company Ripple (and subsequently Stellar following his departure) has been converting his hefty XRP stash at a rate upwards of “35 times” the limit agreed upon in the divorce lawsuit with his old firm. The stash rounds out at over five billion, making McCaleb very rich indeed. But there are fears McCaleb’s increased selloff will affect Ripple’s price, which has skyrocketed in recent days. Nevertheless, he insisted to the WSJ that “I’m not selling more than I have agreed to with Ripple.”
It makes you think. Can Ripple freeze his account if he goes out of line? In a word, yes. Since that’s the case, doesn’t that make crypto no better and more centralized than fiat money, in that private companies can arbitrarily shut down users’ assets with no due process or legal intermediary? Eh, fundamental flaws schmundamental schmlaws.
At least Walmart, for once, has a seemingly benevolent plan. The US retailer has decreed that all purveyors of lettuce, spinach, and “other greens,” sign up to its IBM-run “Hyperledger” (by January 2019), which traces products across their supply lines. This should overcome the chaos that took place earlier this year, when slapdash sourcing left thousands of Romaine lettuces contaminated with deadly E.coli bacteria.
Yet it’s easy enough to say “this lettuce is E.coli free and is registered on the blockchain.” It’s harder, however, to demonstrate any correlation between the blockchain’s version of the lettuce and the real deal, which may well be riddled with the bacteria and en route, finely shredded with a dollop of dressing, to a Pennsylvania soccer mom’s gaping maw.
You know who’ll sort it out? Leathery Old Man John McAfee. He’s decided — via a rambling tutorial on "bath salts" — to run for president, again. He’ll sort all this out. Maybe.