Vitalik Buterin first proposed the term “Bitcoin Maximalism,” when addressing critics of his project, Ethereum.
Buterin, like most, started on Bitcoin. However, eventually he had the idea of decentralized applications, and determined that Bitcoin simply wouldn’t allow for what he wanted to do. There wasn’t the block space, or flexibility, or speed, required for what Buterin had in mind.
Thus, he built Ethereum.
The people who criticized Ethereum are often the same people who have criticized every other project that isn’t Bitcoin Core.
The same group also coalesce around a singular scaling strategy for the Bitcoin blockchain, via the Lightning Network and innovations that can be built as a result of it, such as Liquid.
The Block Size Debate
Bitcoin blocks started getting full in late 2015 and early 2016. This means that the maximum amount of transactions were getting included.
Some people, like Roger Ver and Gavin Andresen, proposed simply increasing the amount of space available in each Bitcoin block.
At the time, others opposed this idea because of technical reasons. They felt it would make the network slower.
Later, the war became between those who believed in Lightning Network, a forthcoming innovation at the time, and those who believed in big blocks.
Eventually, in 2017, Bitcoin Cash was born. Bitcoin Cash has a lot more block space, but ironically, has less demand for block space as well. It could functionally work with a smaller blocksize than Bitcoin at this point, given the amount of transactions it processes daily.
Nevertheless, Bitcoin Maximalists continue to contend that Bitcoin is the only way forward. However, there are privacy concerns associated with the the traditional model that are solved by projects like Monero.
One easily debunked argument from the Bitcoin maximalist is that anything interesting done by altcoins can simply be replicated in Bitcoin. However, how often has Bitcoin really done this? Transactions are certainly not obfuscated in Bitcoin.
Bitcoin maximalism, as a belief, has become more popular over the years. Dan Held has suggested switching to “Bitcoin minimalism,” a reaction to being labeled an extremist by Vitalik Buterin.
Ironically, Buterin gets upset that there are other chains besides Ethereum servicing the growing dApp movement.