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If a new cryptocurrency is created, with some unknown property that Bitcoin does not have, can Bitcoin be adapted to include this property, or will Bitcoin become obsolete?

(I believe I know the answer, but I still think it's an important question. Spurred by this reddit post)

  • I am shocked that this question is not closed. It's like the cultural revolution in this sub site... – puk Dec 5 '13 at 13:19
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If it is a feature for the client that doesn't affect the Bitcoin network (like say, stronger wallet encryption or something like that), it is not a problem.

If the feature is related to the cryptographic security (say, SHA-2 becomes somehow obsolete), then adoption might be problematic. First of all, the developers would have to prepare the change and schedule it in advance (for example, "Starting with block X, we will be using SHA-3"). This would require all the clients, both standard and alternative, to get updated before that time or risk not being able to connect to the network.

Moreover, if the change is related to a vulnerability of a cryptographic algorithm of Bitcoins, then the entire network might get compromised before the update could happen. For example, if securing the old coins would require one to send them to a new address, then in a short period of time before everyone would do it, someone could potentially steal a lot of coins. Luckily, a scenario like this is very unlikely.

All in all, adopting new features into Bitcoin is possible, although time and consideration is required. Bitcoin's value is in its stable nature, so revolutionary changes could only destabilize it.

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  • That's not how I would have phrased the answer. I would have said, in a positive manner, that for most new features of ant alt, if it would be important enough to make Bitcoin obsolete, than it would almost certainly be possible to adjust the protocol, with coordination by most of the miners and client, to include the new feature. – ripper234 Dec 31 '11 at 2:40
  • @ripper234 I think that the only feature that would make Bitcoin obsolete is related to underlying security. Smaller features like convenience or some versatility improvements would not Bitcoin obsolete, just less convenient. Similarly to C and C++, the latter has many vast improvements over the first one, but C is still used. – ThePiachu Dec 31 '11 at 16:06

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