Accelerating Bitcoin Adoption

Some personal thoughts on accelerating Bitcoin adoption as we get close to the end of 2017, an interesting and dramatic year full of user adoption and events for Bitcoin, to say nothing of the market growth!

This time of year is sometimes a time when people pause to reflect on collaborative spirit, and Bitcoin is a friendly industry and ecosystem where almost all of the competition is from outside - fiat, banks etc.

Bitcoin market demand is high, and resources are straining which may slow Bitcoin’s adoption and I think we all want to see the Bitcoin experience on usability, transaction speed, transaction cost, security all improved, and reasonably soon.

None of these side-effects of high demand are designed - they arise from run away market success bumping into technology limits. I think our best bet is to improve coordination and resources on scaling the tech limits, on accelerating adoption of best practices and scaling tech that is available today, preparing for scaling tech that is imminent and planning ahead for the future.

I had suggested before one of the forks, to people in private email threads that it may be time for a grand challenge to scale Bitcoin adoption. Many seemed supportive of the idea. If one wanted to be bombastic one would talk about getting to a billion users in 2018, though that would be quite a target. One that might involve some novel thinking, some coding and quite a bit of technology adoption.

scaling adoption

The discussion was, as an ecosystem initiative there could be a transparent, funded whole ecosystem approach, a commercial and volunteer funded part of which would retain some full time project managers and protocol experts available to consult and help integrating scale tech, and a resourced developer and project manager contact at each company or app, site, miner etc and some public tracking of progress. Other more mature open source ecosystems, have this kind of infrastructure of volunteers and dedicated resources.

With coordination we could also deploy scaling tech that needs network effect to have benefit rapidly - for example tech that needs wallet, payment processor and exchange deposit/withdrawal support.

So I would like to put this request for a more organised approach to adoption of scaling and best practices out there for Bitcoiners, users, hodlers and people who work for Bitcoin’s success, whether they are individual Bitcoiners focussed on the societal benefit of uncensorable internet money, companies providing services to users, and whether your contribution is as a marketerer, developer or manager, company owner or any other contributer: we’re in this together.

Particularly engineers, probably have the power to unilaterally address much of the undershoot of scale potential, even as a skunk works effort inside a company, because code does not write itself, and nothing scales if scale tech and best practices are not upgraded, integrated and implemented. Remember “Cypherpunks write code”. To focus your colleagues minds, you could ask if you can have as a bonus the fees saved for a month, in many, many cases it is a lot of money!

However I argue this should not need to be herculean hidden initiative of engineers in companies, companies should step forward, commit to scaling Bitcoin and coordinate on scaling progress. While it makes sense to prioritise which fires to fight in companies straining under new demand, putting Bitcoin infrastructure scaling on the back burner will hurt adoption, and your company, and is something that requires ongoing investment.

We need more commitment to use the large amount of available scale that is left unused today, and more engineering hours applied to improve scale for the next layer of apps.

Project management and coordination sounds obvious, low tech, but in hindsight insufficient coordination has been a problem. With better information exchange, a commitment to turbo charge the scale of existing tech by efficient use, and push new tech to market faster by coordinated effort and public progress tracking, we can together help Bitcoin achieve its potential.

At higher level, we’re also going to reach the potential of Bitcoin faster if the power users using Bitcoin software and hardware, the business community providing services, and the R & D community are exchanging information about technical issues in real world, at scale use, as well as being more coordinated in building and adopting tech.

Let’s see what we can do in 2018. Buckle in, and hodl on, it’s sure to be a wild ride.

ps I have made no secret of being against spin-out fork coins on the basis that, good intent aside, I think they have been a confusion to users, a small detraction from network effects, have not helped ecosystem credibility, and even at the limits risk hurting the concept of digital scarcity (which I wrote about a few years ago here on Bitcoinium ). In practice the forks have so far often also been poorly implemented, centrally run, and worse.

But on the more serious topic of tradeoffs, everyone understands the interest to scale Bitcoin and see the great features of Bitcoin be made available to everyone, there are certainly lots of nuances to the tradeoffs, and room for respectful discussion. I hope we in the Bitcoin ecosystem learned something from 2017’s fork experiences. I hope some of the people who got impatient choose to come back and focus on helping scale Bitcoin adoption.

Written on December 25, 2017