I’m Haipo Yang, founder and CEO of ViaBTC, Ask Me Anything!
My name is Haipo Yang or you can call me Haiyang. I’m ViaBTC’s founder and CEO. ViaBTC was founded in May this year and now it has risen to the #5 mining pool in the world. It’s also the most advanced pool globally.
I got to know Bitcoin in 2011 and started my investment in 2013. In 2014 I began my career in Bitcoin industry and founded ViaBTC two years later. At the same time, I’m an experienced developer who independently set up the pool from 0 to 1.
We are now effortlessly advocating and driving forth Bitcoin scaling. We believe Bitcoin Unlimited is so far the best solution for big blocks. We won’t support the soon-to-be voted SegWit. I think we need decentralization too in Bitcoin development. Bitcoin should be defined by a standard protocol instead of mere codes.
Also please check out our cloud mining contract. We are buying more mining machines to keep voting for Bitcoin Unlimited. We’ve already raised more than 90 BTC today. Details here: https://medium.com/@ViaBTC/viabtc-cloud-mining-contract-batch-1-7ab45c6e013f
Ask Me Anything!
1、 Q: Hi Haiyang, thanks for doing this! You used to work at Tencent… what did you do there?
A: I used to work as programmer in Tencent, mainly in Linux-based C/C++ development. I’ve worked in two departments — one is Tencent’s Twitter http://t.qq.com/ and the other is its cloud storage services https://www.qcloud.com/product/cos.html
2、Q: What do you think is stopping the other big pools from mining BU? Or rather, why do you think they’re still on core? Edit: Did you start your mining pool out of frustration on what you perceived as a lack of progress of onchain scaling or were you planning to start a pool anyway and it just so happened to coincide with the blocksize debate?
A: As I know, some big pools that are running on Core are not against big blocks. They are just worried about a Bitcoin fork so they still want Core to compromise. The reason that I started a pool at first is not to support onchain scaling, but a beginning of my business in the industry. Before this, like others, I don’t think scaling has anything to do with me and I believe the community will find a best solution. But when I started to dig deep into this, I found the situation was not going well. And I think I have the responsibility to stand out and make us heard as a big pool.
3、Q: Please describe from your view, how is the mood among (Chinese) miners regarding Core and Bitcoin Unlimted developers/client. Do you see a change? Do you see concerns? What are the current challenges? What is needed to overcome these concerns or challenges? From your view, why do we have miners who strongly support offchain (e.g., BTCC and BitFury)
A: Most pools in China have lost their trust in Core and shifted their attention to Unlimited. I know a couple of pools said in private that they won’t support SW and will support Unlimited instead. The reason that they haven’t shifted to BU is that they are waiting for a better chance and also a possible compromise from Core. Bitcoin business in China is very special as a lot of investors are using CNY. They don’t care about scaling or they don’t even know much about Bitcoin. BTCC gives miners big discounts on fees and supports advance allocation of mining income so that they can buy more machines.
4、Q: When are you going to up your hashrate? Wasn’t it around 10% or so and dropped to 8% or so?
A: The hashrate that we own is actually very little, the great majority comes from our users. Because most miners in China use hydroelectricity, and those areas have lower water levels in winter, some of our users sold off their mining machines, which is what caused the drop in hashrate. But also some of our customers have only just entered the bitcoin mining industry and are currently deploying more machines. We are also using our cloud mining contract to raise money for buying more mining machines of our own.
5、Q: Hello, Haiyang. Thanks for doing this! What do you think about the recent announcement that a Chinese government agency will release its own cryptocurrency?
A: I think this is a very positive development for Bitcoin which shows that the Chinese government is very optimistic about Bitcoin and blockchain technology. It also gives more people the chance to understand Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Overall, it’s just another great way to promote acceptance and recognition of Bitcoin.
6、Q: What effect has announcing Bitcoin Unlimited support had on your pool’s hash rate? Any other insights you can share around that or other aspects of the business regarding market reaction?
A: After we started supporting Bitcoin Unlimited, we actually saw a hashrate increase and several new users, but overall it was not a large increase. The reason for our recent drop in hashrate has to do with the lower water level during China’s winter, and has nothing to do with our support of Bitcoin Unlimited.
7、Q: Do you even run Unlimited or is just core pretending to be Unlimited?
A: We are actually running Bitcoin Unlimited and all our nodes have been updated to BU. And we’ve run very stable with BU in the past month.
8、Q: How do you think our world will look in 5 years? The hockey stick affect is imminent and it feels like a tension is growing. Do you think it will be an economic fallout or do you feel that bitcoin will ease the eruption?
A: I don’t dare to try to predict what will happen with the world economy. But what I do know for sure is that in the next five years, Bitcoin will attract more users and greater acceptance, and because of this the price will go higher and higher. But I think the chance of Bitcoin replacing government currency is very low, because it has its own strengths and weaknesses. I think we will see Bitcoin interfacing with traditional finance in more and more ways, and turn into a key part of the global economy.
9、Q: So this is a chicken & egg problem? if so, what — if anything — do you see being the catalyst to them switching? And what was missing from XT and Classic that led to them failing that is present in BU that you see leading them to becoming the dominant client?
A: More extensive discussion of the development of bitcoin is favorable, XT was too extreme, and Classic was too much of a compromise, BU goes through the market to determine the size of the block. I personally think that is very appropriate. I think the most important thing is BU has the support of Bitmain and F2pool, they have said privately they will switch to BU, I am very much looking forward to the arrival of that day.
10、Q: Are Chinese aware of the massive censorship taking place on the main English speaking Bitcoin news sources? (/r/Bitcoin likely provides more people with their Bitcoin news than every other English language website combined) If they are aware of it, what are their thoughts on it?
A: There is a great divide between the Chinese speaking and English speaking communities, many in China don’t know what is happening in the English-speaking community. The damage that Censorship does to a community is very large, as everyone knows the Chinese internet, media, books, and art are all subject to censorship. This has caused enormous harm to the development of Chinese culture. Every single Chinese person who understands the effects of censorship absolutely hates it.
11、Q: If you want bigger blocks, why do you mine empty blocks and ignore transactions? Bitfury doesn’t do this. Why do you?
A: Mining empty blocks is a necessary consequence of reducing orphan rates and maximizing profits, and it doesn’t directly harm the Bitcoin network. It takes a bit of time from finding a block to having it broadcast to all of the nodes. As soon as a block is found, we begin mining the next one, and if a block is found in a very short time from the previous one, we don’t have time to validate and fill it with transactions, leading to empty blocks. When a full block reaches our nodes, we just begin mining the next block. If we don’t do this, then we will end up with orphaned blocks. Bitfury is foolish, and they don’t understand the significance of this. You can see on blockchain.info, every month they have one or two orphan blocks. If we didn’t do it this way, our empty blocks would have been orphan blocks instead. We have also spent much time increasing our block synchronization, we use what I call “Block high-speed network” technology to propagate blocks quickly. We have deployed nodes around the world for this purpose, and we use something similar to Xthin to get propagation times from 15 seconds down to ~1 second, and an additional 0.5 seconds to verify each block. On average when we broadcast an empty block, within ~1.5 seconds we can start mining a full block again. You can see a comparison here: https://twitter.com/ViaBTC/status/794054512390467584. Also, our empty block rate is almost the lowest: https://btc.com/stats/pool?pool_mode=month
12、Q: Not that I actually believe that Core would ever consider this, but would you be in favor of a compromise plan like this? —
Hardfork to 2MB, 4MB, or even Unlimited emergent consensus
Introduce segwit transaction type
Limit existing transaction types to current 1 MB blocksize and sigops limit (to prevent sigops quadratic scaling problem); remainder of block space only segwit transactions, no discount
The reason I ask is because it always seemed to me that segwit should never have been a softfork hack to increase blocksize by politically bundling it with all kinds of other stuff, perhaps it should’ve been just a way to upgrade everybody to transaction types that take away malleability and don’t have quadratic hashing problem?
A: There are two major problems in Bitcoin now — block size and malleability of transactions. To me, block size is the bigger problem which may obstruct or even end the development of Bitcoin if not solved properly. The problem of malleability started to exist from the birth of Bitcoin and hasn’t caused too much trouble.
The best solution for block size is Bitcoin Unlimited, which goes through the market to decide the most suitable size of a block. If Bitcoin Core wants to compromise, BU will be the only and best proposal.
SegWit is a soft fork solution trying to solve the transaction scalability problem. In order to achieve the soft fork, it greatly modifies Bitcoin transactions and block data structure by use of an ugly double-block plan to deceive the old node and achieve compatibility. The complexity of this design is unacceptable.
In fact, a hard fork can easily solve the problem of malleability. For example, the easiest way is to add a new transaction version number without a change in transaction format. The only thing needed is to modify txid algorithm and delete the signing part. Flexible Transactions is a pretty good solution which will make updates of Bitcoin much easier.
13、Q: If increased capacity as soon as possible is your primary concern, why not activate SegWit first and then pursue a block size increase after that’s complete? It seems that blocking SegWit would delay a capacity increase of any kind.
A: The battle between Bitcoin Unlimited and Segregated Witness is not a scaling battle, it’s actually a battle about Bitcoin’s future path. The Bitcoin Unlimited path advocates following Satoshi Nakamoto’s original development path, and guarantees Bitcoin retains its open and transparent ledger property, allowing more people to use Bitcoin, and allowing Bitcoin to become a globally used and accepted currency. The Segregated Witness path will turn Bitcoin into something that can only be used by a few, that is easily displaced by another cryptocurrency, with no way to realize its vision of becoming a fully anonymous system. It’s seems more likely that the BU path will help Bitcoin develop into a trillion dollar market, and Segregated Witness will cause Bitcoin to turn into something like Tor: limited to a few grey area use cases, and incapable of achieving mainstream acceptance.
14、Q: My question is this: there seem to be some personal attacks, short patience, and insults regarding a hard fork to increase the block size. What has your experience been? Have you faced such an atmosphere, or are most of the people you interact with in your business friendly and/or professional?
A: Most people I’ve talked to face-to-face are very nice and friendly even if we have divided opinions. But there are indeed some that kept attacking us with no good purpose and I have ignored them.
15、Q: How do you feel about a “contentious hard fork” over the maximum block size, resulting in two chains, similar to the ETH and ETC split? Would that be a disaster in your opinion, or an acceptable outcome to you?
A: The greatest danger of a hard fork, it is said, is that it will produce a scenario in which there are two blockchains and thus two different versions of bitcoin. But as far as I can tell, in the scalability debate, the vast majority agree that block size needs to grow sooner or later while the main difference of opinion is over the method used to achieve this. The reason the recent Ethereum hard fork produced two different versions of Ethereum was because a fundamental quality of the ledger, namely its immutability, was permanently changed. Furthermore, because bitcoin’s difficulty adjustment period is two weeks long, with ten minutes per block, whichever branch of the chain has the majority of hashrate behind it is almost certainly guaranteed to be the decisive winner; the chances of a fork producing two different bitcoins are low. The minority-chain will have much slower block production times, and rational miners will switch to the majority-chain to avoid mining at a loss. The only rational choice for a miner will be to join the chain supported by the economic majority.
16、Q: I understand your mining colleagues at other companies want to avoid controversial fork. However, because Blockstream’s agenda overpowers main forums & media routes, open discussion is impossible. To achieve open discussion, please could you ask your mining colleagues to run BitcoinUnlimited, even with settings to keep 1Mb blocks for the time being?
A: What I’ve been doing is talking in depth with Bitmain, haobtc, BW, GBMiners on Bitcoin Unlimited and they all showed their interest and are planning a shift to BU.
17、Q: Do you think Satoshi Nakamoto’s early coins will ever move? :-)
A: I think they will not move for many years yet. Because bitcoin is still far from reaching Satoshi’s ideal scale. He created such a great product, and on whichever day he decides to move the coins it will be a good one, which is what he deserves.
18、Q: ”Bitcoin should be defined by a standard protocol instead of mere codes.” Can you elaborate on it?
A: I do think the centralization of Bitcoin development is an even bigger issue that the block size limit or Segregated Witness. Bitcoin Core has a privileged position as the ‘reference client’. And only a few people have the rights to merge code in it.
I have some thoughts about that, but haven’t worked out all of the details. I think Bitcoin Core’s code should not define Bitcoin. Like many other successful open source projects, there should be a specification document to define Bitcoin. This will help alternative implementations become compatible with Bitcoin Core, meaning they can effectively compete — rather than just follow.
I believe the consensus should not be code, it should be English. It should be understandable for most Bitcoin user, and companies. This way more people can have a voice, an impact.
19、Q: Awesome, is this private software or something you’ll be releasing to the public so many other miners have the chance to use it so mining is on a level playing field? I’d also love to see the stats with both of them head to head.
A: For security purposes, we have no plans to open up our system code for the time being. Our system has already helped other pools to broadcast their blocks, and I’d be happy to run our binaries on other pools and join our network to speed up block synchronization and reduce block rates.
20、Q: Many people wish they could do more to help raise the block size. Do you think running a full node is a useful contribution, even if it is hosted in the cloud? Do you have any other suggestions for how Westerners can contribute, if mining is not economically feasible for them?
A: Running a full node is a great way to have a voice. Mining is an even more direct way to have a vote, which is why we decided to offer our cloud mining contract, to make it simple for anyone to participate in voting through mining. When compared with fiat investment products, the chance of profitability on this contract is actually very high.
21、Q: How did you first find out about Bitcoin? What did you think of it at the time, and how has your view changed since then?
A: I first heard about Bitcoin in the Chinese media when I saw a report on it, the report claimed that it was the most dangerous open source project in history, and I am very skeptical about this type of claim. At that time I was still a student, and I didn’t have any sort of mind for economic things or even spare money to invest, so I missed out on that first opportunity to invest. In 2013, the scale of Bitcoin was already many times larger than it was in 2011, and I no longer had any doubt about it. By then I had already started working, and had some savings, so I was finally able to invest in Bitcoin.
22、Q: In the long-term perfect Bitcoin, do you think miner fees should be dictated by market pressure to fit inside a block, or by miners refusing to mine too-low-fee transactions even though they could include them? Or by some other mechanism?
A: I believe that until Bitcoin has achieved mainstream worldwide adoption, we should not be so strict about the size of the blocks, we should be allowing more and more users to use Bitcoin. All miners have a minimum transaction fee for every transaction, so when the number of transactions is great enough, transaction fees will be sufficient. Even if Bitcoin were already accepted by the mainstream, and ignoring the technical debate, we should not impose too strict a limit on the block size, because having predictable transaction fees and confirmation times is very important for the user experience.
23、Q: My question: what is the general feeling about the blocksize debate in Chinese users (as opposed to miners)
I mean, I guess the standard Chinese user (just like the standard user here in Europe or in the States) won’t even know what is the blocksize debate.
A: In China, the block size debate is very intense, but one thing that is very clear is that the majority of people participating in the debate support increasing the block size. However, we should not forget that there is also a silent majority. I have encountered many people who after understanding the current situation and the debate, they all realize the need for bigger blocks.
24、Q:From Adam Back (Blockstream CEO)
1）Do you understand that BU is non-functional, little tested, partly-implemented, more aspiration than something that could be run with limited developer experience, effectively no QA and bitcoin security management experience and would probably just crash the network for people who followed its blocks?
I’ve already clearly stated my view: the protocol is more important than the code. We’ve been running Bitcoin Unlimited for more than a month with no problems. Of course, if Bitcoin Core were able to take the protocol improvements from Bitcoin Unlimited and integrate them into Core to maintain compatibility, that would be great.
2）Are you aware that I would imagine all 100 of the bitcoin developers listed by previous or recent commits on bitcoin would support the above claim? Does that worry you?
No. If you’d like to participate in improving Bitcoin, that would be great.
3）Do you see the irony of promoting attempting to block or delay segwit activation, while talking about scalability given the 5 or 6 implementations and companies and individuals who are waiting for segwit in order to as soon as safely possible make live beta of lightning which gives scope to have large scale?
Bitcoin on-chain scaling is currently the more pressing question, because the blockchain is full many companies and payment processors have already given up on the idea of integrating Bitcoin. Blockstream has completely ignored this aspect and should feel ashamed by this.
4）Are you aware that transaction malleability fix is much needed by all kinds of features and services?
The block size issue is much more urgent than transaction malleability, but for the previous two years you have done nothing to address this.
5）It is also in my opinion more constructive to submit a BIP with a proposal and get review on it. A number of people implemented sample code, wrote BIPs and proposals for scale options that come after segwit. Are you aware of those? Have opinions?
Bitcoin should follow a protocol specification, and not treat the code as a specification. BIPs attempt to mix these things, this isn’t suitable for a serious project.
6）Does it worry you that a hardfork poorly managed could create multiple forks, funds loss, and price splits? BU is almost certain to be a disorganised network split for those unwise enough to run it, because it includes manual user and service coordination without the backwards compatibility of soft-forks?
If we follow the hard fork method I previously wrote about in my blog, the old chain has almost no chance of surviving. If Bitcoin Core tries to change the proof of work or reset the difficulty, then you will be the ones causing a disorganized network split.
7）Are you actually mining with BU code? Or with bitcoin 0.13.1 and editing the flags/signal message? Are you aware if other pools are?
Yes, we are actually mining with Bitcoin Unlimited. Once Bitcoin Unlimited has enough hashrate, we will allow enough time for the community to upgrade their software.