Do "the official bitcoin developers" control Bitcoin?



Is there one person or organization that controls Bitcoin?

What if Gavin Andresen, the lead developer, or Bitcoin Foundation, "the official bitcoin organization", decide to change something? What if they release a new version of the software that changes the coin limit, or enforce government regulation?


Posted 2013-03-08T12:07:03.593

Reputation: 25 852

1I of course know the answer, I'm just looking for a canonical written answer so I can refer people who don't know the answer to this resource. Is there a FAQ entry? A good article that explains it? – ripper234 – 2013-03-08T12:07:38.070



At the moment in my opinion, Gavin does indeed control Bitcoin Project to some extent. He is widely recognised as the main developer behind it and could probably push his authority on a lot of subjects if he so desired. However, I am under the impression that he would not perform such actions - they would undermine the credibility of Bitcoin and be bad for everyone.

He does appear to have a lot of influence over a lot of aspects of the Standard Client, the Protocol and overall behaviour exhibited by Bitcoin. He will most likely have the final say for example on the subject of block size limit. However, if he would change any more major aspect of Bitcoin that would undermine a lot of other people's work, say by changing the mining algorithm hard coded into the ASICs, it wouldn't be long before he would lose his position of authority and possibly create a hard fork.

So to sum up, at the moment Gavin is de facto the person who controls Bitcoin on its most basic level, and he will most likely hold that position of authority only as long as he remains a "benevolent tyrant" so to speak.


Posted 2013-03-08T12:07:03.593

Reputation: 42 235

1I somewhat agree, but I would qualify your answer further and emphesize that there are something things that Gavin, or anyone else, just can't change. Even if somehow 99.9% of Bitcoin developers, users, and miners agree to it, Bitcoin will never have more than 21,000,000 BTC. There are a few other properties that will never change, or if they change it will create something new, but not Bitcoin. – ripper234 – 2013-03-08T12:26:38.913

2@ripper234 Even if somehow 99.9% of Bitcoin developers, users, and miners agree to it I disagree. If that were to happen, the word 'Bitcoin' would almost always refer to the new Bitcoin network. There might be some section of the internet that preferred to deal in 'old bitcoins', but they would be in the 0.1%. That being said, getting 99.9% of any group to agree on something isn't possible for groups larger than 3 people. – Nick ODell – 2013-03-09T00:21:57.160

1@ripper234 It could be done, one would just need to create a hard fork. This, however, would undermine a huge part of the Bitcoin project. – ThePiachu – 2013-03-09T08:08:36.067

History proved that to be wrong :) – darosior – 2020-12-29T19:06:23.840

Well, some devs have been ousted, some have forked, some people have had disagreements over which way Bitcoin development should go, and it seems Bitcoin is on the more conversative side of things. Turns out block limit is more divisive issue than total coin cap :D – ThePiachu – 2020-12-30T00:04:39.997

@NickODell "Getting 99.9% of any group to agree on something isn't possible for groups larger than 3 people." Which is exactly why the Bitcoin project will break up owing to disagreements over the 21M limit. History shows we like to create money out of thin air when we have that option. In Bitcoin, we have that option. – Manish – 2013-04-19T11:50:06.520

@Manish Since we already have one halving day behind us and no forks about the limit thus far, I think we are in the clear. – ThePiachu – 2013-04-19T18:21:26.463

@ThePiachu Let's see what happens when the price of a bitcoin is $10,000 and it's an important part of the economy (and not just for playing SatoshiDice). Also, see Nassim Taleb's Thanksgiving turkey. – Manish – 2013-04-19T19:42:34.287

@Manish We will see in 3 years and a bit then. – ThePiachu – 2013-04-19T22:46:59.327


They control bitcoin in the same sense that Queen Elizabeth controls the United Kingdom.

In theory, she has the power to something highly destructive, eg. order the military to drop a nuclear weapon on France.

In practice, unless her decisions agree with democratic consensus, she will almost certainly be dethroned.


Posted 2013-03-08T12:07:03.593

Reputation: 233


These might be a little stale, but:

Development process:

Release process:

But bitcoin is controlled by the economic majority (those who will buy the coins that are issued after the new software is released):

Stephen Gornick

Posted 2013-03-08T12:07:03.593

Reputation: 26 454

1Answers should be a bit more than just links. – ripper234 – 2013-03-09T07:12:05.297

Duplication means more places where stale or incorrect information is found. – Stephen Gornick – 2013-03-11T10:14:35.623

Yeah, all I'm saying is that it's best to provide a TL;DR in your answer instead of just linking. – ripper234 – 2013-03-11T14:28:52.783