Reddit’s Cryptocurrency Engineer Hints at Secret Bitcoin Project Plans

Pete Rizzo
Dec 11, 2014 at 22:05 UTC
Updated Dec 12, 2014 at 14:12 UTC

Ryan Charles, RedditGiven Reddit’s status as perhaps the most prominent social network for bitcoin discussion, it is unsurprising that the wider community took notice when former BitPay developer Ryan X Charles was brought on board as the site’s first ‘cryptocurrency engineer’ this September.

Interest was further piqued with the announcement that, fresh off $50m in new funding, Reddit would go beyond simply embracing bitcoin as a currency, seeking instead to give 10% of the round to users through a cryptocurrency backed by its own shares.

Since then details about the project have been scarce. However, Charles took to the social network yesterday to respond to community questions following his formal introduction as a Reddit employee.

The resulting conversation shed new light on Reddit’s plans for its cryptocurrency project, while providing a broad overview of how Charles sees developments in the bitcoin space.

Throughout his remarks, Charles was bullish about the potential of bitcoin, affirming that he sees his upcoming work with Reddit as part of a long-term investment for the company; the first of what he expects will be many similar projects to be embraced by global businesses.

Charles wrote:

“Bitcoin technology will ultimately become integral to Reddit. We’ve had some internal brainstorming about ways we could integrate – the possibilities are enormous.”

The full conversation covered a variety of topics, from the newly proposed sidechains white paper to the recent rise in the use of micropayments tools on the platform.

A perfect match

Overall, Charles stressed that he sees himself as a long-term member of the Reddit team, and feels there are myriad opportunities that could result from the integration of the social network and the emerging technology.

He said that when he was hired by Reddit earlier this year, this long-term plan was less clear. Even so, he suggested he felt a synergy with the company from an early point.

In particular, he shared an anecdote from his interview with the company, in which he said he would seek to decentralize Reddit should he be hired.

“Turns out this plan was literally already on the table!” he remarked. “However, […] I’m completely focused on bitcoin and don’t exactly have the spare time to decentralize Reddit.”

Charles went on to characterize Reddit as the best community to help spread bitcoin and showcase its ability to usher in a new wave of decentralization. “It’s a perfect match,” he added.

Sidechains and colored coins

As for how the project will look on a technical level, Charles was less clear. For example, he explained that when he first took his position at Reddit, even he was in the dark about its plans to launch a crypto 2.0 project.

“I didn’t really know anything about bitcoin 2.0 stuff like colored coins – I was an expert in plain-old bitcoin 1.0,” he wrote. “I spent more than a month just researching the options.”

Charles indicated that Reddit has a number of options for releasing its crypto shares – including Counterparty, Ethereum, Mastercoin, NXT, Open Transactions, Ripple, sidechains and Stellar.

However, he said that colored coins, which allow users to alter a bitcoin to represent an asset, and sidechains, the conceptual multi-blockchain project helmed by VC-backed Blockstream, are perhaps the company’s “best options”.

Still, Charles cautioned that Reddit will remain blockchain-agnostic until it releases its product.

“We are not committing to any protocol today, because it is not necessary yet, and things in bitcoin change so fast that they may change before we actually launch,” he said.

Tipping, dogecoin integration possibile

In another query, Charles was asked if Reddit might seek to integrate digital currency tipping into its core user interface (UI), an idea he said was on the company’s “list of options”.

However, he suggested Reddit may not seek to integrate with the tipping platforms it already uses most commonly – comments that are notable given the recent surge in popularity of platforms like ChangeTip.

“Note that security is absolutely paramount with this stuff,” he wrote. “But integrating that into the reddit UI while simultaneously guaranteeing security is non-trivial.”

Charles went on to mention Copay, BitPay’s multisig wallet, lauding its security and calling its key signing service “an excellent model”. Further, he suggested that bitcoin may not be the only digital currency supported alongside Reddit’s new offering.

“I think there may be a way to integrate dogecoin,” he said. “I will have more say about this after some of the upcoming announcements.”

Reddit symbol image via Wikipedia

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