IN THE EARLY bitcoin years, proponents promised that you would soon be able to pay for anything and everything with cryptocurrency. Order pizza! Buy Etsy trinkets! Use a bitcoin ATM! While PayPal had existed for more than a decade, frictionless, social payment platforms like Venmo were just first taking off, and cryptocurrency seemed like a legitimate way for digital transactions to evolve.
It didn’t happen. Cryptocurrency remains confusing and challenging for the average person to acquire and manage, much less sell. And the protocols that underlie bitcoin and other mainstream cryptocurrencies like ethereum suffer significant scalability and transaction bottleneck issues. Visa currently processes about 3,674 transactions per second; the best bitcoin network might be able to process seven per second.
But now the creator of the dead simple end-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal, Moxie Marlinspike, is on a mission to overcome those limitations, and to create a streamlined digital currency that’s private, easy-to-use, and allows for quick transactions from any device. And while it may feel like the last thing the world needs is yet another cryptocurrency, Marlinspike’s track record with Signal—and the organization behind it, Open Whisper Systems—makes this a project worth watching.
The currency Marlinspike has been working on as technical advisor for the last four months, alongside technologist Joshua Goldbard, is MobileCoin. The two based it on the open-source Stellar Consensus Protocols platform, an alternative payment network that underlies systems like an inter-bank payment network run by IBM in the South Pacific, and the low-fee international money transfer service Tempoin Europe.