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The central authority in Chaumiam systems only issues the currency and accepts deposits. It is not required to process transactions.

It is worth pointing out that Digicash survived longer than Bitcoin has even been around -- twice as long, in fact. The reasons for its failure are not as simple as "people just did not care." There were forces in the US government actively working against all civilian use of cryptography, especially those systems that might thwart law enforcement investigations. Patents on cryptography (ironically, this includes patents held by Chaum himself) did what they typically do: prevent systems from being deployed on a large scale. There were bad management decisions, like Chaum's refusal to accept a huge monetary offer from Microsoft to integrate his system with Windows 95 and another large offer from Visa.

Yes, there was a general lack of concern on the part of credit card users about the security of their card data. That lack of concern is largely fueled by all the legal protections bank customers get -- nobody actually feels the pain of credit card fraud, except for the money mules:


That lack of concern is equally challenging for Bitcoin. I suspect that most people do not really care about any of the issues Bitcoin is trying to solve. Few people are seriously worried about runaway inflation of the US Dollar or of the Euro. Bank fees aggravate merchants, but those same merchants are generally unwilling to accept anything other than their nation's currency, and deal in Bitcoin only through intermediaries that perform currency exchange.

In another four years, if the news about Bitcoin is something other than, "Bitcoin trading at all-time lows," or "Analyzing the failure of cryptocurrencies," you can at least claim that Bitcoin fared better than Chaum's systems.

"only issues the currency"

This is not an "only". The central issuer also apparently makes management decisions that lead to the success or failure of the scheme, as the anecdote about Chaum relates.

There is a difference between the design of the protocol, and the realities of deploying it. Bitcoin is not immune to this: despite its supposedly "decentralized" protocol, the Bitcoin developers have enormous power over the system. A bad decision by the Bitcoin developers could kill Bitcoin, and inaction by those developers could also kill Bitcoin. Were it not for the early efforts of the developers, Bitcoin would never have received any attention at all.

It is also important to remember that Chaum's poor management of Digicash did not exist in a vacuum; the patents on the digital cash concepts and protocol designs were key in ensuring that only Chaum could deploy the system. Were there no patents, Microsoft might not have bothered to make an offer; they could have just implemented a digital cash protocol themselves. There is no single reason for the Digicash failure, but rather a list of reasons that collectively doomed the system.

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