Bitcoin is great and safe, says, er, the Bitcoin Foundation
Gros fromage: As long as operators aren’t in jail, digital cash is the future
Web Summit Bitcoin will have its biggest impact in unstable regimes and foreign currency transfers, according to the Bitcoin Foundation's chief scientist Gavin Andresen.
Speaking at Web Summit 2014, the head boffin said the online virtual current offered a great way to sidestep unstable government-issued currencies when they were suffering from issues such as hyperinflation.
“Those are the places where having an alternative, where you can kind of go around the government currency, where Bitcoin will have the biggest societal impact,” Andresen told press at the event, while brandishing a hundred trillion Zimbabwean dollar he carries around.
"You’d think that central banks would have learnt their lesson ages ago, the nth time someone experienced hyperinflation, but apparently they haven’t."
He said that remittance was another area where Bitcoin could really make a difference, saving people from having to spend half the wages they wanted to send home on just sending it home.
“The Foundation works on keeping transaction fees inexpensive. We don’t want a world where Bitcoin remittance costs the same amount as wire transfers,” he said.
One area that would help the remittance sector would be Bitcoin ATMs – as long as they turn out to be legal.
“Assuming the regulations are settled so that the operators don’t go to jail, I think Bitcoin ATMs are great!” Andresen joked.
“I could really see that [kind of usage] taking off and taking Bitcoin mainstream," he said. "International use of Bitcoin will be the first mainstream use. Things like remittances, Bitcoin makes really easy and if there’s an ATM there, they can cash out immediately."
“And I’m also glad that there’s more than one company doing it so there’s competition,” he added.
Regulation after Mt Gox
Of course, regulation is the area that is proving most difficult for the fledgling cryptocurrency, particularly since the shady downfall of one of its largest exchanges, Mt Gox.
Andresen neatly sidestepped the specifics of the Mt Gox issue, but he did say that the Bitcoin sector and its technology were still young.
“I don’t expect smooth sailing for the Bitcoin ecosystem. I lived through the dotcom boom and bust and from that chaos arose great companies, and I think the same thing will happen in the Bitcoin world,” he said.
However, Andresen is feeling a little bit more optimistic about the regulatory landscape for the digital cash, even though "regulators have to react to this new technology and try to fit it into laws that were passed years and years ago, and I think you see that in all kinds of tech".
“Because banking and financial is one of the most regulated industries, it’s been particularly difficult for Bitcoin. [But] in the last year or so, we’ve seen regulators such as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) come out with guidelines. The challenge would be to not get over-regulated and kill innovation,” he said.
As for Bitcoin’s elusive founder Satoshi Nakamoto, Andresen said he doesn’t know who he/she/they are – and it doesn’t matter.
“I’ve never trusted Satoshi. I don’t have to trust Satoshi because I trust the code,” he said. ®