Bitcoin (BTC) popularised the term blockchain. While blockchains, or decentralized and distributed digital ledgers used to record transactions across a network of computers, have been around for over 30 years, Bitcoin is the household name for a blockchain.
That’s despite the fact that the genesis block was mined well over 14 years ago, when George W. Bush was president of the United States and “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas topped the charts. Bitcoin, however, is still top of the blocks.
It’s to be expected, then, that most blockchain advocates have used, understood or — at the very least — experimented with Bitcoin.
Nope. Not so.
Here’s an example. While emceeing at the European Blockchain Convention in February, I asked the roughly 250 blockchain believers sitting in front of me in the audience for a show of hands:
“Who here has used Bitcoin?”
Maybe 20 hands in the audience shot up. “Okay. Keep your hand up if you’ve used Bitcoin’s Lightning Network,” I said. The Lightning Network is a payments network built on top of Bitcoin that allows near-instant, near-free transactions. Over half those hands went down.
One data sample is insufficient. So, the following day, I asked the audience on stage. I was surprised to receive the same result. Four-fifths of the blockchain conference audience had never used Bitcoin.
Why is that? Why is it that so few people have touched arguably the only blockchain that solves what is known as the “scalability trilemma” — that of decentralization, security and scalability?
The Bitcoin blockchain — or “timechain,” as Satoshi Nakamoto called it in the Bitcoin white paper — is still relatively small. Anyone with an old laptop can download the entirety of transactions in order to run a node. The network can scale to reach millions and soon billions of people with layers, and the Bitcoin blockchain has never been hacked. And yet at the blockchain conference, very few attendees said they run nodes or have transacted on Bitcoin.
However, there are not enough data points yet to form this conclusion. I wanted to quiz individuals across the conference to see if they were blockchainers or Bitcoiners — and if so, why was that the case?
I quizzed conference-goers with a simple question. I asked around 15 people to choose Web3 or Web5, and only one person chose Web5. Ironically, the sole…
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