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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Libra (the new cryptocurrency) must-reads

So Facebook, among others, announced a new cryptocurrency and blockchain called Libra. You’ve likely already seen the headlines. But perhaps you’re wondering what it means, what makes Libra any different than, say, Bitcoin, or perhaps you have other questions.

I did too. So I’ve rounded up a few links that helped me gain some perspective on this announcement. As with all things crypto, it is fascinating to see all of this play out.

Libra White Paper:

We believe that collaborating and innovating with the financial sector, including regulators and experts across a variety of industries, is the only way to ensure that a sustainable, secure and trusted framework underpins this new system. And this approach can deliver a giant leap forward toward a lower-cost, more accessible, more connected global financial system.

This white paper lays out the problem, the proposed solution, and even a roadmap for the future of the currency/payments system. It reads well-enough and it a good place to start.

Wired’s article on this announcement:

The Libra Association will consist at first of up to 100 founding members including Facebook, each of which will invest at least $10 million to fund the association’s operations, and receive interest earned off the reserve. (Libra’s NGO members are exempted from the investment requirement.) Each member will be empowered to operate a node on the blockchain, and have a voice in determining changes to its code and managing the reserve.

As reporters are good at, the Wired piece distills the main points of the effort as well as provides context around the crypto-market in general. Adds some flavor to the entire thing.

Ben Thompson’s excellent take:

The best way to understand Libra, then, is as a sort of distributed ledger that is a compromise between a fully public blockchain and an internal database […] This means that the overall system is much more efficient than Bitcoin, while the necessary level of trust is spread out to multiple entities, not one single company…

At this point, I’d call Libra a pseudo-distributed blockchain backed cryptocoin. Rather than network nodes being managed by anyone they are managed by “qualified” entities. And so is the underlying software.

This is yet-another-option in the crypto-market. Something sort of like other coins but different enough that it deserves to exist. Hardliner crypto peeps may take offense to any amount of oversight on something like a cryptocoin but it is bound to occur. This won’t be the last cryptocoin/payments system you see created that has institutional backing and oversight. In fact, it isn’t the first. See JPM Coin from JP Morgan.

Again, I’m fascinated by this space and I will continue to watch as the markets, coins, payment systems, blockchains, and companies spearheading this new territory evolve.

Magic Leap hype

First line in this Wired piece about the Magic Leap One:

In retrospect, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz realizes that all the hype was a big mistake. “I think we were arrogant,” he says.

Umm, yeah.

/via Daring Fireball.

The great unbundling continues

Dave Morin, CEO of Path, recently did a small AMA on Product Hunt. He pointed out this article on Wired about Path breaking apart its mobile apps into other applications. Something I wrote about recently as well. Here is some interesting bits from the article.

All this “unbundling” is a response to multiple market forces in the world of mobile devices, but for Morin, splitting the Path app in two is a way of keeping up with the capriciousness of today’s mobile phone users. “On mobile, we’re starting to see this trend where people try out a social app and everyone flocks to it for a while and then they move on to another one, and this happens at a much faster rate these days,” Morin says. “We wanted to move into a situation where we have a sound foundation but then can release multiple apps on into the future.”

It is hard to argue with this thinking. Just about every week “the masses” switch from one app to the next. Not just in social networking but also camera apps, messaging, etc. So if Path is repeatedly a source of new apps, rather than simply a single app, then perhaps they can be a choice.

But Morin also says that in becoming a “multi-app company,” Path can also take take better advantage of new technologies on mobile phones and even fix mistakes it has made in the past.

He goes on to mention that new phones with new features, sensors, etc. are released all of the time and that new apps from Path can take advantage of these more easily than older, more legacy ridden apps.

However, there is — as always — some caveats.

Like Facebook, Path is completely removing messaging from its existing app. If you want to continue trading quick messages with people in your Path network–something that has driven much the service’s growth in recent times, according to Morin–then you’ll have no choice but to download the new Path Talk app. Some people won’t want to do that, and even if you do make the move, there’s no guarantee that all your online friends will move with you.

To me this is the biggest risk. Why didn’t App.net work out? Wasn’t it’s Alpha service as good if not better than Twitter? That is certainly debatable. But what wasn’t debatable is that there were not enough people using Alpha day-to-day to make the service as valuable or interesting as Twitter is.

Social services are made or broken by their users. If they don’t get millions of users they will not succeed. Camera apps aren’t so tied to popularity. Even a relatively healthy audience per app should be enough to make money on.

For my own personal usage I think Path breaking out messaging and also this new “TalkTo” service they acquired makes complete sense. Because, while I thought Path was gorgeous, I found the limit on friendships to be too limiting for me to use the app regularly. By breaking these new apps out I can give Path a try again in a whole new way.