Wladimir Van Der Laan, the developer who spent 8 years at the helm of Bitcoin, jumps ship

A page is turned for the Bitcoin network. The main developer, the successor to Satoshi Nakamoto, is leaving the ship. who was he? And what will happen now? BFM Crypto takes stock.

Wladimir Van Der Laan, this name may not mean anything to you and yet he is one of the most important bitcoin developers to date. Heading Bitcoin Core since 2014, the open source Bitcoin software, Wladimir Van Der Laan decided to pull out of the project in August.

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 looks back on his journey and his vision of the Bitcoin network.

To understand the importance of this person, you should know that the number of Bitcoin Core “lead developers” today can be counted on the fingers of one hand. First there was Satoshi Nakamoto (founder of Bitcoin) between 2009 and 2011, then Gavin Andresen between 2011 and 2014 and finally Wladimir Van Der Laan from April 7, 2014. Suffice it to say that it was he who saw the blockchain Bitcoin and its own cryptocurrency. Bitcoin has grown in popularity in recent years, from a few hundred euros in 2014 to more than 23,000 euros at the time of writing this article.

He ran the Bitcoin bar for 8 years

As the lead developer of the Bitcoin Core, he was responsible for the smooth functioning of the network in coordination with the other developers and contributors of the Bitcoin network. He therefore led the Bitcoin boat 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 that was published by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, initially under the name Bitcoin Qt. This software is open and accessible to everyone, just like the philosophy of bitcoin, which is decentralized. . But what is this software for? It has multiple functions. On the one hand, Bitcoin Core allows access to the Bitcoin network and thus to receive, send or easily verify transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. It is still downloaded today and mainly used by bitcoin miners.

In addition, the software is open source and therefore can be modified by anyone (developers, contributors, etc.). The latest version of Bitcoin Core is from April 2022. While anyone can contribute to the development of the network, there is a certain hierarchy within Bitcoin Core, headed by a lead developer (or maintainer) (Wladimir van der Laan), a general maintainer ( Pieter Wuille), or even a construction and general maintainer (Michael Ford) and a handful of other maintainers.

But in this summer of 2022, the team at the head of Bitcoin Core doesn’t really have the same face anymore. Before the departure announced by Wladimir Van Der Laan on August 8, it was the one so far regarded as Bitcoin Core’s number 2 who also decided to abandon the project, with several years of activity.

The latter explains that he will not stop “contributing to the code, the revision” and all the projects in which he is involved. “I just don’t do a lot of maintenance anymore, so it’s time to drop my rights,” said de Latter.

“It’s time to move on”, a nod to Satoshi

But who is Wladimir Van Der Laan anyway? This computer professional has managed to leave very few traces of his private life on the web. Cypherpunk from Amsterdam he soon specialized in computer code and from the beginning in bitcoin. The latter contributed to the Bitcoin Core in 2011 before becoming the main developer in 2014.

But eight years later, he decided to abandon the adventure. In August, he changed his bio on Twitter (@orionwl), stating “ex Bitcoin Core”. Through several posts on the social network, he confirmed that he was leaving the project.

“I think it’s almost time to move on,” he tweeted. A small nod was probably made to Satoshi Nakamoto, the founder of bitcoin in 2009. In a last April 2011 email exchange with Mike Hearn, one of bitcoin’s contributors, Satoshi Nakamoto is said to have explained that he wanted to “keep going.” with Bitcoins. Since then, no more news of this mysterious character, but the discussion forum “Bitcoin Talk” that he created himself remains in full swing.

What are the reasons why Wladimir Van Der Laan disembarked? On the social network, the latter admitted to being “exhausted” and “stressed”. The latter tells himself “tired of the same discussions, the same problems. It has been a long time. I have changed, the world has changed and I feel it is time to move on”. The latter indeed raises his sanity as he tried to keep the helm of the bitcoin network, a network with many discussions, forks, different philosophies (bitcoin maximalists and others) that have continued to grow and become stronger in recent years. ..

When a Twitter user asked him what was 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 are going too far hand sense of responsibility,” he says.

If his Twitter account collects the latter’s opinions and the few reasons for his departure, his desire to leave Bitcoin was first in January 2021, in the last post to date of his blog. This post also helps to understand his view of the Bitcoin network.

“Recent events have made me think about some things in my life that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Also, the reactions on social media have made me realize that people have strange expectations of me, and what my role is in the Bitcoin Core- project,” Wladimir Van Der Laan wrote a little over a year ago.

“We need to take decentralization seriously”

In his post, the latter mainly expresses his concerns about the protocol.

“Bitcoin has grown tremendously since I started contributing to it in 2011. Some of the arrangements that were acceptable for a small-scale FOSS project are no longer for a project operating 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 is “a centralized bottleneck” and refuses 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 also have a lot of other interests. That’s also extremely stressful and I don’t want this project, or the weird social media around it, to define me as a person.”

He admitted last year that he was no longer the network’s most active developer, 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 has the administrative key that gives access to Bitcoin Core’s GitHub. His ultimate goal would be to make access to this key completely decentralized, so that Bitcoin no longer needs a master administrator,” cryptoast media underlines .

What Happens Now With His Departure For Bitcoin Core? Elements of answers can be found again in his last post. The latter had indicated his willingness to transfer bitcoincore.org to an organization rather than private ownership “so there is less incentive to try to take down bitcoincore.org”.

“In the long run, you have to completely abandon a website for code distribution. Regardless of who owns it, a website on the network can be shut down at the touch of a button and it seems like the internet world is preparing to make censorship easier and easier” , he added.

Will he really pass the torch? If it takes time for the philosophy of bitcoin, nothing is less certain. What is certain is that a page is turning for the Bitcoin network.

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