One of the biggest sponsors of the Bitcoin conference which ends later today is none other than Visa, the bank’s fiat payment processor.
In a sign of changing times, MasterCard is also listed as a sponsor, both once considered potentially bitcoin-disrupted entities.
Cryptocurrency hasn’t moved much in that direction of retail payments though, it’s now seen more as a single asset investment with a fixed supply.
Jack Mallers of Strike tries to change that a bit, announcing a Lightning Network (LN) custodial wallet integration with Shopify.
Yet for Visa and MasterCard, the threat of real competition from bitcoin appears to be largely non-existent, especially when compared to the opportunities this space presents to both.
Because as a highly volatile asset, it cannot easily jump-start to a meaningful level of retail payment usage without some sort of calamity in the fiat system.
However, even in the latter case, the decentralized bitcoin network currently cannot handle the load unless significant trade-offs are made whereby custodian LN wallets are required.
There are also non-custodians, but despite significant financial problems in Lebanon, Venezuela and elsewhere, the Lightning Network as a whole still only holds $150 million worth of bitcoins.
So while it might seem a little hypocritical that Visa and MasterCard are sponsoring a bitcoin conference, they could instead be making a simple statement: there are no threats here, but there are opportunities.
Or alternatively they can just say that the organizers of this conference are our friends in a Bitcoin 2022 where Visa becomes a sponsor but not something like Coinbase.
This opportunity potentially being stablecoins, token dollars or euros which can work even better as a medium of exchange and perform better than other fiat currencies as a store of value.
This still very new area requires a payment processor if it is to be used in commerce, and Visa can compete in performing this function.
With that in effect saying they are one of us. They want, can and maybe even will compete in this space on our terms. But what are “us” these days?
With 25,000 people attending in person and 5,000-10,000 watching live at any one time, bitcoin is no longer quite at the stage where it’s questionable whether we’re the dissidents to be snapped up, or the future leaders. , as Trust Nodes made in 2017.
With mayors in attendance, senators, even presidential candidates, albeit unlikely like Andrew Yang, it’s unlikely anyone at Bitcoin 2022 would think they were some kind of fringe.
On the contrary, one is impressed by the professionalism of the commentators scene between the speeches.
What strikes you at first is that listening to these talking heads feels a bit like watching Bloomberg in terms of the level of professionalism, and it stays.
There are, of course, those huge headphones that make you feel more like watching a sports game, but listening to them highlights just how big bitcoin has reached now.
And yet, these are the ones no one really wants to listen to. Don’t offend them at all, but the show is the stage and they kind of take the commercial break slot.
The scene here was much less professional. It’s on the surface. If you look closely, it’s more of a very professional staging of a tone and culture that can only be described as geek gangsters.
Unfair, and maybe even critical, but a guy with arms full of tattoos, dressed all in black, unshaven, introduced as a presenter to this huge audience, is of course kind of a statement.
Many speakers are also underdressed. Far too underdressed in fact for it to be natural.
Jack Mallers, for example, chose his clothes to look exactly like the typical Norman kid in the neighborhood. He was far from alone. It’s as if everyone went to Primark to do their best to look like very poor people.
Then there are the unnecessary swear words. Good for teenagers or even young adults, but the expanse of it felt like they had directions to set the vibe of…we wouldn’t say street thugs, but not too far from it .
Worse still, they seemed a little inclined to use the word pleb at the talking head stage. In the right context, it’s a useful word. Abuse it, or call ordinary people plebs, then some may be put off of course.
And what is most interesting is that it seems that as bitcoin grows, bitcoin’s stage lowers and lowers its standards in terms of appearance and outline.
Some may remember the Bitcoin conferences of 2013. The scene back then was atrocious in that it looked a bit like the back of a parking lot, but the presenters changed their minds pretty quickly, as long both in appearance and in content.
There were no swear words if we remember correctly, no words such as pleb out of the correct context, and no attempts to look like they were pulling out roadside trash cans.
Harsh maybe, but another thing the main stage lacks are coders. They were the show in addition to the talkers. There was Amir Taaki, Peter Todd, Gavin Andresen, the enormous beard of Gregory Maxwell. Sometimes they even let Luke Jr.
At the Code Money conference, there was not a single slide with code. Too geeky perhaps for these fake gangsters? Too scholarly perhaps for this staged plebs.
Still, there was some interesting content and some very interesting content. Our criticism relates to the organizers and not to the speakers. But it says something when among the presenters, only Tuur Demeester was the one carrying a sequel.
The same Tuur who was ostracized and now seems to have been quietly brought back, though he may have to be careful as his rebellion in wearing thug clothes could get him canceled again.
And that’s important, that would be what is said at this point, but luckily that’s not the case. Because this is not a ‘bitcoin’ conference. It is a conference organized by some on bitcoin.
The bitcoin magazine that organized it isn’t quite a bitcoin magazine either. These are just a few people who decided to write about bitcoin.
None of them speak for bitcoin and none of them are quite bitcoins. It’s just guys doing stuff while pretending it’s bitcoin.
Their interpretation that bitcoin is this
thug street culture, therefore, is only the interpretation of some people.
We believe that bitcoin belongs more to the middle and upper middle class and those who aspire to it, and of course it has billionaires today too.
We also believe that bitcoin is mostly code. It is many other things, but its form is a code.
The lack of on-stage technicians therefore speaks more to Bitcoin Magazine than bitcoin, although to be fair to them, it hasn’t been much different since at least 2017.
It may be a cynical choice. The ‘plebs’ shouldn’t bother with code because code is of course power, and so they can instead listen to these guardians pretend to be like us while they talk about anything but this what really matters are bitcoin’s code-based capabilities.
Nor is there any talk of the growing sophistication of bitcoin usage on Wall Street, not to a sufficient degree anyway.
No Coinbase, no FTX or CME, or that Do Kwon guy that’s very relevant right now. Instead, boomer after boomer dressed in trash clothes.
And some of these people are very wealthy. Not many, but some. Some have a lot of power. Some manage billions, some make laws on trillions.
Why hide it? Why not make it a carnival of exquisite clothes, and there were albeit rare ones, instead of bluntly pretending that you’re so poor that you’ve been wearing the same t-shirt for ten years.
Saying that you’re just the guys on the street, the ordinary people? When was the last time someone paid $21,000 (the whale ticket) to talk to a “plebeian”?
The signals are important and this very professional attempt to appear unprofessional is more of an indication of denial.
They’re just in denial that bitcoin is now widely considered because it’s no longer the underground and it hasn’t been the underground since at least 2018.
To pretend that it is, simply robs you of the opportunities of the current stage. Or more accurately, denies you the ability to follow the current step.
That said, organizing these things isn’t easy, but many seem like intentional decisions to represent bitcoin in black colors.
Even the bitcoin bull unveiled at this conference is black. Why? Bitcoin is orange! The only black thing may be bitcoin magazine, not bitcoin, who doesn’t care about this magazine or any other.
And if this magazine wants to call its readers the plebs, or wants to focus on black bitcoin with fake gangsters and street thugs where geeks or code is for bullying, then of course it shouldn’t be called anymore bitcoin 202x.
It should be called what it is, the Bitcoin Magazine conference. Because in a way, apart from the speakers, the presentation of all this has almost nothing to do with bitcoin.
Unlike all these pretenses, bitcoin does not pretend. It is completely transparent, without wrapping or dressing. Code just readable, and in Ethereum, writable too.