How far we have come. When I started Coinlock in mid 2013 hardly any infrastructure existed for building Bitcoin based businesses. The few places making significant revenue were strung along the shadowy underbelly of the Internet, eking out a living on the fringe. Now we are on the verge of a Wall street ETF, vetted derivative exchanges, and Bitcoin backed credit cards. Some technology is just too disruptive to ignore, the implications too profound, the repercussions unavoidable. I felt that way about the Internet in 1993, at the time using the network was an exercise in the obscure. The pre-web Internet was complicated, hairy, a maze of technologies competing in some primordial soup. I spent my days on gopher and Wais with the occasional foray into the uncensored and venerable Usenet.
Bitcoin is still in these early days. The technology is difficult to understand, the protocol and software relatively immature, and the support services non-existent. Bitcoin hasn’t had it’s Netscape moment. The point in time when consumers can walk right into the eco-system and immediately see the benefits. Multiple companies are pushing forward, letting you buy Bitcoin for Cash, helping merchants accept it, etc. All of these are essential services, but ultimately I think the community has to think bigger to unlock the potential of the network. We have an open payments framework that conceivably allows direct person-to-person payments, like IP addressing for people’s bank accounts.
Let’s take the IP addressing analogy a bit further. That is the base of the pyramid, it facilitates the transaction, it is the distributed ledger. What functional components can be built on top of it? Are we going to see the creation of a distributed banking initiative? Peer-to-peer credit unions? When will I be able to package a crowd sourced loan and deliver it to a credit worthy individual? Maybe credit-rating itself can be systematized based on transactions. Can the same components be used in large-scale trust relationships between diverse groups of people? This is the foundational idea behind distributed autonomous corporations and data oracles that feed external information into the distributed ledger.
The possibilities are truly staggering. Very few people understood the potential of that early Internet. It was a haven for the weird and reclusive, the technologists and nerds, and now is intricately woven into our modern experience. If financial incentive and labor can be bound into the same network, where will that take us? The power structures prevalent in the world are hierarchical in nature, what happens when activism and finance are seamlessly and anonymously linked? The purpose of this posting wasn’t to ask a thousand questions, but to explore what seem to me to be a sea of possibilities.
The existing payment infrastructure is ripe for disruption. An international money transfer can costs upwards of 5% of the total transaction cost. $50 per $1000 sent. What if I tld you I could do the same thing for 5 cents? There is simply no way to compete with that kind of paradigm shift. Companies like Western Union are saddled with massive infrastructure, and simply have no way to deal with the flood of competing services that are going to start popping up like weeds powered by a robust and completely parallel network which for all intents and purposes is faster, and offers better security.
Entrenched interests will put up a fight. They will lobby instead of compete, they will put up barriers to entry and artificial road blocks, but the Internet has a way of routing around damage. First they ignored us, but in the end we will win. Some truly disruptive tech is just around the corner.