The heart of tech is coming to the heart of the Mediterranean. Join TNW in València this March 🇪🇸

This article was published on October 31, 2018

Video: Bitcoin turns 10, but would Satoshi even recognize it?

Happy Birthday Bitcoin, you magnificent digital bastard

Matthew Beedham
Story by

Matthew Beedham

Editor, SHIFT by TNW

Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.

Ten years ago to the day, Bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, published the Bitcoin whitepaper, and it undoubtedly changed the face of the internet.

While we might be a few years away from mass adoption (and most blockchain use cases are still merely “proof of concepts”), Bitcoin’s impact has been undeniable.

Bitcoin isn’t the first digital currency. There were a number of attempts in the 1990s, but none ever seemed to stick. Most of the early attempts at creating a digital currency came from members of a group that formed in the early 90s and called themselves “cypherpunks.”

For those out of the loop, this group is often credited with developing technologies such as PGP email encryption, Tor, and BitTorrent to name just three. While the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto remains a mystery, it’s well regarded that he/she/they were all followers of the cypherpunk movement.

Cypherpunks feared that the ever-developing pervasiveness of technology would lead to a surveillance society, where the traces left by our digital footprint connects all corners of our lives, whether we like it or not. Turns out, they might have been worth listening to. But of course, few took heed and society plowed on regardless.

From the eyes of the cypherpunk, Nakamoto created Bitcoin for a very specific reason – to send money digitally without using banks or other intermediaries. Now, fast-forward 10 years and we are in a world with thousands of cryptocurrencies, alt-coins, and blockchain startups.

As far as one of the original cypherpunks is concerned, the cryptocurrency narrative is “fucked.”

It’s hard to say whether Satoshi Nakamoto would be comfortable with how the cryptocurrency industry is evolving. In years past, a point of pride for the community was how accessible Bitcoin was. The possibilities and implications of a truly global, trustless payment network were both exciting and intoxicating.

Well, that wave of adoption has come and gone. Most countries in the world have a Bitcoin ATM. Sending cryptocurrency to someone else is as easy as tweeting, or typing an SMS.

In the present day, being able to buy, use, and sell Bitcoin is not a revelation, and that’s okay. It makes sense that after a decade, the glossy veneer wears off and the concept of cryptocurrency might fail to impress. It’s inevitable that cryptocurrency moved on from Bitcoin’s hyper-accessible Internet of Money, to a certain obsession with Wall Street adoption and regulatory approval.

A decade ago there were no Bitcoin ETFs, or heavily regulated stablecoins. There were no cryptocurrency venture capitalists, and no autonomous, smart-contract powered investment machines.

But what was once an anarchist call-to-arms for the cypherpunks is now a fight to attract the most one-percenters to invest in Bitcoin the old-fashioned way – through regulated gatekeepers, custodians, and intermediaries.

Ten years is certainly a momentus occasion, something worth celebrating. It’s quite incredible that Bitcoin is still alive and moving forward, regardless of the direction. We’re beginning to find that the term ‘blockchain’ is being bastardized and watered down to the point that it’s hard to tell what exactly is being implemented when corporations adopt the technology.

That’s both the beauty and tragedy of Bitcoin. Being released as open source it means we can all have our say. If we don’t like something we have the opportunity to do it ourselves. It also means that the world is saturated with experiments, it likely will continue to be in coming years.

Who’s to know what the next 10 years will hold for Bitcoin. I think it’s safe to say it will still be around in some form, even if all that remains is its legacy. Bitcoin has certainly made one hell of an impact.

Here’s to 10 more years!

This article was co-authored by David Canellis

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.