What is Bitcoin SV?

On November 15th, one of the most contentious hard forks in crypto to date took place: Bitcoin Cash forked, and Bitcoin SV was born.

The “SV” in Bitcoin SV stands for “Satoshi Vision,” which represents the core question at the heart of not only the most recent Bitcoin Cash fork, but also the 2017 Bitcoin fork that created Bitcoin Cash in the first place: What kind of cryptocurrency did the original Bitcoin whitepaper really envision, and are modern cryptocurrencies embodying that vision?

Read on to learn the history and philosophy of the newly minted Bitcoin SV, then head over to SFOX to start trading it algorithmically across multiple exchanges from a single account.

Micro Civil Wars and Interpretive Murkiness

The history of Bitcoin SV — and Bitcoin Cash before it — is a little like a miniature Civil War.

Imagine that a certain faction within a country believes that the country’s government has misinterpreted the meaning of its constitution, leading to a society that doesn’t reflect what the nation’s founders envisioned. If the faction is adamant about living according to the founders’ original vision, they have a few options:

  1. They could create a new country from scratch on a fresh piece of land.
  2. They could try to secede from the country, turning their dissenting portion of the country into an entirely new country.
  3. They could try to compel the country to adopt the “correct” meaning of the constitution as they see it — by force, if necessary.

Roughly speaking, this is the range of options available to factions within a blockchain’s community that feel as though the blockchain is somehow failing to live up to its mission: they can [1] create a new blockchain from scratch (the most resource-intensive option), [2] hard-fork the existing blockchain and implement their desired changes on the forked chain, or [3] try to compel the blockchain to adopt their desired changes in one way or another.

The August 2017 fork that created Bitcoin Cash was an instance of [2]: the community behind Bitcoin Cash believed that Bitcoin had strayed from the original goal of creating efficient, peer-to-peer, digital cash, and so they instigated a fork to create a version of Bitcoin focused more exclusively on that goal.

At first glance, Bitcoin SV might seem like the same kind of fork; however, in its initial stages, its community behaved much more like [3]: trying to compel adoption of its preferred vision by force.

When nChain and CoinGeek claimed that Bitcoin Cash had implemented so many protocol changes that it, too, was estranged from the original vision of what Bitcoin ought to be, their followers decided that it was time for a fork of Bitcoin Cash. But once that fork happened and Bitcoin SV was born, they didn’t just roll back those changes and call it a day: for about a week, they also made aggressive, overt attempts to effectively wipe out Bitcoin Cash by taking all of its hash power:

  • Craig Wright of nChain warned that BCH would only “survive” if it updated to a new proof-of-work algorithm, essentially “backing off” from Bitcoin SV’s turf: “They have anything to do with SHA256d…. we come in wave after wave […] Only stopping when they are no more.
  • Calvin Ayre, owner of CoinGeek, wrote on November 20th that CoinGeek intended to “continue voting with our sustained hash power until the rented hash [i.e. BCH’s hash] is gone.
  • On the other side of the “hash war,” Jihan Wu of Bitmain publicly speculated about when he would be able to dump his ~1 million BSV onto the market, which would presumably tank BSV’s price.

The hash war ultimately ceased when BCH and BSV implemented replay protection and permanently split from one another, showing that they each had a sufficient community to sustain themselves without annihilating each other — but, given the chain’s beginnings, it will be interesting to see how Bitcoin SV interacts with other crypto communities in the months and years to come.

The Future of “Forked Arbitration”

There’s a certain irony worth noting in the development approach of blockchain communities like Bitcoin SV’s and Bitcoin Cash’s: in trying to capture a particular vision of universal, digital cash, they run the risk of inadvertently making that very vision harder to realize.

Cryptocurrencies by market dominance, as of December 20, 2018. Source: BitInfoCharts.


It’s probably the case that groups argue over the “true vision” of what Bitcoin is and ought to be because Bitcoin remains the leading cryptocurrency by far, responsible for over half of the total crypto market cap. That means that Bitcoin has a special significance in the young crypto sector. Not only was it the progenitor of the modern crypto market: it’s also the most widely used and recognized cryptocurrency, the one that serves as many people and institution’s first exposure to blockchain technology.

For these reasons, many are concerned with whether the substance of Bitcoin accurately reflects its vision and promise. It’s what’s led outspoken Bitcoin Cash evangelists like Roger Ver to insist that Bitcoin Cash is “the real Bitcoin,” and it’s what’s led the Bitcoin SV community to literally include “Satoshi Vision” in their name.

What’s ironic about these efforts to fork and create the “true” Bitcoin is that such communities run the risk, in theory, of what made Bitcoin promising in the first place: if Bitcoin-derived blockchains continue to secede-via-forking in the way we’ve seen over the past year, the Bitcoin community could end up becoming so fragmented that it loses some of its clout as a leading point-of-entry for newcomers in the crypto space. If such fragmentation were to become too severe, newly forked chains like Bitcoin SV could end up being unable to sustain themselves — collapsing inward like the Ouroboros.

For the time being, though, Bitcoin SV has settled and established itself as a distinct cryptocurrency with a community and market of its own, coming in as the #5 cryptocurrency by market cap at the time of writing. Time will tell what the future holds for this chain and its distinctive vision of peer-to-peer cash.

For the best execution on your largest BSV trades, sign up for an SFOX account and start trading across multiple leading exchanges with our institution-grade algorithms.

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