Why Bitcoin is Different

Real Innovation

To really understand the value proposition of Bitcoin, it helps to look at a bit of history. It’s tempting to think that the newest ICO or altcoin is the one that will finally “improve” Bitcoin and fix all of its problems and that Bitcoin will be relegated to the dustbin of history due to its lack of some “feature”. Indeed, nearly every altcoin, ICO or hardfork thinks that they’re being innovative in some fundamental way. What’s missed is that the biggest innovation has already happened.

CoinMarketCap circa May 2013

The Network Effect

Because Bitcoin has the largest network and gains from the network effect, other coins essentially are playing a giant game of catch-up. Bitcoin is the 7-day week and every other altcoin is a slight variation (Let’s have 4-day weeks! Let’s make the day 18 hours! Let’s rename the days to something different! Let’s vary week lengths according to the whims of a central authority!) Needless to say, these types of “innovations” are, at best, minor and are generally not adopted. This is because the network effect of Bitcoin grows over time and the people using the network optimize toward the standards of the network, locking more and more people in.


The other main property of Bitcoin that no other coin has is decentralization. By decentralized, I mean that Bitcoin does not have a single point of failure or choke point. Every other coin has a founder or a company that created their coin and they have the most influence over the coin. A hard fork (a backwards incompatible change) that’s forced on the user, for example, is an indication that the coin is pretty centralized.


You might be wondering at this point: but there are so many altcoins and they’re starting to eat into Bitcoin’s market cap! First, market cap is a heavily manipulated metric. Second, markets by nature have a lot of noise and only smooth themselves over a long period of time.



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Jimmy Song

Jimmy Song

Bitcoin Educator, Developer and Entrepreneur. Book: https://amzn.to/2RSlnTb PGP Fingerprint: C1D7 97BE 7D10 5291 228C D70C FAA6 17E3 2679 E455