One of the biggest sponsor of the bitcoin conference that ends later today is none other than Visa, the bank’s fiat payments processor.
In a sign of changing times, MasterCard is listed as a sponsor as well, both once seen as entities potentially disrupted by bitcoin.
The crypto currency however has not moved much in that retail payments direction, with it now seen more as a unique asset investment with a fixed supply.
Jack Mallers of Strike is trying to change that a bit, announcing an integration of the Lightning Network (LN) custodian wallet with Shopify.
Yet, to both Visa and MasterCard, the threat of any real competition from bitcoin appears to be largely non existent, especially compared to the opportunities this space offers to both.
Because as a very volatile asset, it can’t easily bootstrap to a significant level of retail payments usage without some sort of calamity in the fiat system.
Even in the case of the latter however, currently the decentralized bitcoin network can not handle the load, unless significant tradeoffs are made whereby custodian LN wallets are required.
There are non-custodian ones as well, but despite significant financial troubles in Lebanon, Venezuela, and other places, the Lightning Network as a whole still holds just $150 million worth of bitcoin.
So while it might look a bit hypocritical for Visa and MasterCard to sponsor a bitcoin conference, they might instead be making a simple statement: there are no threats here, but there are opportunities.
Or alternatively, they may simply be saying that the organizers of this conference are our friends in a Bitcoin 2022 where Visa gets to be a sponsor but not something like Coinbase.
That opportunity potentially being stablecoins, tokenized dollars or euros that can function even better as a means of exchange and function better than other fiat money as a store of value.
That still very new field requires a payment processor if it is to be used in commerce, and Visa can compete in performing that function.
With it in effect so saying they’re one of us. They want to, can, and perhaps even will compete in this space under our terms. But what is ‘us’ nowadays?
With 25,000 people attending in person, and 5,000 to 10,000 watching live at any one time, bitcoin is no longer quite at the stage where one can wonder are we the dissidents to be rounded up, or the future leaders, as Trustnodes did in 2017.
With Mayors in attendance, Senators, even Presidential Candidates, though unlikely ones like Andrew Yang, it is unlikely anyone at bitcoin 2022 thought they were some sort of fringe.
To the contrary, one is impressed by how professional the commentators stage was in-between speeches.
What strikes you at first is that listening to these talking heads feels a bit like you’re watching Bloomberg in regards to the level of professionalism, and that sticks.
There are of course these huge headphones that make you feel more like you’re watching a sports match, but listening to them does highlight the scale that bitcoin has reached now.
And yet these are the ones no one quite wants to listen to. No offense to them at all, but the show is the stage and they’re kind of take the slot of the ad breaks.
The stage as it happens was a lot less professional. That’s on the surface. If you look closely, it is instead a very professional stage management display of a tone and culture that can only be described as geeks’ gangsters.
Unfair, and maybe even judgmental, but a guy with arms full of tattoos, dressed all in black, unshaved, being put up as a presenter to this huge audience, is of course a statement of sorts.
Many of the speakers are under-dressed as well. Far too much underdressed actually for it to be natural.
Jack Mallers, for example, picked his clothes to look exactly like the typical normie kid on the block. He was far from alone. It’s like all went to Primark to try their best to look like the very poor.
Then there’s the unnecessary swearing. Fine for teens or even young adults, but the extent of it gave the impression they got directions to give the vibe of… we wouldn’t say street thugs, yet not too far from it.
Worse, they seemed a bit keen to use the word pleb in the talking heads stage. In the right context, that’s a useful word. Overuse it, or if you’re calling ordinary people plebs, then some may be put off of course.
And what’s most interesting is that it seems the more bitcoin grows, the more the bitcoin stage lowers and lowers its standards in terms of appearance and contour.
Some may remember the bitcoin conferences of 2013. The stage back then was atrocious in it being kind of like the back of a parking lot, but the presenters changed your mind quite quickly both in appearance and in content.
There was no swearing at all if we recall well, no such words as pleb outside of correct context, and no attempt to make themselves look as if they just came out of the roadside bins.
Harsh maybe, but another thing missing from the main stage is the coders. They used to be the show, in addition to the talkers. There was Amir Taaki, Peter Todd, Gavin Andresen, the huge beard of Gregory Maxwell. Sometime they even let Luke Jr on.
In the code money conference, there was not one slide with code in it. Too geek maybe for these fake gangsters? Too learned perhaps for these staged plebs.
Still, there was some interesting content and some very interesting. Our critique is of the organizers and none towards the speakers. But it does say something when out of the presenters, only Tuur Demeester was the one wearing a suite.
The very same Tuur that was ostracized, and now seems to quietly have been brought back in, although maybe he needs to watch out as his rebellion towards wearing thug clothes may have him cancelled again.
And it matters, would be what one says at this point, but thankfully it doesn’t. Because this isn’t a ‘bitcoin’ conference. It’s a conference organized by some about bitcoin.
The Bitcoin Magazine that organized it is also not quite a bitcoin magazine. It’s just some people that decided to write about bitcoin.
None of them speak on behalf of bitcoin and none of them are quite bitcoin. They’re just some guys doing some things while claiming it is about bitcoin.
Their interpretation that bitcoin is this thug street culture thing, is therefore just the interpretation of some people.
We think bitcoin is more middle class and upper middle class, as well as those aspiring to it, and of course it nowadays has billionaires too.
We also happen to think that bitcoin is primarily code. It’s a lot of other things, but its form is code.
The lack of techies on stage therefore speaks more about Bitcoin Magazine than bitcoin, although to be fair to them it hasn’t been much different since at least 2017.
That’s perhaps a cynical choice. The ‘plebs’ shouldn’t bother themselves with code because code is of course power, and so they can instead listen to these gatekeepers pretending they’re just like us while they talk about everything except what actually matters, the code based capabilities of bitcoin.
No talk about the increasing sophistication in Wall Street’s bitcoin usage either, not to a sufficient level anyway.
No Coinbase, no FTX, or CME, or this Do Kwon guy who is very much relevant currently. Instead boomer after boomer dressed in bin clothes.
And some of these people are very rich. Not many, but some. Some have a lot of power. Some manage billions, some make laws over trillions.
Why hide it? Why not make it a carnival of exquisite wear, and there were some though rare, instead of unsubtly pretending you’re so poor you’ve been wearing the same t-shirt for ten years.
To say that you’re just the guys on the street, the ordinary people? When was the last time anyone paid $21,000 (the whale ticket) to talk to a ‘pleb?’
Signals matter and this very professional attempt to look unprofessional is more an indication of denial.
They’re just in denial that bitcoin is now mainstream in awareness as it is no longer the underground and it has not been the underground since at least 2018.
Pretending it is, just denies you the opportunities of the current stage. Or more correctly, denies you the opportunity to keep up with the current stage.
That said, organizing these things is not easy, but a lot appears to be intentional decisions to portray bitcoin in black colours.
Even the bitcoin bull unveiled at this conference is black. Why? Bitcoin is orange! The only thing black may be the Bitcoin Magazine, not bitcoin, which cares naught about this magazine or any other.
And if this magazine wants to call its readers plebs, or wants to focus on a black bitcoin with fake gangsters and street thugs where geeks or code is for bullying, then of course this no longer should be called bitcoin 202x.
It should be called what it is, the Bitcoin Magazine conference. Because in some ways, except for the speakers, the presentation of all this has almost nothing to do with bitcoin.
As unlike all these pretenses, bitcoin does not pretend. It is fully transparent, with no dressing down or dressing up. Just readable code, and in ethereum, writable too.