Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bitcoin Has No Competitors ?

I am watching Bitcoin on a massive run passing the all time high and heading for $Half Billion value.. will the bubble burst, or will it hold up and become the new gold.

If you have read my other Bitcoin posts, you will know I believe that provided the network stays up against DOS attack, it is inevitable that Bitcoin (or a better featured competitor) will begin to replace gold. For me this is only a question of timing.

(In short the argument is simply on feature merit, Bitcoin offers massively better 'features' than gold, purity issues, portability, transfer-ability, security etc etc are all superior to gold, once you understand gold as money is simply because of its function as a global ledger. And to say replace is not even the right word. As Bitcoin like any truly disruptive innovation makes multiple things, gold and fiat money to name just a few, irrelevant)

Something I think people have not yet realized the implications of is that Bitcoin does not yet have a competitor.

Sure we all expect more bubbles which burst. But without a true competitor to Bitcoin, there is an inevitability here where more and more people simple 'get it'. I am certainly seeing more people who simply decide to hold their coins whatever the price does.

I dont regard old money systems as competitors. Remember fiat money emerged as need based evolution of bank notes provided in return for 'gold in storage' gold was not easy to move around and trade with in volume so banks issued notes for gold held in storage, over time those notes became accepted instead of the gold, so if you had a version of gold that you can trade with easily 'like Bitcoin' the whole thing is moot... Modern paper fiat money, that has a very week link to gold in the vault of a central bank is currently in what investors call 'the race to the bottom' where multiple countries try to devalue their currencies in an attempt to revive exports. This corrupt system is well past its sell by date now and many are looking for viable alternatives for both trade and value storage.

I also dont regard simple forks of Bitcoin as a competitor, to me these are simply still Bitcoin.

So regarding Bitcoin I simply cant see how people who have started using it will stop unless the block chain is nuked or there is a better technology alternative. Add to that the onward march of the deflationary supply and you have a perfect mix for some exciting times.

Its the Better technology alternative that interests me, as that it what we will be moving to next.

As I touched on earlier, the only real threat to the continual rise of usage, other than a proper 51% attack is performance degradation. This occurs from high growth rate use, or high use growth combined with use based Denial Of Service (DOS) attacks.  If the core team manage to optimize the architecture to handle 'block bloat' (unlimited growth in the block chain) and the related performance issues, this will all be a non issue. But this is what must be solved as a priority. And after this, what is next?

So for any competitor to get in there, it would need to address the DOS vulnerable performance issues first. Secondly the competitor would need to deliver a key differentiating feature if it were to overtake Bitcoin. To me this feature is simply pure anonymity.

Anonymity as required a feature
It has become clear to me watching the success of Satoshi Dice (SD) that the 'mixing' functionality it provides is a missing part of the Bitcoin architecture. Hence by virtue of market forces this 'mixing' functionality has been provided by an external developer in the form of SD.

SD is the most popular bitcoin gambling game by far. You roll the metaphorical 'Satoshi Dice' and see what return you get. For anyone who is unaware here are some details from the Satoshi Dice IPO prospectus from August 2012.

Key Statistics
• Over half of all global Bitcoin transactions are SatoshiDICE. Over a third of transactions that have ever occurred on the Bitcoin network are SatoshiDICE. The majority of mining fees ever paid are from SatoshiDICE.
• 6 out of the top 7 Bitcoin addresses are SatoshiDICE
• The site achieved 1,000,000 bets just four months after launch
• Averages over 9,200 bets totaling over 5,246 BTC in wagers daily
• Has generated over 78 BTC in average profits daily
• At historical average daily volumes, SatoshiDICE is expected to generate over 2,990 BTC per month in profit
• Volume of wagered BTC has not decreased even while BTC price has appreciated (volume has actually increased)
I dont know if this trend has continued since IPO but looking at the transactions on the block chain, SD is still very very common on there. SD (in my understanding) is providing the widely used function of 'mixing' and doing it better than anyone else (there are many other mixing services) (mixing is simply the ability to anonomise your transaction history on the block chain)

But the issue here is that since a) SD is identified as a key vital service and b)  SD is not elegantly architect-ed into the core bitcoin spec, it has the effect of adding to the DOS effect on the block chain itself. So its own use success contributes to the other key required issue of performance degradation.

It should be obvious now that this is not simply a 'performance issue' for the bitcoin architecture but a feature requirement.

If bitcoin does not do this in time, the place for a competitor to bitcoin is there.. A new blockchain currency will enter and it will replace Bitcoin unless Bitcoin manages to find a way to evolve into this itself.

1 comment:

Sean William said...

“So regarding Bitcoin I simply cant see how people who have started using it will stop, unless the block chain is nuked, or there is a better technology alternative.” - I guess people will only stop using bitcoin when it has no longer a value. But as long as it is skyrocketing, the number of users will surely increase. And it could possibly alter or become the new currency of our modern generation.

Sean William