Spot Bitcoin ETFs and the Centralization Controversy: A New Civil War Looms

20 May 2024

Since the approval of Bitcoin ETFs based on the spot market at the beginning of 2024, it seems clear that we're getting closer day by day to a new civil war in the Bitcoin world.

You may not have experienced the previous one, commonly known as “The Blocksize War” that took place between 2015 and 2017, but this new civil war that's looming promises to be intense.

The positive thing to remember about the previous civil war that took place is that Bitcoin once again emerged stronger than ever. Bitcoin generally always emerges stronger from such events, but the big question is whether Bitcoin remains true to the original meaning of its revolution or turns away from what Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned when Bitcoin was created.

Bitcoin was first created as “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”.

Now some, like Michael J. Saylor, would have us believe that Bitcoin as a means of exchange or payment is just a distraction. Michael J. Saylor is pushing in the direction of financial giants like BlackRock, who would like to reduce Bitcoin to a formidable store of value. Their goal? To integrate Bitcoin as seamlessly as possible into the current monetary and financial system, so as to line their own pockets!

That's not what Bitcoin was created for. To pretend that it was is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty.

Above all, it means making Bitcoin a little more centralized every day, taking the risk that it will come under the control of the powerful people at the head of the current system. Over the past few weeks, you've seen a growing number of headlines suggesting that more and more banks have bought into Bitcoin, as have a number of financial institutions.

In reality, these banks and financial institutions have just invested in Bitcoin Spot ETFs from BlackRock or other financial giants. Since the majority of these financial giants don't own the private keys of the Bitcoin they hold on behalf of their clients, you begin to see that the whole thing is a monumental, but mostly centralized, house of cards.

90% of the financial giants who have launched their Bitcoin Spot ETFs use Coinbase to manage their Bitcoin. Everything is centralized in Coinbase. Potential attackers wishing to undermine this system need only target Coinbase...

A far cry from the decentralized ideal of the Bitcoin system.

What's even more worrying is that all the Bitcoin held by Coinbase on behalf of these financial giants for their clients is blocked and therefore unusable. There's always this desire to reduce Bitcoin to a store of value, whereas Bitcoin needs to circulate and be exchanged in order to exploit the full potential of the Bitcoin system.

Bitcoin is gradually being marginalized by being integrated into the current system. This is the danger that Bitcoin influencers, more than ever attracted by the lure of profit, refuse to denounce. Opposite them, you'll find long-standing contributors to Bitcoin Core who take offense at this situation and, like yours truly, raise alerts to the community. Unfortunately, these alerts carry little weight in the face of the speculation that some prefer to promote.

Matt Corallo, one of the main contributors to Bitcoin Core, states in a blog post that the next few years will be as crucial for Bitcoin as the famous “Blocksize War” I mentioned earlier.

According to Matt Corallo, Bitcoin was always conceived as a way for individuals to carry out P2P transactions, without the control or interference of a third party. However, this original ideal is now under threat. You can't say I haven't been warning you about this potential risk for months.

While the Bitcoin community has long focused on improving the network's transactional capabilities via solutions such as the Lightning Network, this effort is now coming up against a major stumbling block: the inevitable presence of a centralized, unreliable party in the payment flow.

Unfortunately, all the ideas for making Bitcoin (or any other cryptocurrency) useful for transactions tend to have an unreliable part in the flow of funds,” laments Matt Corallo. And these centralized parts are increasingly being targeted by regulators.

Indeed, no current solution enables fully decentralized end-to-end crypto transactions. This loophole leaves the door open to increased and potentially coercive regulation of these payment intermediaries, warns Matt Corallo.

The regulatory tightening against players in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency world and the ambiguous positioning of part of the Bitcoin community have Matt Corallo fearing the worst. Some now see Bitcoin as nothing more than a speculative asset and reject the non-KYC payment rails that are vital to preserving users' freedom.

To top it all off, the increasing centralization of mining could be the weak link through which stifling regulation would descend on Bitcoin. Matt Corallo warns that the Bitcoin ecosystem is plagued by infighting, and today lacks the necessary weapons to counter these existential threats.

The future of Bitcoin as a tool for global financial freedom has never been more uncertain. Without community mobilization, the dream of a free and decentralized Bitcoin could quickly turn into a nightmare.

Matt Corallo's warning should sound like an electroshock!

To save Bitcoin and its original ideal, a crucial battle is looming on several fronts: drastically improve wallet confidentiality, work towards regulatory change, deploy scalability solutions on a global scale, but also fight to ensure that Bitcoin remains an alternative system and not one integrated into the current system.

Without awareness and massive efforts in this direction, the Bitcoin revolution may well fail to reach its full potential. That would be a huge waste!