A page turns for the Bitcoin network. Its main developer, successor to Satoshi Nakamoto, is leaving the ship. who was he? And what will happen now? BFM Crypto takes stock.
Wladimir Van Der Laan, this name may not mean anything to you and yet he is one of the most important bitcoin developers to date. At the head of Bitcoin Core since 2014, the open source Bitcoin software, Wladimir Van Der Laan decided in August to withdraw from the project.
What was his role for eight years? Why did he decide to jump ship when bitcoin became the queen of cryptocurrencies? Who will replace him? BFM Crypto looks back on his journey and his vision of the Bitcoin network.
To understand the importance of this person, it is necessary to know that the number of “main developer” of Bitcoin Core can be counted today on the fingers of one hand. First there was Satoshi Nakamoto between 2009 and 2011, then Gavin Andresen between 2011 and 2014 and finally Wladimir Van Der Laan from April 7, 2014. Suffice to say that he was the one who saw the Bitcoin blockchain and his own cryptocurrency bitcoin has grown in popularity in recent years, to the point of going from a few hundred euros in 2014 to more than 23,000 euros at the time of writing this paper.
He led the Bitcoin boat for 8 years
As the main developer of the Bitcoin Core, he was responsible for the proper functioning of the network in coordination with the other developers and contributors of the Bitcoin network. He therefore led the Bitcoin boat for eight years, much longer than Satoshi Nakamoto, while remaining very discreet within the crypto community itself.
As a reminder, the Bitcoin Core is an open source software which was published by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, initially under the name Bitcoin Qt. This software is open and accessible to everyone, as is the very philosophy of bitcoin which is decentralized. . But what is this software for? It has several functions. On the one hand, Bitcoin Core allows access to the Bitcoin network and therefore to receive, send or simply verify transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. It is still today downloaded and mainly used by bitcoin miners.
Moreover, the software being open-source, it can therefore be modified by anyone (developers, contributors, etc.). The latest version of Bitcoin Core is from April 2022. Although anyone can contribute to the development of the network, there is a certain hierarchy within Bitcoin Core, headed by a main developer (or maintainer) (Wladimir van der Laan), a general maintainer (Pieter Wuille), or a build and general maintainer (Michael Ford) as well as another handful of other maintainers.
But in this summer of 2022, the team at the head of Bitcoin Core no longer really has the same face. Before the departure Wladimir Van Der Laan announced on August 8, it was the one who was until now considered the number 2 of Bitcoin Core who also decided to leave the project, with several years of activity.
The latter explains that he will not stop “contributing to the code, the revision” and all the projects in which he is involved. “I just happen to not be doing much maintenance anymore, so it’s time to drop my permissions,” de Latter said.
“It’s time to move on”, a nod to Satoshi
But who is Wladimir Van Der Laan really? This information pro managed to leave very little trace of his private life on the web. A cypherpunk from Amsterdam, he quickly specialized in computer code and from the start in bitcoin. The latter became a contributor to the Bitcoin Core in 2011 before becoming its main developer in 2014.
But eight years later, he decided to leave the adventure. This August he changed his bio on Twitter (@orionwl), indicating “ex Bitcoin Core”. Through various messages on the social network, he confirmed that he was leaving the project.
“I think it’s almost time for me to move on,” he tweeted. A little nod was probably made to Satoshi Nakamoto, the founder of bitcoin in 2009. In a last email exchange dating from April 2011 with Mike Hearn, one of the bitcoin contributors, Satoshi Nakamoto would have explained that wanted to “move on” with Bitcoin. Since then, no more news from this mysterious character, but the “Bitcoin Talk” discussion forum that he himself created continues to be in full swing.
What are the reasons that prompted Wladimir Van Der Laan to jump ship? On the social network, the latter admitted to being “exhausted” and “stressed”. The latter says to himself “tired of the same discussions, the same problems. It’s been a long time. I’ve changed, the world has changed, and I feel it’s time to move on”. Indeed, the latter evokes his mental health as he sought to hold the bar of the bitcoin network which is a network with many discussions, fork attempts, various philosophies (bitcoin maximalists and others) which has continued to grow and gain strength in recent years…
When asked by a Twitter user what was more important than bitcoin, the latter had the merit of being clear.
“I don’t know what to say, look around, what’s important to you? Sometimes priorities have changed, but you’re stuck in a certain routine, or you realize you’ve left too much behind. things go too far out of a sense of responsibility,” he said.
If his Twitter account gathers the latter’s opinions and the few reasons for his departure, his desire to leave Bitcoin was for the first time in January 2021, in the last post to date of his blog. This post also helps to understand his vision of the Bitcoin network.
“Recent events have made me think about some things in my life that I’ve been thinking about for some time. Also, the responses on social media have made me realize that people have strange expectations of me, and what my role is in the Bitcoin Core project,” Wladimir Van Der Laan wrote a little over a year ago.
“We need to start taking decentralization seriously”
In his post, the latter expresses in particular his concerns vis-à-vis the Bitcoin network.
“Bitcoin has grown a lot since I started contributing to it in 2011. Some arrangements that were acceptable for a small-scale FOSS project are not. more for a project managing a $600 billion system,” he said.
“One thing is clear: this is a serious project now, and we need to start taking decentralization seriously,” he wrote.
The latter admits that he himself would be “a centralized bottleneck”, refusing to appear in the eyes of the community as a “person”.
“And while I find Bitcoin to be an extremely interesting project and I think it’s one of the most important things going on right now, I also have a lot of other interests. That’s also particularly stressful and I don’t want this project, or the weird social media spats surrounding it, to start defining me as a person.”
Already last year, he admitted that he was no longer the network’s most active developer, citing the activities of other developers, including Jonas Schnelli, MarcoFalke, Pieter Wuille and Samuel Dobson. But who could succeed him?
“Van der Laan is the only one who holds the administrative key giving access to Bitcoin Core’s GitHub. His ultimate goal would be to make access to this key completely decentralized, so that Bitcoin no longer needs a main maintainer”, underlines cryptoast media.
With his departure, what will happen now for Bitcoin Core? Elements of answers can once again be found in his last post. The latter had indicated his willingness to “transfer” bitcoincore.org to an organization instead of private ownership “so that there is less incentive to try to bring down bitcoincore.org”.
“In the long run, you have to move completely away from a website for code distribution. Regardless of who owns it, a website on the network can be shut down with the push of a button, and it seems like the internet world is preparing to make censorship easier and easier,” he added.
So will he really pass the torch? If it takes time for the very philosophy of bitcoin, nothing is less certain. What is certain is that a page is turning for the Bitcoin network.