EB89 – Greg Slepak: The Turtle Crawl Towards Internet Decentralization

EB89 – Greg Slepak: The Turtle Crawl Towards Internet Decentralization

Amidst all the discussion of alternative uses of blockchains, it is often forgotten that the very first fork of Bitcoin, Namecoin, pursued a daring vision for a decentralized, censorship-resistant internet. Greg Slepak, co-founder of the okTurtles Foundation joined us for an interesting discussion of DNS, Namecoin and how blockchains can be used to decentralize the internet.

Topics covered included:
– What DNS is and the role it plays in the architecture of the internet
– What man-in-the-middle attacks are and why certificate authorities offer poor protection
– How certificate authorities, SSL, IP routing and VPNs work
– Why the current model is broken from a privacy and security perspective
– How Namecoin and the blockchain could enable a decentralized and more secure internet
– The security risks when online identity is tied to a private key and how they could be mitigated
– What DNSChain is and what projects okTurtles is working on

EB88 – Siân Jones: Bitlicense And The Regulatory Straitjacket

EB88 – Siân Jones: Bitlicense And The Regulatory Straitjacket

In this episode, we revisited the perennial topic of digital currency regulation with Siân Jones, our regulatory correspondent and founder of the regulation-focused virtual currency consultancy COINSULT. With the final version of the BitLicense, what may turn out to be the most influential document for digital currency regulation, is now out. Besides diving into many different aspects of the onerous BitLicense, we talked about California’s coming rules, how Bitcoin startups will be affected and the implications of Ripple’s fine.

Topics covered included:
– A brief primer on BitLicense and the process by which it emerged
– What the key aspects of BitLicense are and how they changed through the revisions
– Why BitLicense will stifle innovation by dramatically increasing the cost and bureaucratic burden of running a digital currency startups
– How different companies are responding to the rules
– Why California’s virtual currency draft bill got a lot of things right
– What Ripple got fined for and why FinCEN could go after most cryptocurrency startups for the same reasons
– The status of the European Court of Justice case on VAT

NOTE: Since the episode was recorded the advocate general at the EU Court of Justice recommended that Bitcoin be exempt from VAT.

 

EB87 – John McDonnell: How Bitcoin Will Win Online Payments

EB87 – John Mcdonnell: How Bitcoin Will Win Online Payments

Solving the pain points of online payments was the applications that garnered the most attention in Bitcoin’s early days. In recent times, as consumer adoption of Bitcoin payments has been underwhelming much of that attention has shifted elsewhere. Nevertheless, companies keep working hard on making the vision of a universal, global payment system a reality.

Among those companies, one stands out as the top contender to compete with existing payment systems: Bitnet. Funded with a heavy warchest and the company is ran by veterans of Visa and Cybersource, a company started in 1994 to help merchants accept credit cards online that was sold to Visa in 2007 for $2bn. They have been working behind the scenes to get Bitcoin to break through with merchants.

CEO John McDonnell joined us for an important discussion of how online payments work today, why they are broken and how Bitcoin will revolutionize the industry.

Topics covered included:
– The story of Cybersource and payments in the early day of the internet
– The pain points with online payments for merchants and consumers today
– The role of the different actors such as payment processors, card networks, merchants and issuing banks
– The niches where Bitcoin payments could break through first
– Why coming from inside the payment industry provides Bitnet with a huge advantage
– Why they are focusing on Payment Service Providers instead of acquiring merchants directly
– His view on BitLicense and how it will affect Bitcoin payment processors

 

EB86 – William Mougayar: The Business Of Decentralization

EB86 – William Mougayar: The Business Of Decentralization

Peter Thiel argued in his book ‘Zero to One’ that the way to build a great and highly profitable company is to build a monopoly. But with decentralized technologies, there is a real question whether these monopolies can be built or whether the monopolies will end up being publicly owned goods (like Bitcoin) that can’t be monetized directly.

William Mougayar, who is an experienced tech executive and angel investor, has been writing extensively about these issues and was one of the investors in OB1, the venture-backed company launched by the founders of the decentralized market place Open Bazaar. He joined us for a discussion of the cryptocurrency space, Ethereum, Open Bazaar and monetizing decentralized technologies.

Topics covered included:
– Bitcoin as the new, thin cloud
– His long-term predictions about where the space is going
– What kind of business models are the most promising
– Why he chose to invest in OB1, the company behind Open Bazaar
– What the state of Venture Capital in the cryptocurrency space is

 

 

EB85 – Adam Draper: Accelerating 100 Bitcoin Startups With Boost VC

EB85 – Adam Draper: Accelerating 100 Bitcoin Startups With Boost VC

Revolutionary progress doesn’t happen without lots of work and in the case of Bitcoin that requires many different startups building technology. Few have contributed to this as much as Silicon Valley based startup accelerator Boost VC, which has been focusing on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency startups since 2013. Focusing exclusively on Bitcoin for an extended time, they’ve invested in companies such as Blockcypher, Coinprism, Coinjar, Mirror, Snapcard, Zapchain and many others.

Boost VC Founder Adam Draper joined us to discuss running an accelerator, their investment thesis and why they’ve chosen to add Virtual / Augmented Reality startups to the program.

NOTE: Applications to join the next tribe of Boost startups can be submitted until Wednesday July 1. If you’re interested in applying go here: http://bit.ly/1IG49MQ

Topics covered included:
– The qualities they look for in companies (8:50)
– What the overarching Boost VC investement thesis is (14:40)
– His view on the BitLicense rules and how they affect cryptocurrency startups (38:14)
– How regulatory concerns have risen among their startups (41:40)
– Why they chose to add Virtual / Augmented Reality to the program (47:50)

 

EB84 – Tim Swanson: Permissioned Ledgers And The Case For Blockchains Without Bitcoin

EB84 – Tim Swanson: Permissioned Ledgers And The Case For Blockchains Without Bitcoin

One topic that is guaranteed to cause heated discussion among cryptocurrency enthusiasts is the idea that blockchains can be controlled by known validators and function without an underlying cryptocurrency. Some think this is a non-sensical idea fabricated by those spineless enough to want to appease regulators and but clueless enough to miss the whole point of cryptocurrencies. But others believe that Bitcoin is unsuited for a lof of ‘Bitcoin 2.0′ applications and that permissioned ledgers have wide-reaching potential to increase efficiency and transparency.

Tim Swanson joined us for an important discussion of permissioned ledgers. He’s among their best-known proponents and has recently published a whitepaper discussing how they work and looking at different startups in the space.

Topics covered included:
– Why the ‘blockchains without bitcoin’ idea is so controversial
– Why it is strange that KYC is done widely on Bitcoin users but not on the validators
– Why even semi-decentralized blockchains can provide big efficiency gains
– Why the 51% attack possibility is an obstacle for the use of the Bitcoin as a settlement network
– Why financial institutions don’t care about censorship resistance but do care about irreversibility

EB83 – David Andolfatto: Fedcoin And The Implications Of Cryptocurrencies Issued By Central Banks

EB83 – David Andolfatto: Fedcoin And The Implications Of Cryptocurrencies Issued By Central Banks

Many people think of Bitcoin as the ultimate contender against the power of central banks, most importantly the Federal Reserve System. But that is certainly not the only way that cryptocurrencies and the blockchain can be used and one particularly interesting idea is that central banks could issue their own cryptocurrencies.

To discuss how this could be done and what the consequences could be we were joined by David Andolfatto, a Vice President of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and a professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University.

Topics covered included:
– What makes good money? How does Bitcoin fare in comparison?
– What is Fedcoin and how could it work?
– Why the tension between a governments desire for control and the desires for ‘permissionless innovation’ could make this difficult to implement
– Whether Fedcoin would threaten fractional reserve banking
– Why competition between currencies, both governmental and non-governmental, could be a good thing

The views and opinions expressed by ou guest are his own and should in no way be attributed to his employer.

 

EB82 – Mike Hearn – Blocksize Debate At The Breaking Point

EB82 – Mike Hearn – Blocksize Debate At The Breaking Point

Whether the block size should be increased to 20MB has created more controversy than any other question in Bitcoin’s recent history. For some, it is an urgent and necessary step in Bitcoin’s evolution. Their view is that leaving the block size at 1MB would be irresponsible inaction with potentially catastrophic consequences. Others see increasing the block size as unnecessary and a dangerous first step down a slippery slope towards a more centralized Bitcoin.

We were joined by Mike Hearn, along with Gavin Andresen the most outspoken supporter of a block size increase. He is also the creator of Bitcoin XT, a modified fork of Bitcoin Core, that may become the vehicle for the push for bigger blocks if no agreement is reached regarding Bitcoin Core. Don’t miss this crucial conversation!

Topics included:
– What would happen if blocks started being consistently full
– Whether bigger blocks create a centralization risk
– Why Bitcoin core development has become pervaded with toxic division
– What Bitcoin XT is and how it differs from Bitcoin Core
– The roadmap ahead and how a transition to BitcoinXT would occur
– Update on Lighthouse

 

 

EB81 – Nathaniel Popper: Digital Gold – The Inside Story Of Bitcoin

EB81 – Nathaniel Popper: Digital Gold – The Inside Story Of Bitcoin

From the mysterious creation story, to the early development among a small group of cypherpunks, to the emergence of the Silk Road, the collapse of MtGox, to the entry of a tidal wave of VC money and the Silicon Valley elite, Bitcoin’s short history has been action-packed. It’s no surprise that this could make for a riveting story and NY Times journalist Nathaniel Popper’s book ‘Digital Gold – Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money’ is precisely that.

Popper joined us for a conversation about his must-read book about the remarkable story of Bitcoin.

Topics covered included:
– How Nathaniel Popper ended up writing a book about Bitcoin
– Why he chose ‘Digital Gold’ as a title and some of its different connotations
– Why he chose to focus on the people and stories of Bitcoin rather than the technology
– The story of the Silk Road and how it played such a critical role in the early days of Bitcoin
– How Xapo CEO Wences Casares came to play a crucial role in evangelizing Bitcoin among Silicon Valley’s power players
– The rising tension and passing of influence between the old, ideological guard and the newer Silicon Valley crew

EB80 – Joseph Poon & Tadge Dryja: Scalability And The Lightning Network

EB80 – Joseph Poon & Tadge Dryja: Scalability And The Lightning Network

Since Gavin Andresen’s proposal to increase the Bitcoin block size, how Bitcoin can scale to accommodate higher transaction volumes has been heatedly debated among developers. One of the most promising long-term options to allow near infinite scalability is the Lightning Network. Joseph Poon and , the co-authors of the whitepaper, joined us for a discussion of scalability and how the lightning network could allow massive numbers of off-chain transaction in a trustless way.

Topics covered included:
– Why Bitcoin has a scalability problem
– How payment channels work and the architecture of the Lightning Network
– Why the Lightning Network would still require a block size increase
– How transaction fees would work in the Lightning Network
– How the Bitcoin blockchain would take on a court-like function to ensure honest off-chain behavior
– The risks and downsides to the Lightning Network