Ledgers and Law in the Blockchain
Most of the talk about Bitcoin has centered on its potential as a new form of currency, or on the use of the underlying technology as a new electronic value transfer platform or protocol. At the payments industry conference Money20/20 in the autumn of 2013, Bitcoin promoters were declaring that Bitcoin was “like SMTP [an email protocol] for money.” It promised a universal protocol allowing different existing payments providers to transfer value using the Bitcoin blockchain to any other endpoint. At the same conference, Bitcoin advocates were stickering the exhibit hall, posting hand-written signs, and passing out leaflets and magazines. By 2014, however, the promise of the protocol seemed to have come to fruition: Bitcoin-based payment providers like BitPay and Coinbase purchased elaborate booths for Money20/20, and had developed professional collateral to advertise their services—and, perhaps more importantly, showed their desire for legitimacy and market dominance alongside traditional payment providers, such as Western Union, Visa, or PayPal.