Something I can’t believe about crypto

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Why was Bitcoin created? It’s right there in the first sentence of Satoshi’s whitepaper: A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.

While most people focus on that last part about being able pay someone without going through a financial institution, they tend to overlook the one word in that sentence I consider most important of all: online.

Bitcoin wasn’t created so we could pay each other in person without going through a financial institution. We have cash for that (at least for now). It was invented to enable online payments without going through a financial institution.

And what is the one thing that we do more than anything else when we’re online? We consume content. Which is why I find it unbelievable that it’s been 14 years since the creation of Bitcoin, and still no one has seemed to figure out an easy way to allow content creators to easily charge crypto for their work.

And I’m not talking about sites like Steem or Publish0x where you can publish articles and charge people to read them. I’m talking about being able to do that on your own site where you can build your own brand without having to rely on someone else’s platform.

Today I learned that back when Vitalik was a teenager, he wrote articles for a site called Bitcoin Weekly. In order to get paid for his work, he would put up a BTC address and a ransom amount, and only when the amount was fulfilled would he publish his work.

It’s been twelve years since that post, and I can’t believe there still isn’t an easy way to facilitate a simple paywall that requires users to pay a fee in crypto to continue reading, or to see an image, or listen to a piece of music.

Everyone’s experienced clicking a link to an article only to find out you need to subscribe in order to read the whole thing. That means filling out a form, inputting your credit card details, and giving up your identity just to read something you probably aren’t all that interested in to begin with. But what if instead all you needed to do was scan a QR code or send a little crypto to a specified address?

Compare this to creating a Substack account, where if you want to make people pay a subscription to read your content, you have to connect your account to Stripe, which then connects to your bank account. Not only is this a hassle, but you’re forced to tie your real world identity to the content you create. In addition, the minimum amount you can charge is $5 per month, or $30 per year, of which Substack takes 10%. But what if you only want to charge people per article, or an amount that’s so small it would be dwarfed by the fees charged by the payment processors? You can’t, at least not today.

But crypto can make it possible. Crypto can allow us to charge whatever we want because we don’t have to pay some rent seeker exorbitant fees. Crypto can also help us get rid of the friction of having to fill out intrusive forms and give up our identities. And with the emergence of artificial intelligence services like ChatGPT and Midjourney, I can’t think of a better use case for crypto than being able to use it to pay for anything digital.

I just can’t believe it hasn’t been done already.