A friend and I were having breakfast the other morning at Funky Pelican at the Flagler Beach Pier. I was reflecting on the similarities between the evolution of Bitcoin and the World Wide Web (WWW) as I had posted in Inside Bitcoins. Our discussion made me think of other similarities between the early days of the web and the current early days of Bitcoin. In the beginning, the web was created to make it possible to share documents on any kind of computer. Scientists at CERN in Geneva and around the world were interested in sharing technical documents about particle physics research. The problem was that the thousands of scientists and students had many different kinds of incompatible computers. To solve the problem, the web provided a way to make the world’s documents compatible using HTML Many pundits asked questions in the early days of the web about what is the purpose of the web: Just documents? No one thought of the web as legitimate information technology. There was no Amazon, eBay, or e-business. All of these things and much more evolved over time.
Today, people are asking similar questions about Bitcoin. Is it just money, a global currency, a platform for payment, or just an investment vehicle? As with the early web, there are many supporting services for Bitcoin that are not fully developed as of yet or don’t exist at all. To reach its potential, Bitcoin will need reliable and robust merchant services, hedging, futures, insurance, and many other things. Most important, the evolution of Bitcoin will require adoption by users and merchants. That is happening. The only threat that I see is from politicians who may want to “protect” us with some legislative or regulatory schemes.
I always worried about the potential of political intervention in the early days of the Internet, and that is why we formed the Global Internet Project (GIP). As chair of the GIP, my colleagues and I travelled around the world to convince political leaders to resist the temptation to regulate the Internet. Fortunately, most politicians did not understand enough about the net to introduce controls. They were afraid the rapidly growing popularity of the net might lead to something good! What an understatement. (The GIP declared victory and ceased operations about ten years ago.)
As written here before, Bitcoin has all the trappings of the early days of the web. Politicians are beginning to talk about Bitcoin and hopefully, they will restrain themselves. I am looking forward to attending Inside Bitcoins in New York in early April.
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