A recent WIRED article entitled “Popcorn Time's Piracy App Is Sneaking onto iPhones” reads:
“Popcorn Time has exploded over the last year as a free and likely illegal alternative to Netflix, with no monthly fees, more content, and in some cases better quality video.”
Sound like a predecessor for Bitcoin's killer app? Swap out a few words and see:
“Fill-in-the-blank-Bitcoin-app has exploded over the last year as a free and likely illegal alternative to state-sanctioned banking, with no fees, more payment options, and in some cases built-in merchant discounts.”
Peer-to-Peer Brings the Fear
The evolutions of Bittorrent and Bitcoin closely mirror one another.
Bittorrent was launched in 2001. Over the years, it's weathered tiresome attacks by Hollywood's political wing, the MPAA – attacks that were pushed all the way to the ISP level. Internet service providers began attempting to throttle torrent traffic, largely in response to legal threats from the MPAA. End users were even “fined.”
The company that maintains the Bittorrent protocol, Bittorrent, Inc., went so far as signing a legal document with the MPAA. They essentially agreed to demolish the content search engine of their own website (though people were already using better alternatives).
Bitcoin, on the other hand, was launched in 2009. At one point, the most popular bitcoin wallet in the world – Blockchain.info – was suddenly removed from Apple's app store. People who simply sold their bitcoins for dollars started getting kidnapped and caged by U.S. police. Brilliant young crypto entrepreneurs started fleeing the U.S. after businessman Charlie Shrem was attacked by government workers as a criminal.
The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
From 2001 to 2013, the primary users of Bittorrent were tech-savvy. They knew about VPNs, hash checks, The Pirate Bay, and how to be a good seeder. They frequented sites plastered with weird porn advertisements and pop-ups. In other words, they were not a mainstream group.
But in 2014, Bittorrent got its killer app: Popcorn Time. Torrenting finally hit the mainstream, and most Popcorn Time users still don't know how the app works (much less the protocol that underlies it). They only know one thing: they don't have to use Netflix anymore.
This is crucial, because Netflix sucks, and so does fiat. The difference is that many people already know that Netflix sucks, while they've yet to verbalize the same judgment for fiat. But they will.
And Bitcoin's killer app may take just as long as Bittorrent's did – 12 years – or perhaps longer. Because Bitcoin isn't just going up against greedy, lawsuit-happy Hollywood Luddites. It's going up against the very idea – a long-held idea – that some people are allowed to create money, while others are not.