disclaimer: this post is purely a smattering of my own thoughts in the here and now, a freewrite based on what I know and believe to be true. I believe that all Steem users should speak their mind as well on this matter, as it gives our elected witnesses a path forward based on the consensus of the community
I need to start by saying that hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to look back over the past few days and say that the witnesses could have done this differently, or that Justin Sun should have done this or that. Judging the past is something anyone can do from a lofty position, but navigating a rough and uncharted path as the witnesses have done over the past few days is commendable, regardless if my own choice would have been different or the same.
First, I see two clear and distinct matters at hand:
First is the matter of whether Justin can do what he pleases with the Steem he acquired with the purchase of Steemit Inc.
The second matter comes down to whether Steemit Inc should be able to vote its own witnesses in to take control of the blockchain, and circumvent the witnesses that have been elected by us, the community (i.e. holders of Steem power).
Between the two, the second issue is fairly cut and dry, and any action taken to prevent Justin from making a hostile takeover of the Steem blockchain was completely justified, even preemptively.
but, getting back to the first matter.
From what I can tell (and I'm not a lawyer), the Steem that Steemit Inc held now belongs to Justin, regardless of any verbal or casual agreements previously made by Steemit. having said that, I have not reviewed any of the agreements Steemit Inc made to the community over the years, and as the witnesses themselves have acknowledged, taking this to the courts is counter to what crypto stands for to begin with. In my own opinion, if Steemit inc was legally bound to use its 65+ Million Steem stake for the good of the community, then logically there should have been some kind of legal enforcement in place to ensure that outcome (beyond good faith), possibly a smart contract on Ethereum (or a similar chain) to keep things contained within the cryptosphere. That there was no contractual enforcement (apparently) doesn't make for a strong case in the Steem community's favor.
But like I say, from what I know the witnesses first and formost soft-forked to prevent a hostile takeover of the chain itself, which I agree was a prudent and logical move to make, given what was known and unknown. I for one do not want to see Steem controlled by a single entity, running on some server in China, a place where censorship is king.
But this seems to be where things got squirrelly.
As I said at the top of this post, hindsight is 20/20. Had there been a way to address the two separate matters I've mentioned in two different ways, then maybe Justin Sun would not have attacked the Steem blockchain.
I do believe that Justin's course of action was an attack on all of us, when he colluded with exchanges Binance, Huobi and Poloniex to take full centralized control of the steem blockchain. In essence, Justin Sun performed the equivalent of a 51% attack on Steem.
I think it is important to remember: Steemit Inc is a company, but the Steem blockchain itself is not property of Steemit Inc (as far as I know). If Steem was the property of Steemit Inc, I (and probably many others) would not have stayed the course with Steem. If I wanted a centralized ecosystem, those already exist in droves, and most of them are censored and toxic.
These three exchanges (Binance, Huobi and Poloniex) powered up funds that were not theirs (in a legal sense), and used this unethically obtained Steem power to vote in 20 sockpuppet accounts belonging to Justin Sun, thereby circumventing the community of stakeholders and the witnesses we elected, to remove the restrictions previously placed on Steemit's stake. Whether you agree with the witnesses and their actions is another story, they are elected by us, and circumventing them is circumventing us, which in turn compromises the value and integrity of the blockchain.
This really is a quagmire, as the question of whether Steemit Inc is obligated to use it's stake to help the community is a matter of integrity on the part of Steemit inc, and on its new owner. Assuming that there is no legal or contractual enforcement of this obligation, the onus is then on Justin Sun to show the crypto world whether he is a phony or not. Does he actually care about decentralization? His actions so far says he does not. time will tell I suppose.
The real problem is trust. After the witnesses took measures to protect the chain from being undermined, Justin then went about undermining the blockchain using his influence with exchanges, potentially putting them in legal jeopardy, and causing a lot of chaos and uncertainty with Steem holders. They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but in this case Justin is painting himself to the crypto community as a tyrant. Were his actions justified?
Again, hindsight is 20/20. Had everyone from the beginning known all the facts and knew the intentions of the other side, would different actions have been taken? Maybe, maybe not.
In my opinion, the Steem witnesses (having listened in on some townhall discussions) have the right intentions, and they are far more qualified to be dealing with this than myself and most Steemians. That being said, I believe the community needs to speak out and voice our opinion to guide the witnesses collectively, regardless of what your opinion is of them personally. there are many other problems with Steem that do need to be addressed, but priorities are a real thing here.
As I said, Justin Sun quite literally attacked the community in a way that is counter to everything that Steem (and crypto) stands for, before a dialogue could be reached. The witnesses would have been negligent had they not taken steps to protect the chain, but Justin's actions were deliberate and contrary to what crypto stands for. Hindsight is 20/20, but his reaction was done without regard for the Steem community, without regard to all the developers and volunteers and advocates of Steem, without regard for the exchanges that he strong armed into helping him attack the Steem blockchain, and without regard even for his own reputation.
But I'm not his judge; the crypto community has witnessed what took place so far, and now Justin can either show good faith, or continue to behave selfishly.
In essence, there is clearly a lack of communication, but I also feel that actions have spoken louder than words here.
but what are the options the witnesses and community have now?
Fork Steemit's stake out of existence? That is probably out of the question, and is a slippery slope one dares not go down unless there is no other option.
There is also the option to split, much like a bee hive in real life eventually splits in two, leaving steemit.com with its centralized chain running out of China with its connections to a few exchanges, while the democratically elected witnesses run the real Steem blockchain without Steemit, using the myriad of other (and arguably better) front ends for the Steem blockchain. I do believe this course of action would be a mess that might actually end in a figurative bloodbath, given what I've heard discussed. The community is so intertwined everywhere that simply splitting off from Steemit might not be possible without great risk.
But what is life without risk?
I do believe that Justin knew he had the three exchanges (Binance, Huobi and Poloniex) in his pocket before the acquisition was ever finalized, and that he could take full control of Steem and do with it as he pleased if there was resistance. I believe he miscalculated, but then again if he willfully remained ignorant of important variables during the acquisition (i.e. Steemit Inc being obligated to use its stake to help the community), then it is not a surprise he landed in a quagmire and has behaved in no one's interest but his own. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and its very easy to point fault after the fact, and I don't claim to have all the facts.
Because of this, I can only state what I believe to be true in the present, and voice my thoughts on that.
I believe this is a test for the Steem ecosystem, but in a way it's also a test for Justin Sun to prove to the crypto world that he's not a tyrant, and not a pretender.
But sometimes in life the easy path isn't always the correct one. Actually, it rarely is.
I do believe its better in the long term for the Steem ecosystem to live without the crutch of Steemit Inc, that if the community can't walk on it's own at this point, will it ever? If steemit.com were to have it's own chain, I am confident that most Steem users would know the difference and migrate to better pastures. I moved away from steemit.com a long time ago and rarely go there, aside from trading steem and SBD back and forth. I get the feeling that the witnesses are afraid the community won't be smart enough to know the difference if a split were necessary, but in life sometimes you have to let the chips fall where they may, which is apt in this case given many of us use Steem because we have faith it is not being controlled by any one party.
In every crisis there is opportunity.
Many of us subconsciously or consciously have known that at some point Steemit Inc would have to be dealt with in some manner. Maybe for the past 4 years we all hoped that Ned would sell Steemit to a great visionary that could propel Steem forward while at the same time restraining themselves from dictating the course of the ecosystem, or pumping and dumping Steem for their own personal profit, consequences be damned.
When I first heard rumor last year of Justin Sun being interested in Steem, it was both foreboding and a light at the end of the tunnel all at once.
Sun's reputation precedes him. He's involved, has connections, and he wields influence. The real question was whether his interest was purely financial, or if he "cared" about the community and what it represents. We now know the answer to this question, and in truth I'm not surprised nor do I think less of the man for his intentions. At least he has made them known, even if we had to find out after he attacked the community, unlike ned who has proven that he will sell his soul for a buck in the most nefarious way possible. I don't hate the guy (I don't really hate anyone to be honest), I just don't think he has any integrity.
As for the three exchanges that unethically utilized funds that they held in trust? This has opened up a whole can of worms for them.
Many of us have always shouted from the proverbial rooftops "don't keep your coins on an exchange!" Well, maybe the crypto community in general can learn from this event. There is always a lesson to be found in circumstance, and while I feel bad for anyone who has funds locked up on one of these exchanges, you had to have known the risk of keeping funds on an exchange. Even if an exchange never does anything wrong, they can be hacked. They can be shut down by a government. They can be compromised.
As for the future of Steem, I am positive and believe we will come out of this much stronger. Up until this point Steem had become a hobbled creature, depending on a bull market to breath life back into it, and leaning on a crutch called Steemit Inc for support, when the real strength and soul of Steem has always been in the community.
If Steem were to become another centralized platform, to what end? Steem is still an infant, and in my opinion what Justin Sun did is the equivalent of beating a child for crying out of fear of being beaten. If this is what Steem is to become, it won't get very far.
If all Justin wants to do is sell Steemits Stake and take a profit, maybe the correct path is letting him do it. The community holding on to that stake is akin to the monkey trap. Sometimes you have to let go to be free. It sounds cliche yes, but I feel the saying is very relevant in this case.
So long as the Steem community is fixated on this stake, we are immobilized from ever growing past it.
Again, There's a lesson in all of this. Steemit Inc should not have been trusted. @ned should not have been trusted. Lesson learned, let's move on from it and grow from it. Or, Steem can die in a battle over something that @ned had always intended on selling to the right sucker, at the right time.
At the very least, we can stop using Steemit.com, but that is a choice we can all make ourselves. There are better options out there. I personally prefer Steempeak, but there are others.
Thanks for reading. Please take everything I've said here with a grain of salt. It's far easier for me to look back and condemn or applaud the actions of others, or pretend like I would have done better. It's also easy to read what someone else has written and poke holes in it, instead of voicing your own thoughts for others to judge.
Let's all come out better on the other side of this.