The Internet is a remarkable place. There’s a tool for every job and you can always find someone in the crowd willing to fulfill almost any wish – often immediately. (Not those kind of wishes, get your mind out of the gutter.)
Yesterday, one small corner of Twitter was ablaze with a discussion about the validity and value of bitcoin. The debate grew out of a New York Times article penned by Andreessen Horowitz Partner and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen (who’s also an investor in PandoDaily) titled “Why Bitcoin Matters.”
The article drew scores of praise. It also elicited critical response, none more thoughtful and complete than the rebuttal penned by The Magazine editor and The Economist contributor Glenn Fleishman titled “On the Matter of Why Bitcoin Matters.”
Andreessen must have spent hours on Twitter yesterday discussing the merits of bitcoin and the finer points of both his and Fleishman’s articles. Hundreds of tweets were sent by the billionaire, and probably thousands were sent by his discussion partners. And yet, amid all that noise, there was a single thread that illustrates how remarkable the Internet truly is.
Shortly after noon, Funders Club co-founder and President Boris Silver wrote the following:
— Boris Silver (@borismsilver) January 21, 2014
To which Andreessen responded, simply:
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) January 21, 2014
That’s all it took, in this far off corner of the twitterverse, and less than three hours later their wish was granted. Alex Batallés of Buenos Aires tweeted:
— Alex Batallés (@batalles) January 22, 2014
To the uninitiated, Rap Genius is a user-generated content annotation platform that allows anyone to submit interpretations and explanations for music lyrics, documents, poetry, and other forms of text. It’s also an Andreessen Horowitz portfolio company. The Satoshi paper is a reference to the original whitepaper outlining the idea for the bitcoin protocol. It was written by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto and sent to his cryptology mailing list in 2008.
The paper is dense with cryptography and mathematics, making it difficult to parse for the laymen reader and also making it a natural candidate for elucidation through Rap Genius. The paper also contains critical details about what makes bitcoin such a revolutionary concept, including its novel solution to the trusted third-party problem and the double spending problem, both of which have plagued previous attempts at creating decentralized digital currencies.
The Satoshi paper is 3,388 words long and, as of this writing, less than 24 hours after the initial request via Twitter, 1,070 words have been annotated (nearly 32 percent). That includes 39 separate annotations, 14 of which have been verified as written by expert users. Much of the heavy lifting was done by an account belonging to Andreessen Horowitz portfolio company and cloud-based bitcoin wallet platform CoinBase. The Rap Genius page has already been viewed more than 5,300 times.
As I started out saying, the Internet is a remarkable place. Yesterday, a billionaire titan of industry who was largely responsible for birthing the modern Internet not only published an article about one of the more thought-provoking technologies of our time, but then spent the bulk of his day engaging with total strangers on the subject. Then, thanks to an off the cuff remark in one of those discussions, a new resource was born to help explain bitcoin to the masses.
And to think, just a few years ago, none of this would have been possible.
[Image via marsmet522, Flickr]