Names, Cocktail Parties and Triangles

I was recently asked what the number one problem that I believe Bitcoin will solve by the end of 2015.

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future (as physicists say to a round of hearty guffaws at Danish cocktail parties).

Remittance to the developing world is an obvious first consideration but I suspect it’s harder than it looks and perhaps it will be “solved” continuously and incrementally. So, for me the big one is decentralised identity management. It’s big.

name-zooko.pngWhen you look at all the “Bitcoin 2.0” projects; the metacoins, decentralised exchanges, crypto-equities, and the menagerie of financial instruments and markets, one problem emerges at the root: identity. We already rely on many identity systems but they all involve an entrusted third party. For decentralised, zero-trust consensus networks backed by blockchains, identity must also be decentralised or it will be the weak link.

Namecoin is an early recognition of this need and a valiant attempt to tackle the problem of names but strategic weaknesses in the implementation and a lack of dedicated project support raised doubts as to whether Namecoin was a viable solution. More recently, Namecoin has seen a revival and there are several other projects such as Keyhotee that attempt to enable a strong identity management system where people can create and build a reputation that is attached to a globally unique profile that they fully control.

The necessity and potential for such a system is high across almost every significant project in the crypto space. Controlling one’s identity information is a cornerstone of privacy. Avoiding scammers and impersonators is crucial to managing counter-party risk.

What’s more, if the invention of Bitcoin enables a solution to this problem, then it will not only have solved The Byzantine General’s Problem, but also unravelled another impressive cryptographic enigma: disproving Zooko’s Triangle. That’s two dazzling cocktail party conversation topics for the price of one!

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