[Bitcoin Day] Bitcoin, much more than a “currency”
In the spring of 2013, at the time of the Cypriot crisis and the blocking of bank deposits, bitcoin was experiencing an unprecedented boom. The followers of the cryptocurrency have multiplied exponentially, then, the price of bitcoin has been racing, and has since experienced high volatility. One of the explanations for this sudden craze touches on one of the fundamentals of any economic system: confidence. At a time when confidence in banking institutions – and by extension in our currencies – is sometimes resolutely lacking, Bitcoin is based on a transparent, secure computer protocol that no one can take control unilaterally.
While Bitcoin has been widely discussed as a currency so far, it is actually more of a certified transaction system. It is as if the confidence of economic actors in central financial institutions was replaced by a confidence in a computer protocol. Therefore, many other applications can be imagined. The system could make it possible to certify non-monetary transactions, for any system wanting to do without a central authority. With Bitcoin, the transaction register is guaranteed, the transaction log is public and unalterable as long as at least half of Bitcoin users have not agreed to falsify it. An unrealistic possibility.
A “trusted third party” with various applications
The protocol could act as a “trusted third party” in many areas. Some applications already exist, others are imagined:
- To reserve a domain name: a system based on the Bitcoin protocol has already been created: Namecoin. It makes it possible to certify who was the first to reserve a computer domain name by dispensing with theICANN.
- To vote: members of theBitcoin France association defend the idea of a voting system through the Bitcoin protcole. According to them, it would make all the votes, independent of any organization, verifiable by candidates and voters, with open source software and a public and secure database.
- To communicate: worried about the surveillance of the internet and social networks by the NSA and government authorities in general, a Brazilian, Miguel Freitas, came up with a peer-to-peer micro-blogging site: Twister.
- To build an alternative financial system: Google would think about the creation of an alternative financial system thanks to ” colored bitcoins“, A practice that allows bitcoins to be virtually colored and to be exchanged in the form of bonds by assimilating them to a specific company (of which it would represent a share of debt).
- For scholarly calculations: “The extension to other fields could be done for activities which must combine transparency and validation by the network” and in particular for “tasks which must be carried out in sequence (creative processes, learned calculations, creation of images, music, etc.) ) ”Imagines Ludovic Desmedt, Senior Lecturer at the Economics and Management Department of the University of Burgundy. Example: the Ethereum online service imagined by the young Russian Vitalik Buterin.
- To use Open Data: “One can imagine a global online registry that would certify births, or even the signing of a contract on a given date between two people” considers Pierre Beyssac, computer scientist and informed observer of Bitcoin. He imagines an inviolable register through which we could use the data provided by public services in a transparent manner.
The list is not exhaustive. Be careful, however, “Bitcoin would not replace our institutions, it would be more of a tool, which would play the role of register, without ensuring all the functions of the institutions” warns Pierre Beyssac. He imagines a kind of cloud infrastructure funded (directly or via the provision of computing power) by different actors used to manage data collectively and in a non-suspicious manner.
Many applications of Bitcoin as a trusted generator protocol have yet to be imagined. In fact, as economist Philippe Herlin summed it up during the show Place of the canvas devoted to the subject, broadcast by France Culture at the end of 2013, “Bitcoin is a bit like the Internet at the beginning”.