Wladimir Van Der Laan, the developer who has been at the helm of Bitcoin for 8 years, is jumping ship
The page is turning for the Bitcoin network. Its chief developer, successor to Satoshi Nakamoto, abandons ship. who was he and what will happen now? BFM Crypto is taking stock.
Wladimir Van Der Laan, this name may mean nothing to you, yet he is one of the most important Bitcoin developers to date. At the helm of Bitcoin Core since 2014, the open source Bitcoin software, Wladimir Van Der Laan decided in August to retire from the project.
What was his role for eight years? Why did he decide to jump when bitcoin became the queen of cryptocurrencies? Who will replace him? BFM Crypto reflects on his journey and his vision for the Bitcoin network.
To understand the importance of this person, you need to know that the number of Bitcoin Core “lead developers” today can be counted on the fingers of one hand. First there was Satoshi Nakamoto (the founder of Bitcoin) between 2009 and 2011, then Gavin Andresen between 2011 and 2014 and finally Wladimir Van Der Laan since April 7, 2014. Suffice it to say that it was he who saw the Bitcoin blockchain and his own cryptocurrency. Bitcoin has grown in popularity over the last few years, from a few hundred euros in 2014 to more than 23,000 euros at the time of writing.
He ran a Bitcoin bar for 8 years
As the lead developer of Bitcoin Core, he was responsible for the proper functioning of the network in coordination with other developers and contributors to the Bitcoin network. So he ran the bitcoin ship for eight years, much longer than Satoshi Nakamoto, while remaining very discreet within the crypto community itself.
As a reminder, Bitcoin Core is an open source software released by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, originally under the name Bitcoin Qt. This software is open and available to everyone, as is the very philosophy of bitcoin, which is decentralized. . But what is this software for? It has several functions. On the one hand, Bitcoin Core provides access to the Bitcoin network and therefore receives, sends or simply verifies transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. It is still downloaded and mostly used by bitcoin miners today.
Moreover, since the software is open source, it can be modified by anyone (developers, contributors, etc.). The latest version of Bitcoin Core is from April 2022. Although anyone can contribute to the development of the network, there is a certain hierarchy within Bitcoin Core, led by a lead developer (or maintainer) (Wladimir van der Laan), a general maintainer (Pieter Wuille), or even the build and general maintainer (Michael Ford), as well as a few other maintainers.
But this summer of 2022, the team at the helm of Bitcoin Core is no longer the same face. Before the departure announced by Wladimir Van Der Laan on August 8, it was the one who until now was considered the number 2 of Bitcoin Core who also decided to leave the project, after several years of activity.
The latter explains that he will not stop “contributing to the code, the audit” and all the projects in which he is involved. “I just happen to not do much maintenance anymore, so it’s time to give up my permits,” de Latter said.
“Time to move on,” a nod to Satoshi
But who exactly is Vladimir Van Der Laan? This computer professional has managed to leave very little trace of his personal life on the web. Cypherpunk from Amsterdam, quickly specialized in computer code and from the beginning in bitcoin. The latter became a contributor to Bitcoin Core in 2011 before becoming its lead developer in 2014.
But eight years later, he decided to leave the adventure. This August, he changed his Twitter bio (@orionwl), indicating “ex Bitcoin Core”. With various messages on the social network, he confirmed that he was leaving the project.
“I think it’s almost time to move on,” he tweeted. It’s probably a slight nod to Satoshi Nakamoto, the founder of bitcoin in 2009. In a final email exchange from April 2011 with Mike Hearn, one of bitcoin’s contributors, Satoshi Nakamoto would explain that he wanted to “move on” with Bitcoin. Since then, there has been no news from this mysterious character, but the discussion forum “Bitcoin Talk” that he himself created is still going strong.
What are the reasons that led Vladimir Van Der Laan to jump on board? The latter admitted on a social network that he was “exhausted” and “under stress”. The latter says about himself “tired of the same discussions, the same problems. It’s been a long time. I’ve changed, the world has changed and I feel it’s time to move on”. Indeed, the latter evokes his mental health as he sought to hold the helm of the bitcoin network, which is a network with numerous debates, attempted forks, various philosophies (bitcoin maximalists and others) that has continued to grow and strengthen in recent years. ..
When asked by a Twitter user what is more important than Bitcoin, the latter had the merit of being clear.
“I don’t know what to say, look around you, what’s important to you? Sometimes priorities have changed, but you’re stuck in a certain routine, or you realize you’ve left too much behind. things go too far from a sense of responsibility,” he said. .
If his Twitter account gathers the opinion of the latter and several reasons for his departure, his desire to leave Bitcoin was first expressed in January 2021, in the last post on his blog to date. This post also helps in understanding his vision for the Bitcoin network.
“Recent events made me think about some things in my life that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Also, the responses on social media made me realize that people have strange expectations of me and what my role is in the Bitcoin Core project,” wrote Vladimir Van Der Laan a little over a year ago.
“We have to start taking decentralization seriously”
In his post, the latter specifically expresses concerns about the protocol.
“Bitcoin has grown a lot since I started contributing to it in 2011. Some arrangements that were acceptable for a small FOSS project are not. More so for a project running a $600 billion system,” he said.
“One thing is clear: this is now a serious project and we need to start taking decentralization seriously,” he wrote.
The latter admits that he himself would be a “centralized bottleneck”, refusing to appear as a “person” in the eyes of the community.
“And while I think Bitcoin is an extremely interesting project and I think it’s one of the most important things going on right now, I have a lot of other interests as well. It’s also particularly stressful and I don’t want this project, or the weird social media bickering about it, to begin to define me as a person.”
Already last year, he admitted that he was no longer the most active developer of the network, citing the activities of other developers, including Jonas Schnelli, MarcoFalke, Pieter Wuille and Samuel Dobson. But who could succeed him?
“Van der Laan is the only one who holds the administrative key that gives access to Bitcoin Core GitHub. His ultimate goal would be to make access to this key completely decentralized, so that Bitcoin no longer needs a main maintainer,” cryptoast media emphasized.
With his departure, what will happen to Bitcoin Core now? You can find elements of the answer again in his last post. The latter indicated his willingness to “move” bitcoincore.org into an organization instead of private ownership “so that there is less incentive to try to take bitcoincore.org down.”
“In the long run, you need to completely distance yourself from a website that distributes the code. Regardless of who owns it, a website online can be shut down at the click of a button, and the internet world seems to be gearing up to make censorship easier and easier,” he added.
So will he really pass the torch? If the bitcoin philosophy itself takes time, nothing is less certain. What is certain is that the page is turning for the Bitcoin network.