It’s time for some more education from the mind of Satoshi Nakamoto, at the very beginnings of Bitcoin. Ryan X. Charles and Bitcoin creator Dr. Craig S. Wright continue their “Theory of Bitcoin” series with a look at the original website that introduced Bitcoin to a wider audience.
“Theory of Bitcoin” is a series of 1-2 hour video discussions between Charles and Wright that will hopefully someday be the basis for a more formal educational course. It recently concluded a 10-part, line-by-line analysis of the 2008 Bitcoin white paper with commentary from Dr. Wright about what everything means, what needs clarification, and how conditions have changed since its publication.
The original website was published on bitcoin dot org in January 2009, soon after the v0.1 alpha protocol software was released and shortly before the network officially launched (though parts of it were written in and dated 2008). It read:
Announcing the first release of Bitcoin, a new electronic cash system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending. It’s completely decentralized with no server or trusted parties.
Charles points out that this is probably the first appearance of the word “decentralized” to describe Bitcoin, since it isn’t used in the white paper. Dr. Wright highlights “uses”; saying Bitcoin isn’t peer-to-peer (in the computer science sense) for payments between individual users, but instead that it “utilizes” a P2P network of nodes to prevent double-spending.
How about the “small world network” of the miners, is that decentralized? Charles asks. “It depends on the use of the word,” Dr. Wright says. He refers to an earlier paper on “Digital Coins based on Hash Chain”, where “decentralized” refers to a network of servers, rather than a single server.
Dr. Wright notes the paper also describes that it’s “necessary to handle high volume of small transactions that are of low value.”
This was the holy grail of digital cash, he says, and there was never any mention of “digital gold“—a near-static, hard-to-spend asset like BTC has become.
The Bitcoin website’s ‘evolution’
“Anonymous” is another word that keeps popping up in early Bitcoin documentation, so some more clarification is necessary there as well. Dr. Wright explains it as meaning users (not nodes) can send payments without revealing their identity—however the transaction chain remains traceable and this has always been known, so full anonymity was never promised in the way others like Monero and Zcash promote it. For example, you can transact with physical cash without revealing your identity, but it’s not 100% anonymous—every bill has a serial number.
There are also a few interesting pieces of the conversation concerning who “owns” and “controls” the bitcoin dot org domain name, and how it came to be that way. You’ll have to watch the video to find out… but it’s interesting.
The two also look at how the website changed over time, particularly the phraseology and descriptions of some of Bitcoin’s concepts—with special attention to the way almost-free and instant transactions disappeared. Another interesting moment is where Dr. Wright points out that the PGP key that would purportedly help “prove” Satoshi’s identity was actually published in 2011, after he had left the Bitcoin project. (There will be more about this in future episodes.)
You’ll also hear plenty of technical detail about licenses, programming languages, platforms and versioning Satoshi used, the limitations of SHA-256 encryption, more arguments against the concept of “selfish mining,” and how Bitcoins are issued rather than generated.
Though several of the topics discussed here will be familiar to those who’ve watched other videos in the “Theory of Bitcoin” series, there are always new things to discover. As always, it’s a reminder that watching every episode is essential to having a well-rounded knowledge of Bitcoin, its inner workings, and guiding principles.
To watch previous episodes of the Theory of Bitcoin, subscribe to the Theory of Bitcoin YouTube channel here.
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