October 30, 2013
Digital Currency and the "Arc of the Internet"
A lot of us were born as part of the Apple generation (not the iPhone generation, but the Apple II generation), and entered the world economy as young adults just as the commercial Internet was being born. For me, at least, it was a time of great anticipation that the world was just about to be revolutionized, and the Internet would be the foundation of that change.
Back then the Internet was really difficult to use, there were no web browsers, and getting true Internet email up and running actually did take a college degree. But a lot of us felt like that could be changed, that great software could be built on top of these open standards and open protocols, and that that software would change the world forever.
The pipes would get bigger, the computers faster, the software creation methods would constantly improve, and the security concerns would be addressed -- the Internet could and would go mainstream and transform industries everywhere.
Back then, when I would talk to friends or family or an innocent bystander about the Internet, I would get a glazed look -- people would say “why would I need that?” “I already have mail and fax and copiers, and telephone and TV and radio, and why would I ever want to buy anything from my computer, I want to be able to go to the store and touch and see a product.” I’d also often get comments like, “since no one controls the Internet, it can never be secure”, and in general I think that most people thought I was just a wild-eyed 23 year old who was just off in la la land.
At the same time, though, online communities were growing and thriving, and when Marc Andreessen launched NCSA Mosaic for Windows in Sept 1993, that changed everything for me, as I’m sure it did for a lot of people. It was a simple piece of software that was freely available, with underlying open protocols and standards like HTTP and HTML, that enabled a new model of computing and publishing, and inspired tens of thousands of entrepreneurs.
We could change the world with software.
And that we did, eventually millions of us, as we saw the opportunities to change how the world worked around us, to apply software and connectivity to reshape how industry and society would function on a global scale.
The “Arc of the Internet” from 1993 until now, 20 years later, is well known and broadly understood. And it is not easy to dismiss the degree to which it has integrated the world more deeply and shattered barriers that had existed before. We can communicate freely with nearly any human on the planet; we have nearly free and instantaneous access to all of human knowledge; we have access to -- and collectively create -- more media and content than was ever thought possible, also at essentially no cost.
Why all of this history and narrative about the birth and arc of the Internet in talking about Circle and Digital Currency and Bitcoin?
Because we’re still on that Arc, and the next major leg of its disruption is about to emerge like a tsunami and re-shape the world’s financial system. Like the Internet we know and love today, this transformation might take 10 or 20 years, but as we have seen with what’s just come before us, that’s not very long and A LOT can happen in that time.
Digital Currency is like saying Email, Text or the Web. It’s a new killer app built on TCP/IP, and leveraging innovative techniques in modern cryptography, math and economics to enable everyone on the planet to use the same currency, to securely store that currency, and use it to spend and transfer money anywhere in the world from any device, instantly, just like sending a text message.
Like Email, Text and the Web, which are built on open standards and protocols (SMTP, SMS, HTTP/HTML), Digital Currency is today most often built on and operates using the Bitcoin protocols, which like other great disruptive software technologies, is freely available and implemented through open source, with a thriving community of developers and companies building, operating and evolving the technology.
Next, read: Why Digital Currency Now?