Why Bitcoin’s Core Developers Want Multiple Versions

Recent debates about whether people should be allowed to make their own changes to the bitcoin protocol have highlighted an important notion: perhaps developing Bitcoin Core, the reference version of the code, isn’t the only way for people to contribute.
A recent alteration to the bitcoin code that made its way into a Linux variant called Gentoo left some people fuming before the developer switched it off by default.
‘These will never be merged into the bitcoin repository on Github, but people that want to use them can,’ bitcoin lead developer Wladimir J van der Laan said.
But what is Github, why does van der Laan have the authority to choose what goes in it, and how does bitcoin get developed in the first place?
How bitcoin is developed
The reference implementation for bitcoin protocol is called the Bitcoin Core. This is the code that Satoshi originally handed down to a core group of developers before disappearing.
Those ‘disciples’ now maintain that code, along with the help of a broader community of developers. The focus is on making the code more efficient, but doing it carefully, and conservatively, so that nothing gets broken.
Bitcoin Core is managed using a software version control system called Git. This enables people to keep track of which versions of their code they are working on, and what changes they have made.
Bitcoin developers running Git on their computers connect to a central service so that they can all work on versions the same project at once. This service, called Github, has many different projects maintained by different groups of people. Bitcoin is one of those projects and it has its own Github page.

This post was published at Coin Desk on October 19, 2014.

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