Ethereum, Dapps, and the rise of a new Internet

As originally published on Bitcoin Magazine.

Disclaimer: I am an active participant in the Ethereum project and part of the organization along with Vitalik Buterin and Mihai Alisie.

If you aren’t yet hip to Ethereum, let me tell you just how excited I am for this project! I’ve never believed in the social value of altcoins, but Ethereum is something special, just like Bitcoin was special compared to eCash. In essence, Ethereum takes the blockchain/consensus technology and wraps a new system around it, such that Bitcoin is just a currency. And what is currency but some digital asset? Except digital assets can represent something more than a specific sequence of bits–they can represent an idea. What if that idea is a legal contract? If the network participants agree on the contract status via blockchain consensus, it’s easy to see how one could extend this idea to work for a multitude of needs including escrow, voting, betting, futures contracts, or really any mathematical expression described by a Turing-complete machine language. And it will all automatically run in “the cloud”. Welcome to the new world of Distributed apps–or Dapps.

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Can BitMessage replace email?

It’s the question that’s been on my mind lately as news continues to unfold about the vast expanse of the United States’ spy programs. Email was never designed for the modern internet and that’s plainly obvious each day our collective spam folders swell in size. There have been attempts at patching the system with things like SPF and DKIM, but they’re band-aids on a bullet wound.

What we need is a whole new solution. We need an upending replacement protocol designed for the modern internet. Using lessons learned from Bitcoin, BitMessage was designed to address security and identity in the communication space, just as Bitcoin does with money. The big question I have is, “can it?” Let’s take a look…
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Developing against bitcoind

Developing with Bitcoin isn’t easy. Sure, if there are merchant services to handle basic payment requests, but if you’re striving for a more noble goal—say trying some new technology—working with Bitcoin can be EXCRUCIATINGLY difficulty. Why? Let’s take a look.

Working with Bitcoin is conceptually simple: numbers assigned to accounts. But there’s a whole protocol beneath that surface definition. For example, did you know that the bitcoin protocol supports M-of-N transactions, which allows for cool things like escrow without a third-party service? Unfortunately, almost no one has tools to support this functionality, which means the technology sits stagnant and unused.

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Bitcoin 2013 – Day 1

Day 1 here at the Bitcoin 2013 conference in San Jose, CA, USA is complete and the response has been outstanding. As a passionate supporter of Bitcoin, it was surreal to hang out with community celebrities like Trace Mayer (Run to Gold), Yifu Guo (Avalon), and Alec Liu (VICE); I’ve still got my eyes peeled for a few others including Gavin Andresen (Bitcoin Foundation). So what did Day 1 actually bring us?

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I’ve been playing with node.js for a week or two now, and I’m releasing my first project created with it:

BTCimg uses Bitcoin Charts weighted price data to create an image of the current Bitcoin exchange rate for all known currencies. This is useful on sites that only allow the editing of CSS. With the use of the background-image CSS property, site administrators can include just a few lines of CSS and display the current Bitcoin price.

Here’s an example: