Is There A Better Option Than Bitcoin? Founder Of Free Software Movement Believes There Can Be Something More
Richard Stallman is largely known for being the founder of the free software movement. This movement is over three decades old, and the non-profit organization focuses on supporting software developers to create free software. Recently, Stallman sat down for an interview with CoinDesk, discussing his theories of where the cryptocurrency industry can go from here.
Stallman spoke abut the way that right-wing comprise much of the Bitcoin pool of early adopters, quickly establishing himself as someone that doesn’t quite favor the technology involved. Though some of the reason seems to be political, it isn’t entirely so. He hasn’t used Bitcoin at all, despite creating a similar technology that allows for digital payments with the GNU Project. Still, he makes it clear that their Taler system is about cryptography and not cryptocurrency. Realistically, this project is meant for a “post-blockchain” world.
It may seem presumptuous to be creating technology to replace something that is only a decade old with little time to expand. However, Stallman doesn’t see Bitcoin as something that can survive the test of time, and it isn’t reliable to be used for digital payments. His main complaint seems to be how poorly Bitcoin protects the privacy of users.
In his interview, he said,
“What I’d really like is a way to make purchases anonymously from various kinds of stores, and unfortunately it wouldn’t be feasible for me with bitcoin.” Bitcoin would essentially identify him. Mining isn’t much of an option either, considering that he has other priorities. When questioned about privacy coins, he said he’d had them evaluated, and “for each one he would point out some serious problems, perhaps in its security or its scalability.” He added, “If bitcoin protected privacy, I’d probably have found a way to use it by now.”
Even with this somewhat negative few, there are a few ways that Taler is similar to crypto projects, considering their mutual goals. For example, even though Taler doesn’t bypass centralization, they use a cryptographic technique involving blind signatures, and has worked to create digital money that resists surveillance.
On the Taler system, each payment uses a centralized exchange, rather than a peer-to-peer network, for processing. According to Christian Grothoff, the maintainer of the Taler project, this difference is because the opposite choice “would again enable dangerous, money laundering kind of practice.” Furthermore, the design of Taler is primarily an effort to prevent tax evasion as ell, which is something cryptocurrency just doesn’t offer.
When asked about this subject, Stallman said,
“I wouldn’t want perfect privacy because that would mean it would be impossible to investigate crimes at all. And that’s one of the jobs we need the state to do.”
The privacy that the Taler system offers seems to be means for the digital cash an nothing else.
Grothoff said that they have protection from surveillance with their technology because, “the exchange, when coins are being redeemed, cannot tell if it was customer A or customer B or customer C who received the coin, because they all look identical from the exchange. Nobody exactly knows who has how many tokens.” Anyone that accepts a payment through this system lack privacy from the government, thereby removing the risk of money laundering.
There’s no native asset, and Taler isn’t a cryptocurrency, but there’s a chance that the system could end up deciding to support the use of crypto in the future. Bitcoin has just as much of a chance of use that euros, dollars, and yen have to be sent through the system. It’s also possible that blockchain technology could be used, rather than a bank, at some point.
The launch of this project is meant to happen this year, but Grothoff explained that it just depends on how soon the banks ultimately make a decision. He said, “The banks are not necessarily easy or cheap to deal with.”
Taler doesn’t actually need the traditional banking system to function, except that they offer regulatory compliance. If the system manages to gain traction, there’s opportunities abound for developers that want to experiment on it with whatever register system they want. As Grothoff noted, “It’s free software.”