I like Bitcoin – it’s a plucky idea. Decentralised peer-to-peer currency, pseudo-anonymity and an anarchist angle: who needs the banks, right? Its success is testament to the hunger for a non-bank alternative payment system.
Bitcoin’s unique masterstroke is also its fundamental flaw – the way that coins are algorithmically-derived means that there is a finite supply. They will run out (21 million coins is the hard-wired limit of the protocol), driving up the price of the coins in circulation.
Engineered scarcity and built-in deflation (the currency soars in value) means that Bitcoin is a commodity, not a currency.
The problem is, like gold, it enriches early adopters and concentrates power into a few wealthy institutions. It’s therefore entirely possible that we see a layer on top of Bitcoin – a fiat currency backed up by Bitcoin which becomes traded as a proxy. Ta-da! We’re back where we started.
None of this is to say that Bitcoin will fail, it may very well succeed, but if it does, it won’t be because it’s better.
Edited 28 Nov 2013: Several people pointed out that bitcoin mining will end in 2140, not in ‘a couple of years’ as originally stated.
I’m going to be speaking at ProductTank Birmingham about Droplet, design and ‘things that are good’.
ProductTank Brum provides an opportunity for Product Managers or anyone who manages products (even if it’s not your job title), in Birmingham and the West Midlands to exchange ideas and experiences about Product Design, Development and Management, Business Modelling, Metrics, User Experience, solving user problems, Product Strategy and all the other things that get us excited.
The event is on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:30 PM, it’s FREE and tickets are here: http://producttank-brum-october.eventbrite.com/
After using iOS 7 for a few days, I think I get it now, and how the radical re-design fits with the company’s business objectives:
There are fewer visual affordances
Yes, ‘Find my Friends’ leather stitching took skeuomorphism too far, but at least buttons used to look obviously ‘tappable’ across iOS 6. In iOS 7, some text is tappable, some isn’t. There’s a steeper learning curve and greater cognitive overhead in working out how to use most of the built-in apps.
More functionality is hidden
Fewer ‘grips’ to slide things open, a hidden ‘Control centre’, pull down to expose search on the Home screen, the ‘swipe back’ gesture – and so on. These are, Apple assumes, power-user touches – and power-users will happily learn how to do this stuff.
The user interface throughout is smooth, slick and responsive – the transitions in particular feel classy, and the realtime ‘frosted glass’ effect works really well.
Put this ‘premium’ feel together with more ‘expert level’ functions and the high-end iPhone 5S hardware (plus a cheaper model at a lower price-point) and I think the result is:
Apple isn’t trying to make a smartphone for everyone anymore.
Any electronics co can churn out cheap Android devices and compete in a messy commoditised space it figures, meanwhile the high-end is Apple’s to own.
You get some people together (startup), borrow some old instruments (fork something off GitHub), and start getting some songs together (MVP).
Your mum and friends say “you guys sound pretty good!” (initial market validation), so your dad buys you a drum kit (friends and family round) and you record an EP (out of beta).
You start playing local venues (initial traction) and build up a fan base (early adopters) who love you and tell all their friends (network effects).
You get signed to a major label (raise series A), record your first studio album (product launch), and then you’re on the cover of some music magazines (TechCrunch).
After a while you notice that lots of fans are heading to new gigs (Facebook) and leaving your shows a little empty (MySpace) – so you release a greatest hits album (exit to BigCo).
After many years of touring (vesting), you decide to start your own record label (VC fund) and support some new bands coming through.
The vision statement of the Wikimedia foundation (who run Wikipedia) is;
Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment.
The sum of all knowledge, free, for every human.
Wikipedia have scale challenges – they’re the fifth-most-visited property on the web – but under the hood their technology is comprised of widely-used open-source projects. They use a PHP-driven content system, MySQL databases and lots of caching.
Rather than the tech, it’s that vision that makes them the most significant product on the web.
The technical innovation that companies like Google and Twitter have achieved is staggering; Indexing all of the web’s content and making it searchable in milliseconds, for example, or operating a global real-time communications network.
Incredible technology from behemoths that were once tiny startups.
A USB memory stick isn’t cutting-edge technology, but the whole Korean-language Wikipedia is just over 1Gb zipped, and fits nicely on a memory stick which can be attached to a balloon and sent over North Korea, sailing over the firewall on the breeze. Wikipedia makes this kind of vital information activism possible.
Sometimes it’s not the tech that makes the startup: it’s the vision.