Bitcoin is not just a protocol or money, it’s a new business model for Open Source Software. Prior to Bitcoin, you had to raise money, write software, distribute your product, build a business model, and work towards liquidity. Angels, VCs, salespeople and bankers guided you the entire way, through a maze of tolls and controls.
The Bitcoin model for crowdfunding dispenses with everything except the software:
- Write software to power a completely distributed network in which any node can participate anonymously.
- Allocate scarce resources in the network using a scarce token – an “Appcoin”. Users need this Appcoin to use the network. Owners of scarce resources get paid in Appcoins.
- Pre-mine or early-mine Appcoins and keep some non-threatening amount. These are shares of your company, equity that will appreciate in value if the network is adopted.
- Give network operators the ability to collect new Appcoins in proportion to their contribution. Route a small fraction of each transaction output to the developer foundation (Mastercoin does this). These revenues are used to pay for operations, and bounties for ongoing development.
- As network usage increases, so does equity value and revenue.
- Anyone can buy Appcoins, anywhere, anytime, anonymously. Ship your code, ring the IPO bell.
This is true crowdfunding – get funded by your users in proportion to their usage. Reward early adopters, network operators, and developers with upside.
In economics, the artificially scarce token used to allocate scarce resources is called “money.” So Bitcoin is crowdfunded OSS to run an Economic network. Now, a new generation of Appcoins can be created as open source software, crowdfunded into existence, and go public on day one. They can run networks where Bitcoin may not work, or where separate funding and compensation is needed.
The Tor network is slow because it relies on volunteers to relay traffic. Anytime we see a line, the product in question is underpriced. Let’s crowdfund a Torcoin – users of relays will pay in Torcoins and operators of relays will get paid in TorCoins. Founding developers collect equity when TorCoins are first mined and sold. Non-founding developers and network operators are paid revenues from newly mined coins and transaction fees.
Can we just use Bitcoin instead of Torcoin? Isn’t money supposed to be fungible to all use cases? Perhaps not – Bitcoin’s transaction speed is too slow for a dynamic network allocating bandwidth – 10 to 60 minutes is far too long to negotiate with a relay. And payments have to be anonymous. So a fast-clearing (Fastcoin can clear a block in 12 seconds), fully anonymous (likeZerocoin) variant is needed.
What else can we allocate in a network? NameCoin is already working on Distributed DNS. Can we build
striped, encrypted, high-availability data store using Boxcoin which pays for disk availability? Can we build a caching infrastructure using Cachecoin which pays edge nodes with un-used resources to cache large, static content? A DDoScoin used by web servers to throttle incoming browser requests? A PKIcoin that provides a global, un-assailable encrypted and anonymous messaging network? Are there more applications, like Bitcoin, that map to the real world and bypass network resources altogether?
In a world of numerous Appcoins, easy to create, integrate, and crowdfund, what’s the role of Bitcoin?
Bitcoin itself will be used as the currency of choice in many cases, when its slow transaction clearing and pseudonymity are not issues. And most of the world’s resources are not networked software which can benefit from its own Appcoin.
Some Appcoins may just be a protocol layer on top of Bitcoin to explicitly reward the creators, operators, and early adopters of the Appcoin’s network. PKIcoin may only be a financial incentive, security outsourced to the Bitcoin mining pool, with entry / egress to PKIcoin through Bitcoin. In the cases that the Bitcoin blockchain is insufficient, such as Torcoin, Bitcoin will still be a reserve currency of sorts for moving into and out of Torcoin.
Bitcoin is more than money, and more than a protocol. It’s a model and platform for true crowdfunding – open, distributed, and liquid all the way.
Thanks to Balaji Srinivasan for helping think through many of the ideas in this post. It’s really at least half his work. If you don’t follow him on twitter @balajis , you really should).