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Bitcoin 2.0

There is no doubting that Bitcoin and other digital currencies have the potential to bring massive and exciting changes to the way we see and use many financial services, from online payments to international money transfers. It could even change the way we see money itself, and the way we structure our economy – shifting power away from central banks and 'too big to fail' financial institutions and putting it back into the hands of ordinary people. But for many people, it is not Bitcoin itself which is truly revolutionary, but the underlying technological innovations which it is based on.

These same innovations – the blockchain and its distributed accounting through the use of a public ledger and cryptography, as well as the use of newly created currency units to reward the people whose machines run the distributed computing network, which enables the system to run smoothly even though there is no owner or central authority – could be used for many other projects.

To put it simply – the impact of Bitcoin could be about more than just money. Bitcoin itself is basically a combined currency and payment system. But the technology which drives it could power a huge range of other tools and services, branching out from money and payments to 'smart_contracts' and decentralized banking services to the creation of a whole new and improved internet.

A growing number of projects are attempting to do just that. These so-called 'Bitcoin 2.0' enterprises are the next wave of innovation, expanding and building upon the fundamental innovation provided by Bitcoin. Rather than simply taking the digital money idea and tweaking it, like the many 'alt coins' that you will find out there now, these Bitcoin 2.0 project represent a radical departure, using the same core technology for something more than just an alternative form of money.

In this article you will find a list of some of the main contenders for the title of 'Bitcoin 2.0', with a short explanation of each one.

On The Block: Could Bitcoin be the New Bitcoin?

Bitcoin already has a huge amount of momentum behind it and a large number of devoted users. This means that any '2.0' project which tried to draw users away from Bitcoin is going to face an uphill struggle, whilst on the flip side of that, any project which can work closely together with Bitcoin and even enhance it will have a powerful and well established support base to draw upon. And a range of different projects are trying to do exactly that.

The first projects aimed at building on top of the Bitcoin blockchain – using the exact same public ledger but adding extended functionality – where the likes of Mastercoin and the Master Protocol, and Colored Coins. Both of these projects are building protocols which will allow people to send and exchange any asset over the Bitcoin blockchain – from commodities, to fiat money like dollars or euros, to stocks and shares, to land titles, to new digital currencies created by users which would not need their own blockhains or miners. The Mastercoin protocol is also working on savings wallets with temporarily reversible transactions, and 'other types of smart contract'.

The developers seeking to build on the Bitcoin blockchain believe that they will add value to Bitcoin as a currency and payment system, whilst also benefiting themselves from the established network of Bitcoin users.

The core Bitcoin developers are also rumoured to be keen on keeping Bitcoin 2.0 on their blockchain. Already the wide range of digital currencies to the market, known as alt coins specifically because they are seen as an alternative to Bitcoin, are drawing money away from BTC itself and reducing the 'network effect' – the strong community loyalty and promotion which has so far driven it forward so dramatically. As a result there are rumours that a new feature may be added to the Bitcoin protocol, called 'side chains'. These side chains will allow anyone to create a new currency or asset on the Bitcoin blockchain, with its own unique features and functionality. To get these side-chain coins, users would have to first own Bitcoins, which they would then effectively put into suspended animation in return for the alternative coin. Another user who bought the alt coin would then be able to use it, or to exchange it to get the original Bitcoin back any time they want. This would allow for the kind of innovation seen in the alt coin market and the Bitcoin 2.0 projects listed here, without negatively impacting the size of the Bitcoin market and hence the value of each coin.

Ripple: Currency Agnostic Payments and Truly Co-Operative Banking

Ripple is the oldest of the Bitcoin 2.0 projects. In fact, in its original form, it actually pre-dates the invention of Bitcoin by 4 years. Back then Ripple (now known as Ripple classic) was a LETS system – a community barter protocol for exchanging goods and services without money. In 2010, however, Ripple underwent a major overhaul to extend its functionality and to introduce its own intrinsic digital currency called Ripples, or XRP.

Ripple today is a comprehensive payments, clearing, and value transfer protocol. Although it does have its own digital currency, it sees itself as a complement rather than competitor to Bitcoin – XRP itself is not intended as regular money to be used for buying things, but as a form of liquidity to oil the wheels of the system.

You can hold any currency or asset within a Ripple wallet, including fiat money or digital money, commodities or stocks and bonds, and so on. Anybody who can convince other users to trust them can issue new coins or assets onto the system, and users can trade or instantly convert between currencies and assets within their wallet. You can even send one currency and have the other person receive a different currency or asset, with the exchange rate set by a peer to peer market.

The system can also be used for co-operative and peer to peer financial transactions, as any user can issue 'IOUs' onto the open market – meaning you can borrow and lend using the protocol, and debts can be traded between users.

Ripple Labs, the company which directs development of the Ripple Protocol, also has plans to introduce smart contracts, although this is still in early development.

Although Ripple is more established and has moved further forward with its implementation than other projects listed here, it has failed to win over much of the cryptocurrency community due to the fact that XRP was pre-mined and a significant portion of it has been retained by Ripple Labs to pay for the development of the protocol.

Namecoin and Decentralized Identity

Value is not the only thing that can be stored and verified on a blockchain. You can also use this same technology for storing and verifying information about identity. One of the first projects to recognize this, and the most successful to date (at the time of writing at least) is Namecoin.

Namecoin is a form of digital money, but it is also a digital identity system. This system can be used for verification of personal identity, with applications such as email, GPG keys, webs of trust, messaging, and so on. But the main use so far has been in the creation of a distributed DNS system. DNS is the thing which connects the website address you type into your browser – which is written in human language – with the actual IP address of the computer which runs the website you are looking for, which is just numbers and dots. A distributed DNS system built on top of blockchain technology, such as the one being built by Namecoin, cannot be censored the way the normal internet it – by telling the DNS provider to stop connecting the web address to the server – because there is no single entity acting as DNS provider.

Bitshares X: De-Centralized Banking and Shares

Bitshares X is a broad umbrella, effectively giving people who own them shares in a wide range of 'digital automonous corporations' which the firm behind it plans to create in the future. These range from peer to peer banking services where users can save and earn interest, borrow and lend, to decentralized voting systems using blockchain technology, to – well everything else you can find on this page to be honest. Most of the Bitshares X projects are nothing more than a vague idea on a drawing board at the moment, hence the reason why they are happy to include any idea which sounds like it may be promising, but some are under active development and there is a reasonably strong community behind the project.

Ethereum: Smart Contracts and Decentralized Autonomous Corporations

Ethereum is one of the most ambitious Bitcoin 2.0 projects, as well as one of the most well respected. The aim of this project is to create a Turing compliant programming language that can be used for writing smart contracts, issuing digital currencies and assets, and more.

Like Ripple the team behind Ethereum plan to raise money for development by selling their own digital currency, in this case 'ether', which will be used for liquidity and will be required for making other transactions (such as executing a contract). Unlike Ripple, however, it will still be possible to mine ether.

Open Transactions: A Democratic Financial Toolkit

Open Transactions is another project working on smart contracts, decentralized banking applications, and peer to peer financial services.

Whilst all of the projects listed above are decentralized and co-operative in their implementation, Open Transactions is by far the most open and collaborative in terms of is development. This open source project aims to be a 'library of financial software tools' which anyone can freely use or contribute towards.

The SAFE Network: WWW 2.0

Safecoin is the one Bitcoin 2.0 project which moves most completely out of the financial arena to break entirely new ground. Rather than creating a distributed ledger of transactions, it aims to create a distributed database of information.

Rather than having miners contributing processing power to earn newly generating coins, Safecoin will have 'farmers' who will contribute disk space, cpu processing power, bandwidth, and more in return for coins. These resources will be used to create a completely private and un-censorable network, which some believe could create a new and improve internet.

In some ways the SAFE Network will operate like current privacy networks such as Tor or I2P – it will offer secure and private communications, publishing, and network access to people who don't want the government or big business spying on them. The addition of a currency incentive, however, should make it faster and more effective than these services. Users may also be able to use the network for other purposes such as purchasing cloud storage from other users. Check out this article for a more detailed explanation of Safecoin and the SAFE Network.

Categories: E-Currency | Cryptocurrency | Bitcoin | Internet | Software | Open Source


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