I’m fairly new to Bitcoin and I’m a boomer, which means I’m not qualified to comment on any technical aspects of the Bitcoin protocol.
But I do have a 30-year career as a business development coach and I’ve written two business books and, until recently, I published an electronic newsletter that went out monthly to thousands of professionals in over 120 countries. That writing background makes me hypersensitive to words and how they’re used or misused. So, it’s in this context that I share my contrarian view on something: I do not believe we should use new words without good reason. But I am a fan of precision in our use of words.
And I will even sheepishly admit that before falling down the Bitcoin rabbit hole, I was very enthused about blockchain technology and its possible uses in our economy. Bitcoin was definitely of interest to me, but not enough for me to go down the Bitcoin rabbit hole early like some. Bitcoin was like this new invention using blockchain technology. And to those who only know Bitcoin at a surface level, this is fine. Boy was I wrong like so many others.
However, the more you study Bitcoin, the more you start to see and appreciate its mind blowing uniqueness. It’s a zero to one invention on par with the discovery of the number zero or the Gutenburg printing press. Both of those earlier inventions or discoveries were watershed events in human progress. I now agree with many others who have been in this space far longer than I who say that Bitcoin is that same kind of invention or discovery. It’s a once-in-a-species invention.
What I’ve come to learn from my thousands of hours of study is that there is only one Bitcoin. I’m not the first to arrive at this conclusion and I pray that there will be billions more who agree with me someday. The sooner, the better. That’s not to say that bitcoin is certain to last for thousands of years and eventually become the world’s reserve currency. I happen to believe it will, but that is not relevant to the point I’d like to challenge Bitcoiners on.
Why don’t more Bitcoiners use the term “timechain” rather than “blockchain” when describing how Bitcoin works?
In my early days of studying and learning about Bitcoin, I happened upon an article by Marty Bent that raised this very question. Here is an excerpt:
What you're looking at is a section of notes in a copy of the pre-release source code of Bitcoin that Satoshi shared with a few reviewers before mining the Genesis block in January 2009. This copy of the code Satoshi had reviewed by some cypherpunks before officially launching had[sic] was shared on Bitcointalk.org in 2013 and resurfaced by Francis Pouliot earlier this week on Twitter. As you can see from his notes in the code, Satoshi thought of Bitcoin as a "timechain" and not a "blockchain", a misnomer applied to Bitcoin by us lowly plebs after it had been released.
Very interesting thing to note, especially considering the popularization, commoditization, and bastardization of the word "blockchain" over the course of the last decade. How ironic is it that the one word that every marketer, snake oil salesman, and out of touch politician or corporate board member alike has taken and run with, spending an untold amount of millions to craft a narrative around, is a complete and utter sham that doesn't aptly describe what its creator intended. Truly poetic. Everyone and their mother is in a race to craft a "blockchain strategy", sprinting blind into a foreign arena attempting to justify the exploration of and (more importantly) budget for a word that has been misapplied since it entered our lexicon.
Bent artfully points out that Satoshi made reference to “timechain” in this note just before releasing it. I think Marty is spot on. There are so many Bitcoiners who become apoplectic when another altcoin makes a claim about their blockchain being better than Bitcoin’s. Or when members of government or central bankers do it. Bitcoiners feel that these other people and coins are hucksters and scams. Perhaps many are, but that is beside the point. Bent makes a compelling argument for calling the Bitcoin blockchain a “timechain.”
Some of you might think, “Who cares? Does it really matter? ” Absolutely! If you’re a Bitcoiner who believes that the Bitcoin protocol is a zero-to-one invention like the number zero, then start talking that way. Satoshi handed us this opportunity on a silver platter!! There are thousands of other “competing” coins in the market today that are claiming that their blockchain is better than the Bitcoin protocol.
I say it’s time to set the record straight. Pun intended. It seems to me that Bitcoiners can go a long way toward cementing Bitcoin’s one-of-a-kind nature by never referring to the Bitcoin protocol’s timechain as a blockchain, and instead always use the term timechain. Bitcoiners can bypass or “soft fork” this change to timechain at zero cost and instantly without hurting bitcoin the asset at all. The signal is “timechain,” the noise is found in “blockchain.”
It also makes it far easier for me to explain to my friends and family that there is only one timechain: Bitcoin. Timechain is part of its origin story, isn’t it about time we tell it accurately? Isn’t twelve years long enough to start including it in everyday speech? If you agree, please send Bitcoin Magazine your tweet with one word: #timechainnotblockchain.
Every time we call Bitcoin’s timechain a blockchain, we are allowing the confusion and obfuscation by altcoins to continue. We’re enabling it! We are also feeding the exact narrative that Bitcoiners detest! More importantly, I think of Bitcoin as a twelve-year-old who has patiently been tolerating us calling one of its “body parts” or essential elements by the wrong name for 12 years. As someone whose name has been mispronounced my entire life, I can relate to being called by the wrong name thousands of times.
I don’t always correct people who mispronounce it and we know bitcoin will NEVER correct us. As Bitcoiners are fond of saying, “Bitcoin doesn’t care.” Well, Bitcoin doesn’t care what you call it, but this marketing-obsessed, tech-challenged Bitcoin boomer does care. So, shout out to Marty Bent and others who have called this out before. And I will do my very best going forward to tell the entire world the great news about the Bitcoin timechain. It also allows us to say “timechain, not blockchain” which turns the tables on those who have been saying “blockchain not Bitcoin.”
To cement this idea, I’d propose holding the First Annual Bitcoin Timechain Conference in Denver sometime later this year or on January 3, 2022. The Bitcoin timechain will be 13-years-old and ready to announce itself to the world with the proper name. If you agree, please send Bitcoin Magazine your tweet with #timechainnotblockchainconference.
This is a guest post by Mark Maraia. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.