Ever since I first got involved in Bitcoin, people smarter than me have been saying that Bitcoin is still experimental. At any time a weakness may be discovered or external pressure applied that could drive the price to zero and end Bitcoin’s run. This is an assessment that I broadly agree with, and when I tell people I think they should get some bitcoins, I generally tell them to get a couple of hundred dollars worth and sock it away. If Bitcoin skyrockets, they can pay their kids’ college education, and if it crashes, they will have lost little more than a weekend in Vegas.
The next argument my betters make is that if Bitcoin crashes out, then we will all flip over to another, better coin. This one I have a lot more trouble with. It could be true, but which coin? One of the things that makes Bitcoin unique is that it’s creator spun it up and handed it over to other developers before disappearing. Most of the coins that have appeared on the scene after this have been marked by a very definite pump-and-dump attitude to enrich the developers. Satoshi’s treasure board may approach a million coins, but they haven’t moved since they were generated even though their value now would make him a very rich ninja indeed — perhaps indicating that money wasn’t his motive and that those coins have been burned.
About two weeks ago we saw the announcement of a new altcoin designed by ‘Bitcoin developers’ who had grown disaffected with the infighting and stagnation in the Bitcoin space. They would take what they had learned about what made Bitcoin special and fix its weaknesses creating the one coin to beat them all: Decred.
The Decred team issued a PR statement picked up by a number of tech and Bitcoin related media sites announcing the appearance of the new coin. Currently if you go to their site, you can see a countdown clock to an airdrop of 4% of Decred coin issued to those who register and have a provable online presence.
The website looks good and the story is just what you would want to hear–experts are fixing all the problems with Bitcoin, including centralization, block size, and security.
I can feel that I feel less than confident, though. It’s true that Satoshi remains anonymous, but he was working at a time when no one knew what a blockchain was and there was no possibility for him to pump and dump his nascent coin. These developers remaining anonymous, but flaming to be Bitcoin developers raises the questions who are they? What did they contribute? How hard did they fight and on which sides of the block size debate were they? What other altcoins might they have been involved in?
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It’s likely that these developers will say that they want anonymity for the same reasons that Satoshi did — those who create digital money don’t always come down on the right side of regulations. For my own money, though, after a run in with a Bitcoin lending site operator named TradeFortress, I’m a little leery of trusting people who will take my money, but won’t show their faces.
Note that the hype about Decred is just weeks old, that their GitHub account is just weeks old with no code, and that their Twitter account is just weeks old. Even more, they have no contact information — how’s that for online presence! (Thanks to Redditor Shadowrun456 for pointing these facts out.)
I’m reminded of a hoax study run last year to ‘prove’ that eating dark chocolate will help you lose weight. The study was designed in such a way that any reasonable review of the actual data would turn up that they had simply used a statistical aberration turned up by mining the data on a very small group of people involved in the test. They then put out a glowing press release in a pay-for-publish journal and waited. Sure enough, their study began to be picked up in the more sensationalistic media: Chocolate helps you lose weight!!
I hope that the Decred team is for real and wish them luck in creating a viable alternative to Bitcoin. For the moment, though, I’m just going to have me a piece of chocolate.