Back to the Future: An Interview with David Schwartz and Stefan Thomas

On the latest episode of Block Stars, David Schwartz aka “JoelKatz”—as he’s known online—the creator of the XRP Ledger and current CTO of Ripple, sat down with Stefan Thomas, former CTO of Ripple and current CEO of Coil, to discuss the early days of blockchain, and their time working together on the XRP Ledger, Codius and Interledger Protocol (ILP).

One of the things that most people don’t realize about David and Stefan is that, prior to Ripple, they both used to work on Bitcoin. Stefan helped create BitcoinJS, which is a JavaScript implementation of the Bitcoin blockchain. David tinkered around with Bitcoin Core, as a C++ developer with a lot of experience using applied cryptography to build distributed systems, and helped the early core contributors solve some problems via the Bitcoin forum.

Both were inspired by the decentralized nature of the technology, but also recognized some issues early on, and sought to fix them.

Change is Hard(fork)

Like any open source protocol, proposing changes requires consensus among the developers and network operators (miners and full node operators in Bitcoin’s case) to ensure that the change is both beneficial and won’t hurt the network. Anyone can propose a change, but getting that change to be implemented and released into the live network can be challenging, and rightfully so. If every proposed change were automatically implemented, it could marginalize users and/or hurt the network.

In the early days of Bitcoin, the largest proposed changes appeared on a “hardfork wishlist,” which if implemented, would require everyone to upgrade to the latest version with the change, rendering previous versions incompatible with the latest version. Normally in software this would simply be an annoyance, but in blockchain technology like Bitcoin, if one doesn’t upgrade during a hardfork, then ...

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Insights – Ripple

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