What if new Google management decided that a search should cost $20, take eight hours, and be deliberately unreliable? (Bitcoin.)

Toy with the following idea: with people used to Google searches having been free, instant and reliable for years, a new Google management decides that a “price market” should develop for searches, with Google prices suddenly costing upwards of 20 dollars, taking hours to complete, and being notoriously unreliable. Does this sound like a good scenario? Does this sound like a recipe for winning? It’s what has happened to Bitcoin — the old bitcoin — under the new management of Blockstream (who keep insisting, against all evidence to the contrary, that they’re not “in charge” of bitcoin).

Nobody I know shows off bitcoin (Bitcoin Legacy) to their friends anymore. It’s painfully embarrassing. Nobody I know uses bitcoin for anything anymore, for the reason that transactions take hours to complete, cost upward of $20 (my last two transactions cost $30 and $70, respectively), and have been made unreliable by design, through something called RBF.

When I got into bitcoin in 2011, transactions were free, reliable, and instant. Not free as in “very cheap”, but actually free. The vast majority of transactions did not pay a transaction fee, and this was also Satoshi Nakamoto’s original intention, according to email archives. It makes sense: you want to be able to write code that optimizes your money across addresses and databases without paying a lot of transaction fees in the process just for moving your own data around. It was extremely useful, it was amazingly cool to show off

Around 2014, a couple of people hijacked Bitcoin, for all intents and purposes, stripped the original known coder (Gavin Andresen) of his coding access privileges, and set out in a new direction. Bitcoin transactions should cost money, they decided, a lot of money, because the network wasn’t sustainable otherwise (nevermind that it had worked just fine up until that point with subcent optional transactions, and was planned to do so for another 140 years). The company was called Blockstream, and they were met with such fierce opposition from the community, they literally had to start deleting every post off the bitcoin forums (bitcointalk, Reddit’s /r/bitcoin, and the mailing list) that challenged the narrative that it was utterly moronic to deliberately congest the network to make it slow, unreliable, and expensive.

Yes, it just so happened that the people who formed this Blockstream company also were the ones controlling all the discussion platforms. Slowly, over years of influx of new users, people would only see Blockstream’s message of how good it is that transactions are expensive, slow, and unreliable.

It was around this point that new forums, such as bitcoin.com and Reddit’s /r/btc, slowly started to pop up and get attention — become a refuge, of sorts.

But the Blockstream fanboys were undeterred. “Look at how bitcoin rises in value!”, they would say. “Who cares about transaction fees! It’s a store of value, because the price goes up!” (This narrative also completely ignores what a economic store of value is, nota bene: it’s a predictable stable store.)

This, of course, is the equivalent of “Who cares about if Google is the slightest bit useful under the new management! Who cares if anybody uses Google anymore! Look how the stock keeps going up!”

The Blockstream fanboys would further point at bitcoin’s new uselessness as a sign of its success, believe it or not, drawing the analogy “nobody goes to that restaurant anymore, because it’s too crowded”, with the subtext that a crowded restaurant must be successful. But this is not success; this is utter failure to scale exponentially when you’re an Internet startup, and it spells dooooooooooom.

And so here we are in 2017, with a bitcoin that nobody I know uses for anything practical (last time I used it for something was about six weeks ago, when I bought a burger with bitcoin, which cost me about $2.50 in transaction fees, just as much as the burger itself; at least I didn’t have to wait eight to ten hours for the burger). What’s new on the scene in 2017 is something called a US Dollar Tether.

You see, you can’t buy big quantities of bitcoin — which is more or less “Blockstream stock” at this point — directly, not in amounts of millions of US Dollars. So this thing called Tether popped up, where a company named Tether claimed to issue US Dollar Tether, where one Tether was supposed to be good for exactly one US dollar. Today, the bitcoin price (the price of something that is unreliable, slow, and expensive, and which nobody uses anymore for anything remotely practical) isn’t driven up by people buying it for US Dollars anymore, but by institutions buying it for large amounts of Tether, which is “kind-of-dollars-but-not-really-but-we-still-pretend-so”.

The company Tether insists that they have backing; every Tether has a US Dollar backing it. There has been no proof to this. There have just been regular conjurings-up of new batches of ten, twenty, thirty million Tethers — not US Dollars, but Tethers — that are spent pushing up the bitcoin price as though the Tethers were dollars, and this happens basically every time the Blockstream PR machine happens to need a little boost. Maybe the Tethers are backed by dollars on a one-to-one ratio, as is asserted and refused to be proven. Maybe they aren’t. Sure as hell doesn’t look like they are.

This whole story reeks of a lot of people going to a lot of prison in a few years.

As to the people innocently claiming that it’s “cheap” with a $1 or $20 transaction fee to store data in the precious secure blockchain, I have this to say: get the fuck out of business, because you don’t have a clue as to how it works. If you’re deliberately saying that you have “costs that deserve to be met”, when there’s Google who offers people to search the entirety of humanity’s documents in milliseconds for free, you’re so mediocre you should sit down and bow your head in shame. Are your costs higher than the cost of searching the entirety of humanity’s documentation? In milliseconds? No? No they’re not. It’s you who suck at business. You’re so mediocre you’re not just hurting yourself but people around you, too. Get out.

Bitcoin needs to get back to instant, free, and reliable transactions.

Not “cheap”. Most of the transactions need to be free. All other dotcoms can do it, and therefore, bitcoin can too.

I remember the bitcoin I fell in love with in 2011. I remember the very few times a popup showed up when I tried to send money, saying “this particular transaction requires a fee”, as in requires a fee at all. It was a really rare event that this dialog showed up. The suggested fee would always be a sub-cent amount.

This is the promise of Bitcoin Cash, the bitcoin fork of August of this year. It’s about bitcoin being useful again. It’s about unwinding this idiotic bullshit new Google management that says it’s good if searches cost $20, are unreliable, and take eight to ten hours to complete, because it isn’t good, and I’m appalled that I have to write that out in cleartext to all the Blockstream fanboys insisting otherwise.

The promise of Bitcoin Cash is to bring transactions back to being instant, almost free, and reliable. To really succeed, it has to rewind a little further still — it needs the vast majority of transactions to be actually free, like the vast majority of Google searches are. But I have hope we’ll get there, too.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Jean carl COHEN

    I was expecting your point of view for a long time now. GREAT to read this.

    Wired to see blockstream is able to control forums and force people to accept their views.

    What can be options to come back to the root of Satoshi’s vision? Is BCH the only solution?

  2. Donald Duck

    Some pirates would say that Google searches are not free and we pay for them with our data and attention. Furthermore, many people could confuse this analogy with Google PPC where it can cost a lot mot than $20 per click.

    Interesting background information about Bitcoin.

  3. koryu

    Wouldnt google be broken if every user would have to store all users’ searches ever made on his local pc?
    Bigger blocks is a temporary solution.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      This is precisely the “but we have so much costs on our backend” argument that I’m basically countering with a GTFO above.

  4. Roberto

    Google searches are not free. We pay with our privacy and then they sell us targeted ads.
    Though I agree the bitcoin network has a lot of problems, i do not see any real scaling solutions proposed by BitcoinCash. And the people behind it are suspicious (eg Roger Ver).
    I think the real solutions are Litecoin and DASH for using day to day payments.

  5. Enrique

    i don’t get all this scam. I’ve just made a btc transaction it took 30 minutes to complete and costed 0,78$. I have NEVER paid more than one buck for a transaction and have never waited more than 45 minutes for it to be completed.

  6. Anonymous

    Bring back Gavin to the Bitcoin Cash team

  7. juan c

    so, basically, bitcoin got itself in the hands of bankers. also consistent with the sudden boom of “get into bitcoin now!” ads, coming from everywhere, for investment purposes (to keep the price up, driven only by artificial demand, like the USD) and not to use as coin. nice dream killer. i never could get into bitcoin and stopped trying after mt. gox, so as an outsider, it would seem bc legacy is doomed after a couple guys get very, very rich and some others very, very mad. but can bc cash surivive on its own and avoid the same fate? it’s truly a candid question. i… still don’t get bitcoin very well.

  8. bill

    hopefully the software development will always remain decentralized. elliot wave international reckon that when social mood gets low you will always have people who want to control other people. this must be guarded against. it seems human nature has a tendency to head toward the “animal farm” scenario. i believe when the romans ruled northern africa they would change the governors regularly to guard against corruption. (i’m rambling). thank you for your clear insights rick

  9. Anonymous

    it would be great to develop an app where you could unofficially pose a referendum question in say Australia like: would you consider changing the style of government, ie abolish councils, abolish state governments, have an executive administration where you go out into the market and choose ministers with real expertise in their portfolio. all this would be verified on the block chain to prevent double voting. Australia is becoming a basket case and its because of bad management. so this app would link or communicate with all phones and if it had interest then it would spread exponentially. ie/ we need to take decisions away from the Australian government now because incumbent ministers wont vote for change of the style of government. Australia is in a death spiral and the constitution needs to change. we have technically uneducated people in power making disgraceful decisions:

    yours sincerely,

  10. David Gerard

    This posits a link between Blockstream and Tethers. I’ve looked a bit at this and haven’t seen one – is there anything public on this claimed link?

  11. Real Pirate

    What a shitty post, no surprise comes from a professional POLITICIAN.
    Bitcoin is under development. ALPHA Stage buddy.
    The bcash shitshow, you was paid for to advertise, is an insecure unteste code, created by a couple of bad developers, hired my Jihan, minning Pablo Scobar.
    You should be ashamed to difuse such a low quality read.

  12. Anonymous

    I have been reading through the older posts. What happened to the news service?

  13. PUBG

    I was expecting your point of view for a long time now. GREAT to read this.

    Wired to see blockstream is able to control forums and force people to accept their views.

    What can be options to come back to the root of Satoshi’s vision? Is BCH the only solution?

  14. Anonymous

    it’s interesting to note that the higher the price of bitcoin goes the MORE likely it will be the settlement currency. ie/ an international contract of 10 million dollars with bitcoin at 2 million dollars/bitcoin. equivalent to 5 bitcoins

  15. Ole Husgaard

    I prefer to stay neutral in the bitcoin scaling debate, and I am not going to bash any of the sides in this debate, as I believe the arguments on both sides have merit.

    But I do not recognize that transactions on the classic bitcoin blockchain cost $20 and take 8 hours to confirm. About an hour ago I did a payment here, with a transaction fee of about BTC 0.00066 (about 0.05 percent of the payment, which is acceptable to me), and the transaction was confirmed in just a few minutes (two minutes, according to blockchain.info, which means it was probably included in the very first block after my transaction was sent out on the network).

    Of course, as you are right to point out, transaction fees of this size are way too high, in particular for smaller payments, and I fully agree that it would be best if transactions without a fee would have a reasonable chance of being included in the next block.

    And here is where Bitcoin Cash might prosper due to the larger blocksize. If segwit will help the congestion problem for classic bitcoin still remains to be seen.

    Bitcoin Cash played nice by enabling replay protection, which was not the plan for segwit2x. If the segwit2x fork had not been canceled, I would have sold/used all of my bitcoin before the time of the fork, as segwit2x would have been a classic 51% attack without the consensus I believe is needed for such a change. Now I just keep the Bitcoin Cash I got from the fork and slowly dispatch of part of my classic bitcoins as the price rises – in large transactions, to keep the transaction fee small compared to the transaction size.

    As mentioned I do not take sides in this debate. Only the future (and the people using the two chains we now have) can decide if one side of this debate wins. IMHO a likely outcome will be that Bitcoin Cash will take over the role classic bitcoin was meant to have, while classic bitcoin will become a reserve currency similar to gold: Hard/expensive to transact in, but better as a store of value.

  16. bitcoin market is getting crazy nowadays. as a bitcoin investor i a bit scare of this groving. i hope we’ll get there

  17. Puspack

    I would have sold/used all of my bitcoin before the time of the fork, as segwit2x would have been a classic 51% attack without the consensus I believe is needed for such a change. Now I just keep the Bitcoin Cash I got from the fork and slowly dispatch of part of my classic bitcoins as the price rises

  18. The Sun Crossword

    Look at crypto-currencies these days and you will understand the conspiracy theories behind them …

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