Ripple Co-Founder Chris Larsen Blasted as ‘Judas’ After Proposal to Change Bitcoin

In brief

  • Bitcoin boosters blasted Chris Larsen’s environmental proposal as insincere.
  • Many prominent Bitcoiners took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

Chris Larsen, the billionaire co-founder of Ripple, roiled the crypto world on Tuesday with a call for Bitcoin to reduce its environmental impact. He’s teaming up with Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and bankrolling a $5 million campaign called “Change the Code not the Climate” that will call attention to Bitcoin’s energy use.

The stated goal of the campaign is to persuade the scattered collection of people who maintain the Bitcoin network to replace its energy-intensive mining process with a “proof-of-stake” system that requires much less electricity and is used by some other blockchains.

While Larsen is portraying his campaign as a potential feel-good moment, the reaction among many in the crypto community has been savage. Bitcoiners, in particular—already sensitive about their industry being unfairly singled out or subject to misinformation—were quick to denounce Larsen’s proposal, including longtime crypto expert Nic Carter, who responded with a “Gladiator” “thumbs-down” meme.

Meanwhile, the colorful founder of crypto research firm Messari, Ryan Selkis, blasted Larsen’s campaign as insincere, suggesting his real motivation was to promote Ripple’s native XRP currency. In a tweet, Selkis called Larsen a “Judas” for making billions in the crypto markets but then throwing Bitcoin under the bus.

Jameson Lopp, a prominent Bitcoin personality, likewise questioned the sincerity of Larsen’s campaign, noting that he had failed to submit a proposal to the site Github, which people have used to suggest and implement changes to Bitcoin’s code.

A more surprising source of pushback came from Coin Center, a crypto research and advocacy group in Washington, DC, that typically stays out of intra-crypto disputes. The group’s communications director, Neeraj Agrawal, used his influential Twitter account to question Larsen’s motives.

Meanwhile, Coin Center’s Executive Director, Jerry Brito, pointed out that Larsen’s campaign was based on persuading 50 miners and developers to change Bitcoin’s code—a premise that history suggests might be totally unrealistic.

Eric Voorhees, the founder of crypto company ShapeShift and an influential figure from Bitcoin’s early days, likewise suggested that Larsen’s call to change the code was impractical and doomed to fail. Saying he has no qualifications about “proof-of-stake” in principle, he pointed out that those who would be essential in making the change—longtime Bitcoin aficionados—would want no part of it.

The opposition was not universal, however. Anatoly Yakovenko, the co-founder of another blockchain rival, Solana, responded to the objections of Muneeb Ali—another influential Bitcoiner—by noting that no blockchain requires mining, also known as proof-of-work (POW), to succeed.

Yakovenko appeared to be in a small minority, though, especially as everyday Bitcoin fans piled on with criticism of Larsen’s proposal. Many of these responded with memes—crypto’s go-to communication method—to accuse Ripple and Larsen of spreading “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, doubt).

Larsen, meanwhile, appeared to be anticipate that his proposal would be met with hostility, apologizing to the communications team at Ripple for any headaches it would create for them.

At the end of the day, the fierce rejection of Larsen’s proposal by Bitcoiners suggests that a call for a shift to proof-of-stake would result in absolutely no change—other than to deepen the rift between Ripple and Bitcoin backers.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Anatoly Yakovenko as Bitcoin author Andreas Antonopoulos.

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