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Don't Break Userspace!

The Philosophy of “Don’t Break Userspace” vs. Bitcoin Development: A Comparison

Linus Torvald’s philosophy of Linux kernel development is governed by one core principle, “Don’t break userspace.” How does this philosophy map to development of the Bitcoin protocol?,The philosophy of “Don’t break userspace” coined by Linus Torvalds for Linux kernel development is not directly applicable to the development of the Bitcoin protocol. While there are some similarities between the two, they are fundamentally different in nature.

The “Don’t break userspace” principle in Linux development refers to the commitment of maintaining backward compatibility and ensuring that existing software running on the Linux operating system continues to work without any issues even as the kernel evolves. This philosophy ensures a smooth transition for users and developers.

In contrast, the development of the Bitcoin protocol prioritizes consensus and security over backward compatibility. The Bitcoin protocol is designed to be decentralized and resistant to censorship, manipulation, and attacks. In order to achieve this, there are instances where changes to the protocol are necessary, even if they may not be backward-compatible.

Bitcoin developers follow a process known as the “Bitcoin Improvement Proposal” (BIP) to propose and discuss changes to the Bitcoin protocol. These proposals go through a rigorous review process and must gain consensus from the community before being implemented. This ensures that changes to the protocol are well-vetted and widely accepted.

While the Bitcoin protocol strives to maintain forward compatibility by giving users and developers the option to upgrade to the latest version, there have been instances where backward-incompatible changes have been made when necessary, such as the introduction of Segregated Witness (SegWit) in 2017.

Overall, the philosophy of Bitcoin development aligns more closely with the idea of ensuring the long-term security and stability of the network rather than preserving backward compatibility at all costs.

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