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?

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    I 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
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 12:07

3 Answers 3


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.

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    I 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
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 12:26
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    @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
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 0:21
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    @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
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 8:08
  • @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
    Commented Apr 19, 2013 at 11:50
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    History proved that to be wrong :) Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 19:06

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):

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    Answers should be a bit more than just links.
    – ripper234
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 7:12
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    Duplication means more places where stale or incorrect information is found. Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 10:14
  • Yeah, all I'm saying is that it's best to provide a TL;DR in your answer instead of just linking.
    – ripper234
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 14:28

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.

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