Why Bitcoin Matters
BY MARC ANDREESSEN JANUARY 21, 2014 . A mysterious new technology emerges, seemingly out of nowhere, but actually the result of two decades of intense research and development by nearly anonymous researchers. ....... Political idealists project visions of liberation and revolution onto it; establishment elites heap contempt and scorn on it. ....... Personal computers in 1975, the Internet in 1993, and – I believe – Bitcoin in 2014. ...... First, Bitcoin at its most fundamental level is a breakthrough in computer science – one that builds on 20 years of research into cryptographic currency, and 40 years of research in cryptography, by thousands of researchers around the world. ........... Bitcoin gives us, for the first time, a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user, such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences of this breakthrough are hard to overstate. ........ What kinds of digital property might be transferred in this way? Think about digital signatures, digital contracts, digital keys (to physical locks, or to online lockers), digital ownership of physical assets such as cars and houses, digital stocks and bonds … and digital money. .......
Bitcoin is an Internet-wide distributed ledger. ...... Bitcoin is the first Internetwide payment system where transactions either happen with no fees or very low fees (down to fractions of pennies). Existing payment systems charge fees of about 2 to 3 percent – and that’s in the developed world. In lots of other places, there either are no modern payment systems or the rates are significantly higher. ........... It’s not as much that the Bitcoin currency has some arbitrary value and then people are trading with it; it’s more that people can trade with Bitcoin (anywhere, everywhere, with no fraud and no or very low fees) and as a result it has value. ........ Critics of Bitcoin point to limited usage by ordinary consumers and merchants, but that same criticism was leveled against PCs and the Internet at the same stage. ........ “Let’s say you sell electronics online. Profit margins in those businesses are usually under 5 percent, which means conventional 2.5 percent payment fees consume half the margin. That’s money that could be reinvested in the business, passed back to consumers or taxed by the government. Of all of those choices, handing 2.5 percent to banks to move bits around the Internet is the worst possible choice. Another challenge merchants have with payments is accepting international payments. If you are wondering why your favorite product or service isn’t available in your country, the answer is often payments.” ............. the claim made by some critics that Bitcoin is a haven for bad behavior, for criminals and terrorists to transfer money anonymously with impunity. This is a myth, fostered mostly by sensationalistic press coverage and an incomplete understanding of the technology. Much like email, which is quite traceable, Bitcoin is pseudonymous, not anonymous. Further, every transaction in the Bitcoin network is tracked and logged forever in the Bitcoin blockchain, or permanent record, available for all to see. As a result, Bitcoin is considerably easier for law enforcement to trace than cash, gold or diamonds. .......... Bitcoin is a four-sided network effect. There are four constituencies that participate in expanding the value of Bitcoin as a consequence of their own self-interested participation. Those constituencies are (1) consumers who pay with Bitcoin, (2) merchants who accept Bitcoin, (3) “miners” who run the computers that process and validate all the transactions and enable the distributed trust network to exist, and (4) developers and entrepreneurs who are building new products and services with and on top of Bitcoin. ........... One immediately obvious and enormous area for Bitcoin-based innovation is international remittance. Every day, hundreds of millions of low-income people go to work in hard jobs in foreign countries to make money to send back to their families in their home countries – over $400 billion in total annually ............. banks and payment companies extract mind-boggling fees, up to 10 percent and sometimes even higher, to send this money. ........
it is hard to think of any one thing that would have a faster and more positive effect on so many people in the world’s poorest countries. ......... Bitcoin generally can be a powerful force to bring a much larger number of people around the world into the modern economic system. Only about 20 countries around the world have what we would consider to be fully modern banking and payment systems; the other roughly 175 have a long way to go. ........ Bitcoin, as a global payment system anyone can use from anywhere at any time, can be a powerful catalyst to extend the benefits of the modern economic system to virtually everyone on the planet. ........ A third fascinating use case for Bitcoin is micropayments, or ultrasmall payments. ........ Bitcoins have the nifty property of infinite divisibility: currently down to eight decimal places after the dot, but more in the future. ......... So you can specify an arbitrarily small amount of money, like a thousandth of a penny, and send it to anyone in the world for free or near-free. ......... Future email systems and social networks could refuse to accept incoming messages unless they were accompanied with tiny amounts of Bitcoin – tiny enough to not matter to the sender, but large enough to deter spammers .......... Bitcoin is a financial technology dream come true for even the most hardened anticapitalist political organizer. ......... in 1999, the legendary economist Milton Friedman said: “One thing that’s missing but will soon be developed is a reliable e-cash, a method whereby on the Internet you can transfer funds from A to B without A knowing B or B knowing A – the way I can take a $20 bill and hand it over to you, and you may get that without knowing who I am.” ........ almost no country’s regulatory framework for banking and payments anticipated a technology like Bitcoin......... Far from a mere libertarian fairy tale or a simple Silicon Valley exercise in hype, Bitcoin offers a sweeping vista of opportunity to reimagine how the financial system can and should work in the Internet era, and a catalyst to reshape that system in ways that are more powerful for individuals and businesses alike.
Why I’m interested in Bitcoin . Some people assume that all Bitcoin advocates are motivated by a libertarian political agenda. That is certainly not my agenda. I’m a lifelong Democrat who supported Obama in the last two elections. I think the Federal Reserve plays an important function .......... it is also true that almost every significant computing movement had early proponents who were ideologically motivated ....... The developers of the first personal computers were closely aligned with the 60s counterculture movement. Open source software was originally created by people who believed that all software should be available for free. Early advocates of blogging and collaborative systems like Wikipedia were trying to democratize the production and dissemination of information. This isn’t coincidental: broad-based technology movements have depended on non-economic participants early on since it often took years for commercial participants to get involved. ........... the 2008 financial crisis. I thought the government did what it had to do at the peak of the crisis but missed an important opportunity afterwards to reform the financial system. ....... there were two ways to improve the system: from above through regulation (which I support), or from below through competition. ........ I started getting interested in Bitcoin about two years ago. Like a lot of people I initially dismissed Bitcoin as a speculative bubble (“Internet tulip bulbs”) or a place to stash money for people worried about inflation (“Internet gold”). At some point, I had an “aha!” moment and realized that Bitcoin was best understood as a new software protocol through which you could rebuild the payments industry in ways that are better and cheaper. ........
banks and payment companies charge $500B per year in fees to provide a service that mostly involves moving bits around the Internet ............. Let’s say you sell electronics online. Profit margins in those businesses are usually under 5%, which means the 2.5% payment fees consume half the margin. That’s money that could be reinvested in the business, passed back to consumers, or taxed by the government. Of all of those choices, handing 2.5% to banks to move bits around the Internet is the worst possible choice. ......... the most exciting aspect of Bitcoin (and this is admittedly more speculative) are all the interesting new business and technology models that “programmable money” could enable. .......... I think Bitcoin could enable a micropayment system for the open web, and thereby provide a business model beyond banner ads for many important services such as journalism. .......... Bitcoin is a serious proposal for dramatically improving the payments industry. There are plenty of open questions but I think it’s an experiment worth running.
Coinbase The press tends to portray Bitcoin as either a speculative bubble or a scheme for supporting criminal activity. In Silicon Valley, by contrast, Bitcoin is generally viewed as a profound technological breakthrough......... The designers of the Web built placeholders for a system that moved money, but never successfully completed it. Bitcoin is the first plausible proposal for an economic protocol for the Internet........ But to proliferate widely, Bitcoin needs a killer app the same way HTTP had web browsers and SMTP had email clients. That’s why today I’m excited to announce that Andreessen Horowitz is leading a $25M financing of Coinbase, a service that provides an accessible interface to the Bitcoin protocol. ....... Consumers can use Coinbase to convert to and from other currencies and to pay for goods and services. Merchants can use Coinbase to accept payments and convert currencies. Developers can build new services using Coinbase’s API....... Coinbase has grown extremely fast and is now the most widely used Bitcoin service in the US.
The New California Dream Is in Portugal
. a nation that now boasts an 89 percent vaccination rate, the world’s highest. Once derided as Europe’s budget-vacation destination, Portugal is now Europe’s top tourist spot several years running. ....... On so many levels, the country can seem like California’s European twin, albeit without the apocalyptic wildfires and lingering droughts. Lisbon especially teases Californians with echoes: as in San Francisco, there’s a stunning red-painted suspension bridge, this one straddling the Tagus River instead the Golden Gate (built by the same engineer who built the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge), seven steep hills, and iconic, many-hued cable cars. World-class surfing can be had 30 minutes away in Ericeira, and Nazaré. ......... “It feels like San Francisco–it even has a Golden Gate Bridge, and then that coastline from Lisbon to Cascais – the surf’s incredible.” ....... Many Californians’ new freedom to work from anywhere only elevates Portugal’s allure. The pandemic laid bare fissures in the state that have been building for years: out-of-control housing prices, an intractable homeless crisis, rising crime rates. We’ve witnessed a massive exodus the past year for the supposedly greener pastures of Austin and Miami. Or maybe not. Postal data proved this “phenomenon” was grossly exaggerated; most Bay Area evacuees moved ten miles to Alameda County, up to Sacramento or south to San Diego. ...... The Portuguese prize California’s billions in venture capital, deep entrepreneurial networks, expertise in sales, marketing and scaling startups. In return they offer driven, gifted employees who are fluent in English (the country ranks 7th in the world in speaking English as a second language), and friendly to boot. ......... Family comes first in Portugal, and the country offers a work-life balance that younger Americans especially demand ......... “The challenging part of SF was the lack of infrastructure for families,” he recalls.
“The competitive nature of daycare and the costs…it’s like putting your kid through Harvard.” Portugal promised a balance of “just a beautiful country to raise our children.” ......... She quickly made friends and business contacts; blasting out 250 LinkedIn emails to Portuguese CEOs in the hope that one of them might talk with “a skinny tattooed girl,” she was stunned when “twenty-five of them had coffee with me.” Fiorentini is now head of personnel at the Lisbon office of Kencko, a healthcare startup. ........ “They often joke that once upon a time Portugal and California were one, and they split” ..... “The climate is the same, the plants are the same, it’s pretty wild.”