Bitcoin (BTC) Protocol Is Challenging to Maintain Due to Shortage of Qualified Source Code Testers, OKCoin Reveals

Marco Falke, a Bitcoin Core maintainer, is the recipient of OKCoin’s Independent Developer Grant. According to the crypto exchange, Falke has become one of the most prolific contributors to the ongoing development of the Bitcoin (BTC) protocol.

Currently, Bitcoin (BTC) has a market cap of around $200 billion. The Bitcoin network aims to provide an alternative to the traditional financial system. It has been designed in a manner that decentralizes the control of currency or money away from traditional authorities and institutions.

As explained by OKCoin in a blog post, Bitcoin has become a major software project which has also made it a potential target, attracting hackers and State actors or governments who might view it as a threat to the existing fiat based financial system.

As noted in OKCoin’s blog:

“Bitcoin Core, the software that a large number of people use to connect to the Bitcoin network is open-source. This means that there is no central authority to organize and reward the work of developers: it is all supported by passion-driven volunteers. [We think that] this is a strength of the network because it safeguards the decentralized nature of the project. But, in terms of security, being volunteer-based can expose vulnerabilities.”

The OKCoin team further noted:

“Open-source projects carry with them some of the drawbacks of voluntary models. Since the contributors are involved in Bitcoin development by passion and not by obligation, they may prefer to suggest new, exciting changes and be less inclined to perform the more routine and seemingly less rewarding work of testing and reviewing pending proposals.” 

OKCoin also mentioned that in the long-term, new proposals may begin to pile up without actually being tested. More complex or comprehensive proposals might take a lot longer to get accepted and implemented because there may not be enough qualified people that are available or willing to review them. According to OKCoin, the source code for Bitcoin Core may be difficult to maintain due to these issues. The exchange claims that there aren’t many developers who are focused on keeping track of the code’s vulnerabilities and preventing them from being exploited by bad actors.

Marco reveals that when he got involved with Bitcoin development in 2015, he “focused on addressing this problem head on.” He began looking for potential back doors and attack vectors that may be used to compromise the security of the Bitcoin protocol.

Marco soon became a Bitcoin Core test maintainer. He now focuses on fuzz-testing, which is a technique that feeds random or invalid inputs into a computer program to identify potential programming errors or security vulnerabilities.

As explained by the OKCoin team:

“Fuzz-testing is not the only way to test the Bitcoin code however — human testers are very important too. One way to make the work of individual testers and reviewers easier is to break the code into modules, so that one doesn’t have to learn, digest, and review huge chunks of code in order to make a review. An important part of Marco’s work is devoted to just that: modularizing.” 

Modularizing Bitcoin (or any other software) source code can help developers focus on specific parts of the code. This makes it easier to understand what each piece of code is doing. It’s also possible to switch off certain parts of the source code in order to test the parts a programmer might be interested in examining more closely.

OKCoin claims that there are still not enough qualified people to test Bitcoin code. That’s why Marco believes onboarding new app developers will help him do his part which involves being the code maintainer.

As noted by OKCoin, the role of a maintainer includes “making sure that all changes made to the code are actually improvements.” The exchange also mentioned that, as the maintainer, Marco is also a Bitcoin mentor who helps new contributors join the open-source project in “a way that is both beneficial to their own learning and to the project itself.”

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