Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login


Libra coin is backed by Visa. The whole point of cryptocurrency to avoid having to go through middlemen like Visa or even require banks.

This is a way for the intermediaries to cash in on the cryptocurrency hype and squash it before cryptocurrency payments become mainstream. They want to insert their own thing that looks like a cryptocurrency but will allow them to continue to profit from and control the exchange of money.

It will become a central point of control by providing many governments a convenient one-stop shop for their spying and interference over people's business.

> The whole point of cryptocurrency to avoid having to go through middlemen like Visa or even require banks.

"Whole point" is speaking for a whole lot of people who may not share your views. Certainly circumventing banks was an important founding concept, but circumventing _central_ banks is arguably much closer to the goal.

There's no reason why credit cards shouldn't exist denominated in Bitcoin -- they provide easy access for consumers to obtain unsecured credit. There's no reason why banks (even fractional reserve banks) shouldn't have accounts denominated in Bitcoin -- they provide an easy path for consumers to issue credit.

Opinions may vary on this, but if Bitcoin (or another decentralized cryptocurrency) succeeds the way that people want, I don't see any way to _stop_ these things from happening. People are willing to pay interest on loans; other people want to earn low-risk interest on capital.

The thing that will change is that hopefully without central banks consumers will have to realize that depositing money in banks is not risk-free. And hopefully society will learn this as well and we'll move out of the cronyism/free-money regime that we've been stuck in for the last hundred years or so.

Presumably people wouldn't want a cryptocurrency as plutocratic and centralized as Bitcoin has become. Some lessons were learned with BTC as an experiment, and as we can see there's evolution taking place and plenty of more advanced alternatives are making prior software like bitcoin obsolete.

It's especially troubling how centralized the minting and mining has become. And it's easy to forget there's the problem with energy consumption related to the PoW algorithm eating almost 1% of the entire world's energy simply for an accounting database.

The major reason you don't see payment processors dealing with cryptocurrencies is because the major usecase for most cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Monereo, and Ethereum is money laundering.

  One important point: if we actually include all 7 billion 
  people on the earth, most of whom have zero BTC or 
  Ethereum, the Gini coefficient is essentially 0.99+. And  
  if we just include all balances, we include many dust 
  balances which would again put the Gini coefficient at 
  0.99+. Thus, we need some kind of threshold here. The 
  imperfect threshold we picked was the Gini coefficient 
  among accounts with ≥185 BTC per address, and ≥2477 ETH 
  per address. So this is the distribution of ownership 
  among the Bitcoin and Ethereum rich with $500k as of July 

  In what kind of situation would a thresholded metric like 
  this be interesting? Perhaps in a scenario similar to the 
  ongoing IRS Coinbase issue, where the IRS is seeking 
  information on all holders with balances >$20,000. 
  Conceptualized in terms of an attack, a high Gini 
  coefficient would mean that a government would only need 
  to round up a few large holders in order to acquire a 
  large percentage of outstanding cryptocurrency — and with 
  it the ability to tank the price.

  With that said, two points. First, while one would not 
  want a Gini coefficient of exactly 1.0 for BTC or ETH (as 
  then only one person would have all of the digital 
  currency, and no one would have an incentive to help boost 
  the network), in practice it appears that a very high 
  level of wealth centralization is still compatible with 
  the operation of a decentralized protocol. Second, as we 
  show below, we think the Nakamoto coefficient is a better 
  metric than the Gini coefficient for measuring holder 
  concentration in particular as it obviates the issue of 
  arbitrarily choosing a threshold.

  ...However, the maximum Gini coefficient has one obvious 
  issue: while a high value tracks with our intuitive notion 
  of a “more centralized” system, the fact that each Gini 
  coefficient is restricted to a 0–1 scale means that it 
  does not directly measure the number of individuals or 
  entities required to compromise a system.

  Specifically, for a given blockchain suppose you have a 
  subsystem of exchanges with 1000 actors with a Gini 
  coefficient of 0.8, and another subsystem of 10 miners 
  with a Gini coefficient of 0.7. It may turn out that 
  compromising only 3 miners rather than 57 exchanges may be 
  sufficient to compromise this system, which would mean the 
  maximum Gini coefficient would have pointed to exchanges 
  rather than miners as the decentralization bottleneck.

  Conversely, if one considers “number of distinct countries 
  with substantial mining capacity” an essential subsystem, 
  then the minimum Nakamoto coefficient for Bitcoin would 
  again be 1, as the compromise of China (in the sense of a 
  Chinese government crackdown on mining) would result in 
  >51% of mining being compromised.
  - Balaji S. Srinivasan (the CTO of Coinbase) 



I'm not defending Bitcoin as the ultimate cryptocurrency; I think it's inarguable that it remains the most empirically successful so far. Whether that's first-mover advantage, network effects, a hardware-capable PoW function, or that it struck closer to the right balance of concerns, who knows?

I don't agree that the energy consumption is a real concern because we don't have a comparison here for what other currencies cost. The cost seems like it should be fairly efficient because there are competing uses for energy.

I'm not sure exactly what the quoted text is trying to say or how it is relevant. I guess towards the notion of "decentralization"? What I would say here is that the reality is that we don't know the gini coefficient of a single thing in the universe except goods that are extraordinarily scarce (like "Mona Lisa paintings"). The estimates for these things for real-world currencies are laughably bad; they are based on self-reported statistics and upsampling, and they rarely reflect the actual scarce good -- effectively M0 of a single currency, which is a number we don't even have for Bitcoin because exchanges represent aggregated possession rather than actual ownership. So my point here is that yes, maybe that Gini coefficient looks bad, but it's the first time that we've even had a moderately realistic look at what a Gini coefficient looks like. Maybe they all look like this -- maybe gold is .99+, maybe Dollars are .99+, maybe Euros are .99+, maybe cigarettes in prison are .99+? Nakomoto coefficient is even more immeasurable for anything but cryptocurrencies, and also disregards aggregated records of deposits.

Bitcoin is not inarguably the most successful cryptocurrency. It has completely failed at its stated aim of facilitating payments, and cannot coordinate the necessary technical changes for that to be realistic. It has also failed as a platform for programmable money, since its programming language is almost impossible to work with, and once again, it has been unable to coordinate the necessary changes to implement a working language.

What is “the most successful cryptocurrency”? I don’t know, but I would vote for one of those that set out as a development platform, and have successfully ignited a huge amount of experimentation on novel financial and organizational instruments (although their value may be unfounded).

This confuses me. I make multiple payments every month in bitcoin to fund various web services (i.e. tarsnap, gandi). In fact, I've never had an issue with a bitcoin payment going through. Ultimately, I find the process of paying with Bitcoin to be a joy. I hold my smartphone's camera up to a QR code on my screen, and BAM - payment complete.

Yes, most other cryptocurrencies provide the same thing. But Bitcoin provided it first.

Which app/wallet/environment are you using? Do you have any other recommendations?

I make payments on my iPhone with Bread Wallet [0]. Have used it for several years, with zero issues.

[0] https://brd.com/

This confuses me. I have used Bitcoin as a method of purchasing goods and services and it's quite easy, and indeed fun. Buy some BTC or some Koinye or some other space cash and have your funs.

If Libra ends up with 10x more users than all other cryptocurrencies combined, who are you to say what the point is? The existing cryptocurrency space has spent a decade building something that a relatively small number of people are really passionate about but it's the opposite of what the masses want.

In my opinion, the main thing holding back cryptocurrency is scalability. They are working on that. The other thing is just social momentum.

Popularity and merit are two completely different things. It waxes and wanes. The masses will adopt anything that is convenient and popular (regardless of whether its really great or not).

Look at the #1 Billboard song right now. "Old Town Road". This is the most popular song. Its "what the masses want". What's it about? "Can't nobody tell me nothin'" "Cheated on my baby" "Cowboy hat from Gucci".. Its teenage defiance, materialism, and "macho" unfaithfulness. What happens to be popular right now might mean something important, but it also might just be garbage as usual. (By the way, at the moment, it is popular for humans to create literal mountains of actual garbage.)

The people who created cryptocurrency said what the point was. Its to give us control over our digital money and remove the intermediaries.

People who know better should strive to make things that are worthwhile more popular.

You're really making a value judgment on how the world works in general based on Old Town Road?

That was one example. Look at popular music in general. Or popular movies versus good movies.

Look at the example of social researchers creating a line of actors in downtown Las Vegas. The line went to nowhere. But simply by virtue of having several people in it, it seemed popular. So it grew in popularity to become a very long line. That went nowhere. The thing that was popular had no merit because it did not exist.

Or look at Juicero. Very popular with investors to the tune of $120 million.

I don't really believe that what's popular in music is simply a reflection of what people want. It's more like what someone's marginally accurate model of the public wants. Same with movies. Studios experiment and when they find something that is commercially successful, they make more of it. A lot of good stuff doesn't get made or promoted because they think it wouldn't have the broad appeal to be commercially successful. A lot of what's popular just got that way through promotion, not because of its overwhelming merit.

Do you happen to have a link related to the Las Vegas line of actors experiment?

Scalability is a big problem, but it's not the only problem. Money accomplishes 3 things:

1) Store of value 2) Unit of account 3) Medium of exchange

It's not really very good at any these 3 things. The scalability significantly hurts #3, but even if you fix it it's super volatile, which are bad for 1 and 2. Not only that, but it's inherently deflationary, which is quite bad in the long term, but I guess that's really a secondary concern.

I agree with your point. I think Libra is likely to have more users than Bitcoin not long after it goes live. Libra will be easier to use than a credit card, let alone Bitcoin.

I can't find the citation, but I think Paul Graham said, make it easier to use and cheaper than the incumbents and you'll have a good chance of succeeding.

This sounds like AOL in 1997 saying "We are the Internet", when the real internet was accessed using Netscape.

>The whole point of cryptocurrency to avoid having to go through middlemen like Visa or even require banks.

This is actually a big problem with cryptocurrencies - you're removing middlemen who are legally obligated to enforce anti-money-laundering laws on behalf of governments. In general, cryptocurrencies will either live under existential threat from government law enforcement agencies, or their use cases will be restricted to interactions with centralized AML/KYC-compliant parties that might as well be using a database.

This is why I doubt any major cryptocurrency advances will come from an established company. The risk of noncompliance for them is too great, but to have an effective cryptocurrency you have to build it resistant to outside control. It’s a catch-22 for the companies.

Why does a cryptocurrency have to be resistant to outside control? Because otherwise there’s no reason to use it, since the existing networks run by Visa or the US dollar are more efficient and scalable. The value of bitcoin is in its equalization, no one person on the network’s voice matters more than another.

Yeah, in my book this is more of an attempt by a consortium of powerful companies to get a favorable regulatory regime for money transmitting. "Crypto" is only there to confuse regulators into making an exception.

My first impression when I saw this news was that this would be about as 'decentralised' as Tor is. Facebook (and pals) will always maintain significant enough control over the nodes in the network to both maintain consensus in the blockchain, and also to subvert whatever consumer-friendly guarantees they'll claim to make. No different to Tor and US spy agencies controlling enough exit nodes to defeat the purpose of Tor.

Facebook and privacy are fundamentally opposed, so based on known behaviour the currency itself is most likely a hook into more of its users' lives.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact