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June 22, 2011 / twobitcents

How Bitcoin is Open Source

Recently I watched a video that, if serious, calls to question if/how Bitcoin is open-source. The guy is rather attacking in his inability to find or understand the various files in the source code he downloaded. It appears as if he is not a developer at all, and while I admire his attempts to decode and understand a C program – it’s probably not going to happen for a while.

But his question is perfectly valid: How do you know that Bitcoin is open source? I can hear many just groaning and turning in disinterest. Remember, if BTC is to be accepted and used it’s going to have to be adapted to many types of people.

He has the source code already, so the simplest way to verify would be to build from source and run that. He probably doesn’t know how to do that. If he is running Ubuntu (or was to do so in a VM) he could grab the source and build:

apt-get source bitcoin
apt-get build-dep bitcoin
cd bitcoin*
dpkg-buildpackage -us -uc -nc

This would get the source from the repository and build it into an unsigned .deb you could install and verify. However, the potential for someone to introduce malicious code is prevalent in open-source, although handled very well using free association. What open source sometimes lacks in terms of quality is contrasted with it’s ability to adapt quickly. If malicious code does make it in, chances are it will be caught through the vast amount of people looking at the code. That’s the theory at least.

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