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How does Bitcoin Cash governance / updates work?

Bitcoin Cash is decentralised, meaning it is a system with no one in charge or able to force action from anyone else. Many cryptocurrencies claim this feature, but the reality is often very different - as power is concentrated on any/all of an "official" foundation, organising body, founder, developer team, media promulgation channel, insider group or other central or network-critical entity of some kind.

Bitcoin Cash has no such thing. It has:

  • No official spokesperson
  • No "central" website
  • No verified Twitter account
  • No foundation or controlling body
  • No venture capital investors
  • No official code repository
  • No central/official anything

The entire ecosystem (miners, developers, community organisations, businesses and end users) operates entirely according to its own volition with no hierarchy or "official" designation of any kind. For example: as with everything else in the ecosystem, The Bitcoin Cash Podcast itself is simply a community run initiative which has no authority beyond the choice of Bitcoin Cash adopters to listen and anyone is free to create a competing podcast or information hub (even with literally the same name if they wanted, although that probably isn't an advisable marketing strategy).

Most critically, BCH currently has six active, independent full node protocol developer teams:

Therefore, BCH has quite a different governance model and update process than other cryptocurrencies, which has developed out of BCH's unique history.

Anyone can propose and lead an upgrade to the network (including proposing a change to the way network changes are proposed or upgrades are accepted!). Network upgrades happen on a yearly schedule in May. Making an update to the network requires building voluntary social consensus of stakeholders through the CHIP (Cash Improvement Proposal) framework. This framework is designed to be:

  • Orderly
  • Transparent
  • Seen well ahead of time
  • Widely consulted, needs buy in from a strong amount of affected stakeholders

This process is slow and energy intensive, but that is by design to ensure only very good ideas with very strong, well meaning champions of the upgrade become widely accepted and implemented.

Note that achieving "consensus" is a rough measure of support by the vast majority of engaged participants. It does not require unanimous and universal acclaim by BCH holders, developers, businesses etc. There is no comprehensive list of all those parties to begin with. Even if there was such a list, achieving 100% agreement is impossible in any large group. Instead, a general acceptance by the network is sufficient. This acceptance is visible via proactive messages of support from relevant people (gathered by the CHIP author) plus a lack of community uproar or controversy.

To have more influence and weight in protocol level discussions, it is beholden on individuals themselves to make noteworthy contributions to the ecosystem and connect to other heavily engaged participants, which can be thought of as "social Proof of Work". Any objections or complaints are also beholden on the individual to raise with specific CHIP authors or to bring to the community at large via public discussion channels. Compelling and well-reasoned objections will build momentum and support from others and create enough doubt to intervene in a CHIP rollout, but objections which are either too weak or too weakly argued to gain credence outside of their progenitor or close circle will be bypassed in favour of forward network progress.

See this video by Satoshi's Angels (another community run organisation) for more information:

For a list of current CHIPs see bch.info/chips. Many proposals for CHIPs start with discussion on Bitcoin Cash Research, although it's also possible to start by contacting relevant stakeholders.

For another explanation of the CHIP process, see this blog post by Jason Dreyzehner.

The latest network upgrade was May 15th 2022. Check out the community live stream of the upgrade activating!

See also: The Bitcoin Cash Podcast's May 2023 CHIP Endorsement