Jan3 CEO Samson Mow has said that comparing Bitcoin to crypto is like comparing “an aircraft to a paper airplane.” Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said, “It will be a multichain world.”
These opposing statements are the latest front in the longest-running feud in cryptocurrency — the battle between Bitcoin (BTC) and everything else that followed.
For the crypto masses, those individuals who hold only to a single blockchain are often referred to as the maximalists.
Bitcoin maximalism is almost as old as Bitcoin itself, with the phenomenon emerging not long after its creation.
According to Bitcoin educator and self-confessed Bitcoin maximalist Giacomo Zucco, maximalists hold four truths dearly:
- Everything that is not Bitcoin is a scam.
- Every attempt at changing Bitcoin is a scam.
- Every attempt at pushing people to spend Bitcoin is a scam.
- We shouldn’t be nice to scammers.
Even in the earliest days of blockchain, altcoins began proliferating. Most of them were low-effort forks of Bitcoin that offered little new. By 2010, the term shitcoin was born.
In 2011, Litecoin (LTC) launched, a cryptocurrency that was similar to Bitcoin, save for a few minor tweaks to its codebase. At least, that’s certainly how it began. Litecoin remains a top-20 cryptocurrency by market capitalization to this day.
Over the next few years, Bitcoin developers and community members started to wonder what else might be achieved with blockchain and cryptocurrency.
In 2014, Bitcoin developers, including Adam Back, produced the “Sidechains white paper,” touted in some quarters as the “altcoin killer.” The Sidechains white paper was an ambitious document, touching on diverse topics such as contracts and zero-knowledge proofs. Today, these ideas are mostly discussed outside of Bitcoin circles, not within.
That’s a small indication that whatever Bitcoin maximalism is, it can change and evolve.
Sidechains eventually led to the Lightning Network and Liquid. But whatever sidechains accomplished for Bitcoin, they failed to kill altcoins. In reality, altcoins were just about ready to take off, like a rocket ship to the moon.
A very Vitalik problem
In 2014, Vitalik Buterin outlined the concept of Bitcoin exceptionalism in a lengthy essay, defining maximalism as “the idea that an environment of multiple competing cryptocurrencies is undesirable, that it is wrong to launch ‘yet another coin,’ and that it is…