The Bitcoin2014 conference kicked off in exuberant style with Patrick Byrne’s crash course in Western philosophy. From there the day went on to address bitcoin-backed securities, Circle’s long-awaited emergence from ‘stealth’ mode and the ‘State of Bitcoin’ as judged by Gavin Andresen, chief scientist for the Bitcoin Foundation.
Here are today’s highlights:
Overstock to issue bitcoin bonds?
Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne is no stranger to making big statements. In February, he told Wired the world was headed toward financial apocalypse, warning that "someday, either zombies walk the Earth or something close to that … bitcoin is the solution".
Today’s speech at Bitcoin2014 was light on zombies, but full of brainfood for the audience. After delighting the conference with his knowledge of political philosophy, Byrne revealed his ambition for Overstock.com to list on a block chain-backed stock exchange:
"We could either issue securities in bitcoin and translate those and collect funds in dollars. I am less interested in that than just taking it and listing it, and maybe even creating a new security and issuing it through such an exchange.
Or, we could take our security, which is already publicly registered and publicly traded and just get it dual listed on somebody’s technology."
Will it happen? Who knows. But after delivering on what he claimed to be off-hand comments about Overstock.com accepting bitcoin, there’s every chance that Byrne could again push the limits of what’s considered possible with bitcoin.
Circle emerges from the shadows
The announcement today ends months of speculation about Circle’s product offering – the company is offering a wallet and payment service for consumers that deliberately eschew the speculative language of bitcoin to-date.
There’s no 'buying' or 'selling' on the service, just 'depositing' and 'withdrawing'. Circle customers will also receive insurance against theft on their deposits.
It’s the most explicitly pro-mainstream offering from a bitcoin business to-date, but we’ll have a while to wait before we can properly judge its success.
Circle still isn’t fully open to the general public – you have to request an invite.
Gavin Andresen sounds the alarm
"I still don't care about mining," teased the Bitcoin Foundation’s chief scientist in his State of Bitcoin speech today, except when it affects the experience of ordinary bitcoin uses. He headed into more serious territory and warned that transaction fees could "rise and rise to the point where only rich people can transact" if block sizes aren’t increased.
His speech covered the breadth of issues facing bitcoin today, including questions about privacy – Dark Wallet is "fantastic", he said – and regulation, which he called "inevitable".
Perhaps more importantly, though, he subtly criticized those in the community who consider certain ideas off-limits.
"It’s hard to find a constructive place to talk about changes without people attacking people [just] for talking," he said.
For bitcoin, as for the rest of the Internet, trolls can be impediments to progress, it seems.
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