Libra Vs Bitcoin

The optimist in me loves Bitcoin despite its many shortcomings. I don’t think Bitcoin will ever be as popularly used as Libra or another stablecoin payment system. Despite that, the optimist in me suggests Bitcoin is a great buy.

The realist in me recognizes how powerful Libra could be. For those of you who don’t know what Libra is, it’s a collateralized crypto-payment project by Facebook. Libra plans to offer basket of stablecoins like USD, EUR & GBP.

Here’s an intro video of the Libra Project.

There are many collateralized stablecoins already out there in the market so Libra isn’t planning to do something that isn’t done before. However the unique thing about Facebook is that whatever they do, they can plug and play that to 2.5 billion users.

Libra’s Advantages

Facebook demos that they will make sending money as simple as sending emojis with features to do so built right within the Facebook’s family of apps. Libra’s unique proposition in comparison to other available options is users and ease of use.

Libra or other stablecoins have several advantages over Bitcoin. The crypto-assets will be fully collateralized and backed by fiat currencies. The crypto-assets will be stable in value and the transactions would be really fast.

.. But Money Is Already Digital?

However, if you think about it, money is already digital. When you pay with your debit and credit cards, or you send money using your bank, or through PayPal, you’re passing value digitally. Money has been digital long before Bitcoin or any crypto-assets.

Digital is generally the opposite of anonymous and censorship-resistant. When you say digital, the information about your money is hosted on someone’s server. Who ever controls the server can see what you do with your money and can intervene, reverse or block actions that you may take with your money.

Cash in comparison is not digital but anonymous and censorship-resistant.

Bitcoin’s Advantages

Bitcoin’s # 1 strength is seldom talked about. It is the finite supply of Bitcoin which makes it deflationary in nature instead of inflationary which USD and all its digital variants including stablecoins & Libra are. The second most important feature is that Bitcoin is censorship-resistant because it is decentralized with no central control. The third one about anonymity could be argued upon. It does an OK job at being anonymous but since the ledger is out in the public, it isn’t fully anonymous.

Conclusion

The feature of stablecoins being stable like USD or EUR is not just a feature, it’s also a bug. One of the biggest disadvantages of money as we know it is that you can’t just hold on to money without losing value. You’re forced to have your money invested in real-estate, stocks & bonds for it to not lose value. Bitcoin as a money is designed to be free forever from the central bank’s control over the money’s supply and its movement. Because of this Bitcoin is designed to grow in value and hence it can not be stable.

The following table could be helpful

AssetDigitalDeflationaryCensorship-resistantStableAnonymous
BitcoinYesYesYesNoYes
CashNoNoYesYesYes
Stablecoins / LibraYesNoNoYesNo

The Internet That Is Being Built In Parallel

If you know anything about the crypto industry at all, you may have heard of this phrase before; not your keys, not your coins. If you haven’t heard of it, let me explain it to you. Crypto assets are stored in digital wallets that can be accessed via private keys (a long alphanumeric string). If you lose the key, you lose your coins.

Some people prefer storing their crypto-assets with exchanges for the ease of doing so. But when you store your assets with an exchange and access them using an email address and password, technically you don’t own the private keys to your wallet. The private keys are known only to the exchange and if they have the keys, they own the coins.

There are pros and cons of this design but it ensures that your money is yours. That you can’t be denied or questioned on your right to withdraw or transfer your funds which does happen all the time with traditional financial institutions.

This is a parallel internet that is being built and it isn’t just limited to finance. You could build any kind of app using the same design where there is no central authority dictating what can and can not be done.

The internet that we’re accustomed to was beautiful but I no longer feel that it still is. The power is getting concentrated in the hands of few mega trillion dollar companies and they set the rules for what can and can not be done.

In the good old days of the internet you could host content on your own sites. Now for better deliverability, it is preferred that you serve this content via instant articles on Facebook & AMP on Google. By not doing so, you may be ranked lower or get reduced visibility.

If you want to own an e-commerce store, you could create your own store using woo-commerce (self-hosted) or Shopify (hosted by Shopify). If you’re looking for visibility or discovery, it’s better that you go with Amazon.

However, if you go with Amazon you can only sell what they allow you to sell. There are many things that are legal to sell but can not be sold on Amazon. They will also use your data in knowing what sells best and then launch their own private label brands to beat you at their own game, which by the way they do all the time.

If you decide to setup your own store, as long as it’s on Shopify, they can suspend your store for whatever reason e.g one of our stores was suspended for listing face masks although we hadn’t listed any. This resulted in monetary losses that shouldn’t have happened. But even if we did list the face masks, our store shouldn’t have been suspended as long as we were not doing anything illegal.

The problem with the internet in its present state is that in order for your business to work, you rely on these mega trillion dollar companies despite knowing that they will practice more control than they should be allowed to. You will be stopped and banned from doing activities that are legal to conduct.

As long as your business is on Amazon, Facebook Shop or Shopify, your business’s fate depends on them. It’s not really your business in the true sense. This isn’t any different than “not your keys, not your coins”.

On the contrary, the parallel internet in its present form is slow, expensive and even allows illicit activities, so at the moment it’s much worse than the internet that we’re accustomed to.

These mega corporations including Facebook are already trying to maintain their control on the parallel internet e.g Libra by Facebook.

The parallel internet can solve everything that’s wrong with the present internet but comes with its own set of problems.

One is too centralized that it even prevents legal activities for private gains, the other one is too decentralized to even allow illicit activities.

Currency? Store of Value? Uncorrelated? What is Crypto?

During the market meltdown that started about 10 days ago, crypto-assets crashed the most. With Bitcoin going as low as $3500 from the high of $8000 in a single day posting the largest value drop since inception, everyone wondered what is Bitcoin?

People didn’t expect this drop to happen. Here’s Brian, CEO of Coinbase, tweet about this

People wondered if Bitcoin isn’t currency (volatile), or store of value (posting massive losses in value), and it’s also not uncorrelated with stock markets or other assets, then what is it?

Personally, it made me wonder that too. If it can’t even act as an hedge against the other markets, what is it? This drop affected my confidence in this asset-class. However, only a week later, my confidence picked up, at least by a bit.

During the first 3-4 days of the meltdown, I started to see that gold is losing value too. What is often seen as the safe haven during financial turmoil, was losing value too. The oil markets crashed as well, although that likely happened for a different reason, but it did. There was pretty much nothing that didn’t lose value.

What I concluded in the end is that during a financial crisis like that, people sell everything to move to cash. It doesn’t matter what asset class. It doesn’t matter what safe haven. All assets are sold so people can sit on cash and take their time to understand what’s happening before figuring out what to do next.

In the next week, I saw crypto-assets and Bitcoin rebound by a lot. It is trading above $6500 at the time of this writing. It is still below where it dropped from, but has recovered by a lot. Meanwhile, the stock market hasn’t recovered at all. The S&P 500 index for example is still down by 30%. What I’ve concluded from that is while all assets are correlated at the time of turmoil, only 10 days later, I can see crypto-assets moving in a different direction. I feel that in the coming weeks and months this uncorrelation will be very well established.

And that would be the first real world test that this asset-class would pass.

Crypto Revolution Will Happen

Often I hear from people about the “bad innovation” that’s happening around us. Not everything seems like a good idea to everyone. But I think innovation has never stopped, and never will, even if some people believe that it’s ruining lives.

The first industry that I watched very closely in my career was the music industry. Artists made their living by selling albums on cassettes and eventually CDs. But someone decided that music needs to be more portable and digital and so Mp3 was invented.

MP3 contributed big time towards music piracy and killed the revenues for musicians. Eventually Steve Jobs saved the day for musicians and record labels by offering “a la carte” music at 99C a piece to customers as a legal alternate to piracy. The digital music had to happen even if it happened at the cost of suffering of musicians and record labels.

In a similar way, I think crypto revolution will also happen, even if it happens at the cost of many other things. The money will be digital, decentralized and deflationary whether someone likes it or not. It’s likely that just like Mp3, Bitcoin or other crypto assets may need to be acquired from the iTunes of crypto-assets. But the crypto revolution will happen.