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What is bitcoin? As opposed to Bitcoin, that is

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Oh dear. I have such a terrible attention span and I’m so easily distracted. I didn’t get more than a few pages into “The Age of Cryptocurrency” without setting off for Google.

 In their introduction, the authors say that by convention Bitcoin the technology is capitalised whereas the currency is referred to with a lower-case b. But i don’t think this is right. Technologies aren’t capitalised. We write about biotechnology, not Biotechnology. We don’t write about Semiconductors but semiconductors. So we shouldn’t write about Bitcoin technology, should we? In which case, how should we refer to the underlying technology? I’ve already adopted the convention of referring to the “blockchain” technology as distinct from “bitcoin the means of rewarding miners in a specific implementation of blockchain technology”. For example, when I was honoured to be asked by the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) to give their annual lecture on IT last year. I chose Bitcoin (capitalised, to mean the specific system) as my topic. As they reported at the time,

[Dave Birch] argued that the blockchain, (the decentralised and public ledger system which underpins Bitcoin) is the real technological innovation and solves an old problem in a new way – stopping double spending of digital assets.

[From Bitcoin isn’t the future, but the blockchain might be…]

Incidentally, I think some of the people present thought that this was a new and radical view, but it really wasn’t. All I was doing was observing where the smart money was going and I think it’s now the consensus view. The noted entrepreneur Reid Hoffman recently said the same thing.

Beyond arguments over whether Bitcoin functions more like a commodity or a currency is the fact that it introduces the blockchain, a distributed ledger that resides on tens of thousands of servers around the world.

[From The Future of the Bitcoin Ecosystem and “Trustless Trust” – Why I Invested in Blockstream | LinkedIn]

As far I can tell from this quote, he has adopted the same convention: he uses Bitcoin to mean the specific system and blockchain to mean the technology. And since he is the guy behind Netflix, I am not going to argue with him. By the way, and it’s entirely tangential to this point, if you are interested in that ICAEW lecture…

We now also have a short video available from the evening, with comments from Dave, Michael and some audience members!

[From Bitcoin isn’t the future, but the blockchain might be…]

Right. Back to the book.

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