Facebook is now a Fortune 500 company. [USA Today]
We still don’t know the true identity of “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the enigma who created Bitcoin. But we do know that he/she is likely filthy rich. [The Verge]
Checking in with the progress of the city’s tech campuses. [New York Daily News]
“There are many problems with the assumptions behind the “big data” narrative (above, in a reductive form) being pushed, primarily, by consultants and IT firms that want to sell businesses the next big thing.” [Quartz]
Linguists have identified a few words they say have been kicking around, in one form or another, for 15,000 years. It’s a pretty obvious list: “fire,” “mother,” “not.” [Washington Post]
It's All About the Bitcoins
Bitcoin has made its way into the great canon of television drama. The e-currency made its television drama debut last night on CBS’s legal thriller The Good Wife. Jason Biggs guest starred as an information rights lawyer who gets in trouble when he refuses to reveal to the Treasury Dept. the name of a client who created an online currency called Bitcoin. Treasury wants the name of the mysterious Mr. Bitcoin, as anyone who mints a private currency in competition with the dollar is in violation of the federal law—and puts Mr. Biggs’s character on the hook for 18 months, then 10 to 30 years of inprisonment. Treasury thinks Bitcoin is being used for illegal activities. Jim Cramer testifies in court. Drama!
The New Yorker has a great story in its upcoming issue about Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency still trucking along after a glorious rise in value to $33 USD due to a spate of media-driven attention followed by a plunge to about $5 USD, where it stands now. The writer, Joshua Davis, attempted to find Bitcoin’s creator, the probably pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, who after years of prolific postings on the internet wrote to Bitcoin project lead Gavin Andresen in April that he had “moved on to other things.”
“He’s a world-class programmer, with a deep understanding of the C++ programming language,” Dan Kaminsky, one of the country’s top internet security experts, said of Mr. (or Ms.) Nakamoto. ”He understands economics, cryptography and peer-to-peer networking. Either there’s a team of people who worked on this, or this guy is a genius.”
Mr. Davis started following Mr. Nakamoto’s trail of online writing, and noticed that, after an initial post announcing Bitcoin that used American spelling, the programmer used the British spelling, referred to London newspapers and at one point using the phrase “bloody hard”–suggesting he had lived or studied in the U.K. or Ireland.
Mr. Davis headed to the close-knit cryptography conference Crypto 2011 to find more traces of Nakamoto. He found nine attendees who fit the bill. Two were dismissive of Bitcoin; two had no history with large software projects. Then Mr. Davis started looking into a man named Michael Clear.
It was a tweet from a stranger that crystallized the concept of Bitcoin for Bruce Wagner. “I can explain the benefit of Bitcoin in four words,” one of Mr. Wagner’s 12,000-some Twitter followers wrote. “Briefcases full of cash.”
At the time, briefcases full of pennies seemed more apt—one unit of the new virtual currency was then worth $0.06. Then, in one day, the price of a Bitcoin jumped to $0.22. Mr. Wagner, a former I.T. specialist who now produces and stars in his own web TV shows, became obsessed with the things. He sat at his computer, too excited to eat, reading the myriad white papers, trade blogs, technical analyses and forum discussions about Bitcoin. For five days, he hardly slept. He just kept thinking, This is amazing. This is going to change everything.
The last time he’d been this excited was when Windows came out. He got his hands on some Bitcoins and sold when the price doubled. It kept climbing. He invested more.
Bitcoin is Internet gold, a digital currency developed by a community of programmers in 2009 that represents the first plausible manifestation of an unregulated global “cryptocurrency” first imagined by anarchist computer hackers in the late 90’s.