Could a Tezos hard fork become a reality?

Who is behind the mysterious TzLibre splinter group? TzLibre

A disaffected splinter group of Tezos investors is threatening the unthinkable – a hard fork, complete with a rival platform and a different set of tokens. This is the very situation that Tezos was designed to avoid, but what impact could the fork have if it is carried out on June 4?

That’s very hard to judge because the size, clout and even identities of TzLibre group behind the proposed fork are a mystery. The rebel group says it will never reveal the true identities of its members for fear of harassment from people loyal to the original Tezos cause. They also claim that anonymity will shut the door on threats from regulators and government agencies that could compromise the independent, decentralized running of their proposed platform.

With this is mind, it’s impossible to say whether TzLibre will amount to a serious challenge or a powder puff shot across the bows of Tezos that will fizzle out.

But what’s behind this move? It stems from the bitter months-long feud between former Tezos Foundation president Johann Gevers and the creator of Tezos, Arthur Breitman. This was resolved in February by the departure of Gevers and a new, expanded board at the Zug-based foundation, headed by president Ryan Jesperson. 

I spoke to Jesperson some weeks ago and he said the governance dispute had actually produced a silver lining. “There has been adversity but everyone has come out of it stronger,” he said. “Tezos chooses to view events in a positive light since they galvanised the community and developers and resulted in setting up the foundation anew in an effective way to move forward. I am very optimistic.”

Foundation fears

But it appears that not everyone is so convinced. TzLibre thinks the new foundation board is now in the pocket of Breitman and his company, Dynamic Ledger Solutions (DLS), which is building the Tezos platform. They argue that the foundation is supposed to act both as a bridge to the Tezos community – the people who invested $230 million into the project last summer – and as a buffer between the funds - now swollen to around $800 million - and DLS.

DLS and the Tezos Foundation declined to comment on the threatened hard fork.

When I asked Jesperson back in April how he would ensure the right balance between cooperation with, and distance from, DLS, he said: “It’s not hard at all. Everyone has the same focus and mindset. Our ultimate goal is success of the Tezos protocol.”

This is more than just a case of semantics or academic philosophy, according to TzLibre. Tezos is being created as a decentralized blockchain, run and updated democratically by token holders. Any whiff of central control ruins the concept, the rebel group argues. Furthermore, they also hold DLS partially accountable for the delays in implementation that has given rival blockchains, such as NEO, a better chance to position themselves.

Gevers connection?

If the exact nature and composition of TzLibre remains a mystery, so is its relation to Gevers. Despite saying it would have preferred Gevers to have remained in place at the head of the foundation, the group won’t reveal if it has any ongoing connections to the ousted president. 

They do say they will begin air dropping rival TZL tokens on June 4, making them tradeable before the XTZ ‘tezzies’. They also plan to apply to the foundation for funding for their rival platform (which won’t be launched before the planned Tezos platform).

In the meantime, the Tezos Foundation is hardly sitting on its hands. Last month it announced that a betanet, live test, version of the platform would be out in Q2. All going well, Tezos mainnet will be fully live by the end of Q3, a press release said. Funding is now flowing to developers while operational subsidiaries are being set up in Zug, Paris and other locations to help with administrative and business development tasks.

But when will Tezos investors get their hands on their XTZ tokens? "To use tokens you would need to participate in betanet that is planned for Q2, where the plan is to have token transfer ability between functioning accounts and the ability to run smart contracts. Or you would wait until a later time after the general release in Q3 when mainnet is planned to go live," said Jesperson. 

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