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The Weekend Read: May 16

dilbert2 1. Bitcoin vs. Blockchain: don't call it a comeback?

There was a ton of e-ink spilled this week in discussing the Nasdaq announcement. Here is the money quote from their press release:

In its first application expected later this year, Nasdaq will launch blockchain-enabled digital ledger technology that will be used to expand and enhance the equity management capabilities offered by its Nasdaq Private Market platform. Nasdaq's blockchain technology will offer efficient, fully-electronic services that facilitate the issuance, transfer, and management of private company securities.

The mention in that release of Open Assets as the tech partner and their use of "the blockchain" made a few folks claim victory for Bitcoin (such as Coin Center, Chris Skinner and even my man Richard Brown). There has been healthy debate on whether the coin can be separate from the ledger, and the Nasdaq case seems to give credence to those who say it cannot. My view is that the reading of the press release is off the mark. In fact, I would be willing to bet a few Satoshis that this Nasdaq effort never colors any coin on the Bitcoin blockchain, if anyone wants to take me up on it (with all proceeds going to GiveDirectly...)

2. Blockchain FTW

Reid Hoffman: Why the block chain matters:

[P]erhaps surprisingly, when one of the very smart people I know in Silicon Valley recently told me he's a major "Bitcoin sceptic" who has not yet seen "many real use cases" for the technology, I considered it a good sign. Why? Because in my experience, the most transformative ideas are not the ones that achieve broad consensus early on. Instead, they're the ones that are so uniquely out there, so contrarian, that even informed observers have wildly differing opinions regarding their potential value.

Factom joins with the Honduran govt to build a land title registry on a blockchain:

By building an immutable title record, backed by blockchain, Honduras can leapfrog systems built in the developed world, Kirby said. He added that this would allow for more secure mortgages, contracts, and mineral rights. "This also gives owners of the nearly 60 percent of undocumented land, an incentive to register their property officially."

Cryptotechnologies, a major IT innovation and catalyst for change by EBA Working Group on Electronic and Alternative Payments:

Asset-centric technologies are potentially the most interesting category for the transaction banking and payments domain, both for processes within and between organisations. Apart from possibly being able to speed up processes and reduce their complexity, cryptotechnology applications in this area can also be integrated with legacy IT, legal frameworks and existing assets (currencies, stock, bonds etc). Therefore, existing financial services could be ‘powered by cryptotechnologies’ offering financial institutions potentially lower costs, better products and faster time to market. This paper describes four actual use cases: 1. foreign exchange/remittance, 2. real-time payments, 3. documentary trade and 4. asset servicing.

3. Bitcoin pulp

The mystery of Satoshi continues to fascinate the press. The NY Times gives it a go in a fairly meh investigation of Szabo-as-Satoshi (the verdict? Kinda probably not but whatevs):

When I asked if he believed that Satoshi had been familiar with his work, Mr. Szabo said he understood why there was so much speculation about his own role: “All I’m saying is, there are all these parallels, and it looks funny to me, and looks funny to a lot of other people.” [snip] When I emailed him on Wednesday, he repeated his denial: “As I’ve stated many times before, all this speculation is flattering, but wrong — I am not Satoshi.”

The Untold Story of Silk Road, Part 2: The Fall. The (very lengthy) conclusion of last month's piece:

Tarbell had been reading DPR’s correspondence in reverse order, and it was a strange thing, winding DPR’s life backward, from willing executioner back into idealist concerned with individual happiness. Some libertarian utopia, Tarbell thought. Although he wasn’t exactly surprised. All systems are vulnerable to corruption. Like the Internet itself, Tarbell thought, which began as a wonderful free prairie until people took advantage of that freedom. That’s why, he thought, it needed a sheriff.