Bitcoin is a wonderful invention, but in many ways it does indeed feel like the early days of the internet. The internet. Not the WWW. Remember that HTTP was a protocol implemented that enabled the data that was already on the internet to be accessed in a much simpler way, via the web browser. Before the WWW, we already had FTP for file transfer, telnet for remote machine access and things like gopher, Archie and Veronica to search with. However, none of those were something that I would expect my non-techie friends, much less my parents, to be able to use.
All that changed with the invention of the WWW and the web browser. All of a sudden, anybody could access the information on the internet by just clicking. At most, you would have to type in some semi-complicated URL into the browser address bar. But notice that even now, that has become less common. Instead, you either already have a link from something you start at (Twitter, Facebook, Google news, etc.) or you can find it by searching. That didn’t all happen right away either.
And I think the important thing to remember is: the WWW didn’t arise from just seeing what could be done with the existing tools, it looked at what was there and found a new and novel way to interact with them. A lot of breakthroughs happen by asking the right question, and that question is not just how do we use what we already have. Instead it’s trying to figure out what we want to be able to do, and then inventing the tools to do it.
I think Bitcoin is not quite at that position yet. We are looking at some great uses (remittance, payments, etc.), but these are simply the FTP and telnet of Bitcoin. They are fantastic tools, but are not simple for just anyone to use. For that matter, even Bitcoin (the currency) itself is not as easy to use as it needs to be nor as simple to secure.
We need to get to Bitcoin 2.0 applications, not protocol. There is nothing wrong with the Bitcoin protocol – it workds just fine, just as TCP/IP does. But we need to start asking the right questions. What are the problems that can be solved with Bitcoin behind it, and what new tools need to be implemented to do this?
I think some new applications are starting to enter this area, but when they truly come to pass the user shouldn’t even need to know the details of Bitcoin that they need to know today. Do you type in an IP address to access data? No, you click on a link that takes you to a web site by name. Once those tools start to appear, then we will start to use Bitcoin like we started using the Internet once the WWW was established.
And I have a few ideas…