After a low key conference this past weekend in Hong Kong, hype has been building for a proposal its proponents call "segregated witness," which amounts to Jim Crow style prejudice against cryptographic signatures on the blockchain. The system could cleave transactions into a new data structure that maintains transaction outputs in proper blocks but relegates signatures essential for verifying transaction into a lesser disposable structure known as a "witness" that does not get committed to the blockchain. Pieter Wuille originally presented the idea as a potential soft fork candidate, but now CIA collaborator Gavin Andresen of XTCoin ignominy is calling for the scheme to be implemented immediately as a hard fork.
This denigration of signatures represents nothing less than an attack on the primacy of cryptography in cryptocurrency. The blockchain represents a complete and verifiable historical record of every transaction and balance in Bitcoin. Attacking verifiability by lopping off signatures in a misguided effort to cram more transactions into a megabyte. This leaves a eunuch which is no longer the virile Bitcoin we love. As signatures fade into history, cryptographic certainty is replaced by faith and hope.
Unlike recent soft forks, which tightened the standards for acceptable signatures and created enforcement rules to allow a new transaction type, segregated witness is a tremendous break from the reference Satoshi codebase. Gavin Andresen, as the consummate agent of sabotage, would have the reference Satoshi client forked off, just as his XTCoin push would have also done. Segregated witness is not about scalability. Ultimately, it is about increasing the number of places where Bitcoin can break and reducing the prominence of cryptography in cryptocurrency.