WOS 2 / Proceedings / Panels / Offene Infrastruktur / Open_Money / Thaer Sabri / skript

The electronic money industry

I would like to address the practicalities of getting an e-money or ecash system off the ground; recent history is strewn with companies and products which have not made it to critical mass and profitability. Yet every month at least one newcomer tries their hand at the challenge.

Some companies put a lot of emphasis on the technology, creating very elegant products, while others on social attributes such as anonymity, and some emphasised the easy migration path from existing products to their new offering. All of these however have met with very lacklustre acceptance.

There have also been at least two notable exceptions, and interestingly enough they both addressed themselves to particular 'needs' or markets, and found very receptive responses. The first is PayPal which targeted 'person to person' payments at auctions, and the second beenz which sought to create a 'marketing currency'. The latter is in the throws of dissolution, but with over 5.5m consumers and 2 billion beenz in circulation, cannot be described as unsuccessful. To my mind, the 'marketing currency' idea has echoes of cc's and addresses a similar (though marketing related) problem.

Finally I would like to touch on the idea of digital bearer settlement and geodesic networks which is promoted by Robert Hettinga of IBUC. The idea here is that the cost of a bearer transaction, as opposed to a book entry one is two to three orders of magnitude less (there is no cost associated with settlement, clearing and audit). Furthermore, such bearer instruments can be issued by anyone (the cost of the crypto and network access is minimal), and as a result it is possible to envisage a 'geodesic' (buckminster fuller) world, 'microintermediated', where bonds and shares are issued by almost anyone, intermediated on a much larger scale by many microintermediaries.

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