14 years ago today, on October 31, 2008, a certain Satoshi Nakamoto published the famous “white paper” of the Bitcoin protocol. The white paper hasn’t aged a bit and still resonates with current events.
14 years ago today, on October 31, 2008, a certain Satoshi Nakamoto – a person or group of people so far unidentified – published the Bitcoin “white paper”. it The White Bookentitled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” or translated into French “Bitcoin: a peer-to-peer electronic money system”, laid the foundation for the operation of the Bitcoin protocol. 14 years later, this protocol works in the same way, and the white paper is still the subject of many reflections and debates, including within the community of so-called “maximum bitcoiners”.
The publication date of this white paper is no coincidence. A month before the publication of this document, on September 15, 2008, the famous New York investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, plunging the world into an unprecedented financial crisis. One of the first sentences of this white paper, which will detail how the Bitcoin blockchain works, couldn’t be more clear. Bitcoin is a “fully peer-to-peer electronic money system (which) would allow online payments to be made directly from one individual to another without going through a financial institution.”
In one E-mail on November 1, Satoshi Nakamoto summarized his 9-page document, written in English, in several points.
“I worked on a new electronic money system which is completely peer-to-peer, without a trusted third party. (…) Its main features are: double spending is avoided with a peer-to-peer network -peer. No [d’émetteur centralisé] currencies or trusted third parties. Participants can be anonymous. New parts are made from working proof. “The ‘proof of work’ for generating new coins also feeds the network to avoid double spending,” writes Satoshi Nakamoto.
“It is the invention of fire”
In twelve main points (including a short introduction and a short conclusion), the document aims to describe how the Bitcoin protocol works and remains a reference document in the crypto ecosystem.
“The white paper is extremely clear and concise, while covering many things that make Bitcoin what it is. To be able to cover such a complex idea in such a simple way shows the amount of work that has gone into it. We , bitcoiners, this letter is a symbol. It is the invention of fire, for the currency”, explains Kévin Loaec, the head of Revault, a company specialized in bitcoin security.
This white paper “is a masterpiece,” adds Stéphanie Camélia Maachi, co-founder of pro-bitcoin clothing house Maachi. “It is a symbol, with which everything begins. More than a simple technical document, it is a writing that worries and questions the functioning of an entire financial system,” she adds. Similarly, many observers believe that the white paper shows the “genius” of Satoshi, who would have foreseen many current issues.
“Satoshi is already anticipating the fact that there will be mining pools. He is not naive about the possible centralization of mining as some may want to believe,” explains Adli Takkal Bataille, president of Cercle du Coin and founding partner of Shift Capital.
Likewise, Satoshi Nakamoto introduces the concept of mining “difficulty”, which also allows the network to adapt to the power set by the miners. Finally, if we read between the lines, this white paper shows the beginnings of the so-called “Lightning Network” system, which makes it possible to use the bitcoin cryptocurrency at a lower cost and even faster.
“Bitcoin philosophy is evolving and will evolve”
What is interesting to note is the wait between the publication of the white paper and the release of the first block of the Bitcoin blockchain. It will be necessary to wait until January 3, 2009 for this first block to be created, the famous “genesis block”. It is especially in this block that we can read, again referring to the distrust of the traditional financial sector, “The Chancellor is ready to save the banks for the second time”. These include the headline of the daily recently which talked about saving the banks from the British state. And it will be on January 12 that there will be a first bitcoin exchange between Satoshi Nakamoto and Hal Finney.
Fourteen years later, does today’s bitcoin still meet the white paper’s principles? Always partially, Kévin Loadec believes.
“Bitcoin’s philosophy evolves and will evolve, but as long as Cypherpunk principles (such as censorship resistance) are respected, so be it,” he said.
Bitcoin “has already made its beginnings, the technology is in full transition to reach middle age. Far from being a white paper, still in tune with the times. Satoshi Nakamoto talks about online commerce, whose payments are based exclusively for financial institutions acting as trusted third parties. This is still the case,” underlines Stéphanie Camélia Maachi, who believes that people’s needs are changing, as they are looking for a certain financial intimacy. “We are still far mass adoption of Bitcoin, it’s true, but given what lies ahead with central bank digital currencies (MDBC), I’m not worried about its future,” she adds.
However, the crypto ecosystem can be viewed through the prism of speculation or store of value rather than referring to the main principles mentioned by Satoshi Nakamoto.
“Bitcoin is now an investment, a kind of digital ‘gold’ or simply an object of speculation. Of course, you can pay with cryptocurrencies in some countries, but bitcoin is not perceived as a money system by most people, explains trader Oih_Ana.
Adli Takkal Bataille also regrets that people do not read enough of this white paper, even though it has been translated into more than 40 languages.
“The source code is more important”
Fourteen years ago, if the white paper laid the theoretical foundations of the Bitcoin protocol, “at that time – and still today – few people were able to understand the importance of this new proposal”, considers Gilles Cadignan, co-founder of Woleet.
Moreover, if the white paper remains a reference, it has also been the object of criticism or remarks from the ecosystem. Paradoxically, the limit of the bitcoin cryptocurrency (the famous “21 million units”) does not appear in the white paper, but is in the code of the Bitcoin blockchain, as well as the block size limit.
“I am one of those who think that the original code and its many iterations (more than 70 different versions since 2009) is more important because it made it possible to concretize a theoretical invention and actually touch the finger of this revolution”. slips Gilles Cadignan.
The latter also considers that the sanctification of white paper can have a perverse effect.
“We have seen some actors do it to finally attack Bitcoin and its evolution (Craig Wright or Roger Ver to name a few) This is an important first step, but Bitcoin today is much more than its paper white, and that’s good,” he explains.
Similarly, read and re-read dozens and dozens of times by some, the white paper would also contain some errors, even if nothing too “catastrophic” believes Kévin Loaec. For example, the mathematician Ricardo Pérez Marco had discovered some inconsistencies in the mathematical calculations that appear at the bottom of the white paper. Similarly, when the white paper talks about the “longest chain” to describe the Bitcoin protocol, it is actually the chain with “the most work”, ie. with more energy supplied. (using in particular the “proof of work” system) .
For many observers, this white paper remains more important than ever, while the world is experiencing a major economic and energy crisis.