A decade under the influence: Bitcoin at 10

Singapore, SINGAPORE – It has been 10 years since the nine-page mother of all whitepapers has been published. And while crypto-centric news portals have waxed lyrical about how far Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision (or visions) has come since 2008, there are others such as The Wall Street Journal seems to be resentful that it wasn’t stillbirth and instead a rogue sprig that briefly in December last year was the sixth largest currency in the world by circulation.

It was trailing only the Yen, Yuan, Euro, and US Dollar. With the heading ‘Bitcoin Turns 10: Still Not all Grown Up’ and an even more damning standfirst that proclaims the digital currency was meant to be a payments network.

That isn’t exactly what happened, you can hear the collective eyeballs of maximalists rolling in their cavities like Nicki Minaj when Mariah Carey is in the room. Haters gonna hate, they’ll bemoan as bitcoin millionaires became crypto-affluents who were suddenly balling with more than just airdrops. Mining farm and exchange owners became extremely wealthy as well all because it started with Nakamoto sending BTC to Hal Finney.

But more importantly, was it meant to be a payment network? Even as its disruptive nature has riled up the innards of detractors since the Genesis Block, the protocol was described as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. It’s clearly written in the title caused those not invited to the party feeling outmoded like an IBM XT 286. We’re looking at you, financial institutions and central banks, whose inhabitants initially made snide remarks before calling it a tool for money laundering and other shenanigans.

Forget the pizzas, buying weed on Silk Road or the monolith that was Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox, the write-up provides examples of lukewarm reception and deteriorating adoption by merchants. In addition, it quotes a financial adviser in Tampa, Florida that “doesn’t know” and “don’t think anyone does” think that Bitcoin is worth its now modest US$6,000 and above trading range. It’s ok to have bought in at the high 19. No one’s going to know.

But to claim that it hasn’t caught on? We will ignore price and price volatility here because the market can’t be bothered to blow out the birthday cake and make an uptick. We will instead briefly leave the room and turn to the front page of The Economist in 2015 that posits that “the technology behind bitcoin could change the world”. And it has with most of 2018 in hindsight. At its essence, as a transfer of value from one party to another without an intermediary, it has been wildly successful because it has held its weight as a store of value.

Its evolution has been the catalyst empowering the emergence of Ethereum and a slew of other blockchain projects, coins, tokens, and digital currencies, albeit with varying efficacy. There are also too many auxiliary industries to name that have sprouted out as a result.  It’s possible to straddle both sides of the fence in this instance because there’s no relying on trust. It is undeniably a technological breakthrough that was a perfect fusion of cryptography and consensus protocol among other elements. Just like nodes can leave and re-join the network at will, detractors can become proponents and vice versa. Time will tell and as written in the same whitepaper:

“the network is robust in its unstructured simplicity.”

Enough said. Happy 10th birthday.