No, Bitcoin isn’t the Segway of currencies

oldPC22 Nov 2013 / Washington Post – The Atlantic’s Matthew O’Brien is one of the Internet’s smartest commentators on economic policy. But like a lot of economics writers, he’s been slow to appreciate the disruptive potential of Bitcoin, the Internet’s first completely open payment network.

O’Brien says that Bitcoin is the new Segway: a technological marvel that dazzles nerds but will fail to catch on with ordinary consumers. Bitcoin is comically impractical, he suggests: “The people who have bitcoins have no reason to spend them, and the people who don’t have no reason to get them. They don’t want a currency whose value you can’t predict from one hour to the next. They don’t want to buy things anonymously. And they don’t want transactions to be irreversible.”

And he’s right! Bitcoin is nowhere close to being ready for use by ordinary consumers. But the big difference between Bitcoin and a Segway is that Segway is a finished consumer product, while Bitcoin is a technology platform. The Segway was basically as good as it was going to get the day it was released. Bitcoin has the potential to become steadily better over time.

In this sense, Bitcoin is more like the PC or the Internet than a Segway. What’s important isn’t the technology itself, but the ways the technology can enable third parties to build on it….. Read more

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