Cryptocurrency is the wrong name, and "crypto" is worse


Like many people who have worked in cryptography for decades, and is used to the abbreviation "crypto" to refer to it, I wince when I see that term now being frequently used as a short for "cryptocurrency," ie. Bitcoin and its friends.

It is a strange takeover -- crypto has been around for decades as a term, and cryptography is, by many orders of magnitude, a more widely used and deployed technology. You're using it to read this and you and everybody else online uses it thousands of times a day for a growing fraction of all your online communication and many other things. Cryptoocurrencies, however, are the "hot new thing" and near the peak of the hype cycle. As such, and certainly in some circles, "crypto" now is most likely to mean blockchain tech.

The irony is that cryptocurrencies don't even use encryption. They use digital signature and hashes, which come from the field of cryptography, and thus the name.

However, what's important about them is not that they use crypto. That's just the tool used to attain the real goal -- decentralization.

As such, I think a better name for these coins and technologies would emphasize that. I might suggest the following:

  • Decents or DeCents -- money and decentralization
  • Decentrals (so that it doesn't sound like the existing words descent or decent)
  • Distribs

Of course, I hardly get to declare a new name, and I may be tilting at a windmill here, but this still needs to be declared.


"crypto has been around for decades as a term"

Quite a few decades, based on Merriam Webster's dating of "crypto" to 1681.

I like the idea of renaming cryptocurrency, but I think we need to keep brainstorming. Maybe the name could vary regionally:
- Electronic Euros (or e-euros)
- Digital Dong
- BitBucks
- Unreal Rial
- Imitation Ingots
- Replica Rubles

But I actually don't think we want regional terms. This is the term that gets used in the community, around the world, to talk about the technology. However, dollars and bucks and cash are pretty much global (English) terms even though US centric.


What would you call a cryptocurrency thatisnt decentralized, like the one you propose in "Could the lost cryptocoins go to charity?"

That would still be decentralized, as long as the foundation was declared in advance, perhaps in the coin's genesis block. Or through a change/fork. The charity is centralized but the blockchain would not be.

Is the US dollar also decentralized then, as long as the central bank is declared in advance?

Because the central bank has near total control over the currency. In the proposal I give, nobody has any control over the currency (except, as always, the majority of miners.) There is just a rule about what happens to currency which is unspent for too long. It grants no other powers.

It's not true that a majority of miners have anywhere near complete control of the currency. Miners simply act as recordkeepers. They can censor, but that's about it.

Miners can't take away coins from some people and give it others. Which is what you proposed the creator of the coin is able to do.

It is true that a fork driven by a majority of the minors is not assured to win the support of the users, but in the past that has typically been the case. And in cases like Bitcoin Cash and Gold and Ether Classic, both forks have continued to have use and value, but the mainstream fork supported by most miners was the dominant winner.

I think a fork handing old coins to charity would readily win if supported by a large portion of miners. After all, what's to fight it? The only people who lose by it are those who still have the keys, but refuse to transact their coins, even sending them back to themselves, for whatever reason. I won't say there is no reason a person might have for that, but I think that would be a minority view. And in the face of a fork, I think most people would give up that view and refresh their coins.

The remaining losers would be people with lost coins that still have some chance of restoration. This could include lost paper wallets, lost hard drives buried in landfill, forgotten pass phrases later remembered. To protect such people, the foundation could have a rule that, as long as it still has the resources, it will make whole anybody who does recover a key for some years to come. Said person would not get their exact coin back, they would get some other lost coin back.

But would the holders of lost, but technically possibly recoverable coin, have the power to stop the fork?

You've got the cause and effect backwards on forks. Miners mine the coin that's worth the most for the same effort.

Whether or not a coin that facilitates redistribution of wealth would succeed, I don't know. Certainly there is a lot of support for this concept, as it's what all the government run currencies do.

The losers would be everyone. Inflation hurts everyone. And inflation ostensibly for the sake if the greater good is one of the main things Bitcoin was created to prevent.

Suggests that accidental loss of coin is an expected part of the growth of the supply of the coin, which is a stretch. This proposal mints no new coins. In fact, the lost coins are not even known to be lost until they are declared lost and transferred by such a rule, so it does not even change the expected money supply.

The accidental loss of coins *is* expected. In fact, many of the seemingly "lost" coins were actually destroyed intentionally, as a "donation to everyone."

Whether you think it can technically be called inflation or not is irrelevant. It is economically equivalent. You are taking value away from everyone and giving it to whatever cause someone deems worthy. (What cause would be deemed worthy anyway? Whoever you choose, there will be lots of people who'd prefer for the stolen coins to go to someone else.)

Your claim is that you are getting something for nothing. Just thinking about that should be enough to show why it's wrong. Stealing from everyone to give to some supposedly worthy charity is what government currencies do. One of the wonderful qualities of Bitcoin is that it hinders that.

The comment said you could "think of it as a donation to everyone." Not that it literally was one. Yes, destruction of coins in theory raises the value of others, but that's only when the coin is actually being valued for other than speculation, which we are some long way away from. My proposal is not to think of it as a donation but to have it be a donation, and not to everyone, but to causes declared in the charter of the foundation when it is created.

If someone wants to start a new altcoin with such a rule, I don't think we should stop them. The SEC might, though, or one of the other agencies that regulate centralized cryptocurrencies. In fact, I can think of a few altcoins that claimed to have similar properties to the one you're proposing, and that turned out to be scams. One of the many problems with it is that enforcement of turning over the lost/stolen coins to the proper party would be left to a centralized entity (at the very least you'd need an "oracle" to pass out the proper public keys. This centralization would invite regulation. Maybe things could be structured in the right way to avoid some of the deal-killing regulations (you mention a foundation, and setting up a 501(c)(3) to oversee things would probably help.

Could it be done? Yeah. Is it a good idea? In my opinion, no.