I'm rapidly unveiling what's been brewing in the BoomBust labs over the last few months - UltraCoin an intelligent derivative layer of smart financial contracts that sit on top of the Bitcoin architecture. In short, the recreation of the banking industry in software - without the trust and counterparty risk issues!
For those of you who are still skeptical re: cryptocurrencies, I please read the most excellent article by David Z. Morris, which also happens to grace the front page of Fortune magazine today.
I'll excerpt some choice snippets:
Some still doubt bitcoin's usefulness and durability, but 2014 may leave skeptics even further behind -- developers and entrepreneurs are already hard at work building features on top of the Bitcoin protocol that will allow for the decentralized execution of financial services, from currency hedging to loans to stock issuance to rental and purchase contracts...
In the long term, peer-to-peer finance threatens to weaken banks and other financial agents just as peer-to-peer file sharing did the music industry -- and some of the architects of this financial Napster seem gleeful about the possibility.
Ya damn skippy!!!
That means loans without banks, contracts without lawyers, and stocks without brokers, executed and recorded across hundreds of servers at all corners of the earth.
Independent entrepreneurs are also working to build this infrastructure. One of these is Reggie Middleton, currently building a client called BTC Swap.
This will be marketed as UltraCoin! Wasn't completely ready for the interview, but will be shown live at the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami Beach this weekend!
Middleton, gravelly voiced, dapper, and businesslike, doesn't fit the stereotype of woolly young bitcoin developers. But he slyly describes himself as "not quite an anarchist," and BTC Swap is a shot directly across the bow of the financial industry.
Still in early development, BTC Swap is planned to facilitate a variety of what Middleton calls "Zero-Trust Digital Contracts," which recreate financial functions in software code by matching offered and desired transactions between parties without the need for intermediary institutions. Because these contracts are automated, instantaneous, and executed with assets already represented in the Bitcoin blockchain, Middleton says they eliminate counterparty risk while also subtracting conventional banking and brokerage fees.
David was correct in that it was in early development when he saw it, but we've been busting our collective asses (analysts, financial engineers, software engineers, programmers, website designers, the whole crew) and we'll not only be demonstrating live but will be trading risk down in Miami, right in front of your eyes!
The most immediate function Middleton envisions for his system is for hedging bitcoin against existing national currencies. With bitcoin's valuation still showing huge volatility, Middleton claims the availability of distributed hedging will both ensure the value of bitcoin for individuals holding the asset and provide systemic stability. (Given persistent skepticism, there should be plenty of takers to short bitcoin against the dollar.) And the entire system relies on decentralization for its security and integrity: "My contracts are peer-to-peer," says Middleton. "If you hack my servers, there's nothing to get." Somebody call Target (TGT).
Somebody? Anybody? Target, drop me a line at reggie.middleton at ultra-coin.com if you want my assistance in getting in on this distributed, peer-to-peer bitcoin thingy. My next post will show how my UltraCoins can add 15% to Overstock.com's bottom line. That's pretty damn good if you ask me! As a matter of fact, it's pretty damn good even if you didn't ask me :-)
Such hedging functions have particularly unique promise because of the extremely low transaction costs of peer-to-peer currency. Bitcoin makes microtransactions ranging down to fractions of a cent viable, but Middleton says that "right now, if you do micropayments, the volatility of bitcoin can really take you out." Because of the low cost of Middleton's swaps, "I can let [payees] manage risk and decrease volatility at the micro-level."
Please pardon me for the heavy excerpts taken from this article, but it is really... just.. that.. good!!! And it gets even better. Check it out:
The functions that advocates say could be automated through the Bitcoin network seem nearly endless, including peer-to-peer investment funds, Kickstarter-like crowdfunding, binding arbitrations, and even non-financial transactions such as naming rights management and encrypted communication.
I actually have much of this stuff oven already. All I need is the funds to help accelerate development becuase "you know who" is likely to get their bonus pool panties in a bunch and start coming after me :-)
And all could be executed without a cut for intermediaries. Bitcoin partisans, from developers down to rank-and-file users, often seem to revel in the idea that they are threatening the control and profits of Wall Street institutions, who they see as rent-seeking fat cats. If it were limited to the loss of fees on payments and transfers, bitcoin's threat to existing financial institutions would still be substantial. But with a full array of commission-free financial services on the horizon, there is even more reason to take heed.
Oh, and I love this part...
Middleton sounds a bit like an 18th-century pirate striking back against the Empire when he declares that "what I'm doing right now is a direct threat to fiat merchant banking." For him, excitement over value fluctuations in the bitcoin currency is missing the point: "It's not a threat as people sit there and ponder whether bitcoin is a bubble or not. But if people go through the protocol and use their imagination, the existing system is threatened."
And here comes the rain on the parade :-(
However, there is a substantial obstacle to this coming revolution. Despite the emergence in 2013 of entities like Coinbase that have drastically streamlined the process, it is still difficult to exchange bitcoin for national currencies in a quick, reliable manner. It's unclear how Middleton's automated dollar-bitcoin hedging will work without a lightning-quick and reliable dollar-bitcoin exchange platform.
UltraCoin was in early beta stage when David saw it. It'll be ready to strut much of its stuff in Miami, making things much clearer.
So, the true "automation" of bitcoin functions that integrate with the economy as a whole may require a reconciliation with existing trading platforms.
Oh, I wouldn't bet the farm on that one.