What’s Not Being Said About Bitcoin by Coinbase Founder Brian Armstrong

Before I get to today’s excellent article by one of the co-founders of “next-gen” Bitcoin company Coinbase, I want to add a few of my own updated thoughts on the Mt. Gox fiasco.

While I am not at all surprised by the end of Mt. Gox (I predicted it in my piece several weeks ago), it happened much faster and in a much more spectacular fashion than I imagined. So the question here is: What comes next? Well that’s a two part question in most people’s minds, there’s the price action and the future of the protocol itself in the long-term. Let’s start with the first point.

For a while now, I thought the price pattern in Bitcoin might resemble what we saw following the last 10x run up and crash. In that case, we saw a six month consolidation from last spring to the Silk Road shutdown, after which the price exploded 10x again. If such a pattern was to reoccur, we’d be looking at the next move in Bitcoin around June. So we are still very much in a price consolation phase with wild moves within a wide trading range. I continue to work under that assumption.

What concerns me about the “missing” 750,000 bitcoins from Mt. Gox is that we don’t know who has them now. What if it is the feds, or some banking interest? The feds already own a lot of Silk Road coins, so let’s hope this is not the case. That would be the worst case scenario for the price in the near-term. Still, even if they do have these coins, they can only dump them on the market once. The problem is, we have no idea who has access to them at this point. It’s also worth considering that the market has already priced this in. After all, the Mt. Gox Bitcoin price was already trading at a massive, bankrupting predicting discount for weeks before the actually filing.

As far as the future of Bitcoin, the protocol itself as well as peer-to-peer, decentralized crypto-currencies in general, I have no doubt the future is extremely bright. It’s the financial equivalent of the invention of the internal combustion engine. However, this point is much more eloquently made by Mr. Armstrong of Coinbase. So here are some excerpts from his recent article: What’s Not Being Said About Bitcoin.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a string of issues in the Bitcoin space, from the transaction malleability bug that ultimately closed Mt.Gox’s doors to a corresponding distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that delayed transfers on multiple exchanges and services. These attacks, along with recent phishing scams and money-laundering arrests, have cast doubt on the Bitcoin space and caused consumer panic — which is fair.

But what hasn’t been communicated well is how those who are truly invested in the future of Bitcoin remain totally confident, because with every attack, breach, and arrest, Bitcoin is getting stronger and proving to consumers and businesses it is not going away.

Here is what is not being said about Bitcoin that should be.

Open networks keep growing even if individual participants fail.

It is critical to understand just how different an open payment network is from the proprietary payment networks that exist today. To illustrate this differently, let’s look at another open protocol: email.

Email is a good example of an open network with a standardized protocol; and this standardization is one reason why email is fast, free, and works just about anywhere in the world. There is no single company or country who controls the email protocol (just like Bitcoin), so thousands of different clients and implementations have been created all over the world giving it great reach and driving down prices for consumers who have many email options to choose from. You may have noticed you can successfully send emails between different service providers (such as Gmail to Outlook). This is also due to the open nature of the protocol.

If an individual email provider has a security breach, or loses the integrity of its customers, this doesn’t reflect on the concept of email generally — it merely reflects on the integrity of the individual provider. Further, the beauty of open networks is that they provide a low barrier to entry for competing services to come in and vie for your business as a consumer. Bad actors are quickly weeded out of open networks because consumers have choice — the choice of many new entrants coming on the market to vie for their business. Open networks do a great job of keeping incumbent companies honest, because if they make a mistake and lose their customers’ trust, their customers will be gone in a flash.

Unlike Bitcoin or email, our financial institutions and payment systems today are proprietary. This limits the ability for consumers to easily switch between payment providers and creates less competition for services. If the provider of a proprietary payment network isn’t serving its customers’ needs, where else will their customers turn? There is only one company you can use to access a proprietary payment network — the company that owns it. This higher switching cost has a few side effects: less competition in the market, higher fees, limited geographic reach of any individual network, and less innovation around things like speed of transactions.

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