The launch of the B Foundation is perhaps the biggest recent event in the Bitcoin community. Announced on September 23, 2018, during the Baltic Honeybadger conference, the new organization announced a series of ambitious goals: support innovation in the development of the Bitcoin project, educate talented programmers through scholarship grants, and provide growth assistance to BTC businesses.
Bitcoin maximalists Alena Vranova and Giacomo Zucco are the two masterminds behind the B Foundation and have also been the ones who, during the conference from Latvia, first introduced the project to the world. It all seemed spontaneous and unexpected, but it turns out that the talks and negotiations behind the initiative have been carefully planned behind the curtains for quite some time. Other big names in the industry who have quickly showed support for the B Foundation include Blockstream CEO Adam Back, Lightning Labs CEO Elizabeth Stark, Casa HODL engineer Jameson Lopp, HodlHodl CEO Max Keidun, Satoshi Portal CEO Francois Pouliot, Satoshi Labs CEO Marek Palatinus, and Bitcoin Core developer Bryan Bishop.
In order to accomplish its ambitious goals, the newly-formed foundation plans to collect donations from the Bitcoin community and rely on the good faith of the people who believe in the mission. However, the use of the word “Foundation” has quickly brought back some bitter memories from the earlier days of Bitcoin, and some advocates of self-governance and autonomy have quickly voiced their skepticism in regards to any project which seeks to centralize power and influence. A new Twitter account called the NO Foundation arose the same day the announcement was made, claiming that donations to the cause can be made by HODLing. This response has effectively brought back into discussion the Austrian economic roots of the Bitcoin project, and seemed to echo with some community members.
Bitcoin has no official representation. Donate by #HODL
— NO Foundation (@NO_Foundation_) September 23, 2018
How Is the B Foundation Different?
On a smaller scale, one can find a resemblance between the reactions to the launch of the B Foundation and the disillusioned attitudes of some people who thought the United Nations wouldn’t work just because the League of Nations failed. The big difference is that the initiative of Alena Vranova and Giacomo Zucco, despite being backed by some of the biggest names in the industry, have knowingly and willingly decided not to try to represent the community and take charge of the lobbying prerogatives in relation to national governments.
The Bitcoin Foundation was, in many ways, an organization which was created by economic interests in order to defend their own mercantile agenda. When your founders include Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles, BitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, and Bitcoin investor Roger Ver, it’s hard to deny a slight bias towards the business side of affairs. Otherwise, why would the Foundation hire lobbyists and set a political agenda in the United States?
Furthermore, though the organization was said to take inspiration from the Linux Foundation, it lacked experience and seemed to conduct its activities in a chaotic and unpredictable way. Dropping the educational side of affairs in 2014 in order to focus on core development of Bitcoin projects proved to be controversial within the community, and various political maneuvers revealed both a lack of maturity among members and a clash between ideological views. As the Bitcoin Foundation sunk and lost relevance within the community, a tacit anarchistic consensus about self-governance seemed to take over as the default sentiment. Bitcoin was not to be represented by any organization, as even the concept is against the core principles laid out by Satoshi Nakamoto and his advocates.
Things just got worse and worse as the org tried to act like official reps for Bitcoin. Board members we're accused of various shady business dealings, there was election drama, and overall the competence of the board was fairly poor. /2
— John Carvalho (@BitcoinErrorLog) September 24, 2018
In contrast, the B Foundation is mostly founded by coders and people with a profound technical understanding of Bitcoin. Maybe that Adam Back is the new Gavin Andresen in terms of knowledge and influence (and will hopefully never destroy his credibility with a ridiculous claim about Satoshi’s identity), but there is no equivalent for the likes of Charlie Shrem and Mark Karpeles. The B Foundation is made by cypherpunks and for the education and growth of future cypherpunks. The support of Elizabeth Stark, Jameson Lopp, and Bryan Bishop is enough of a reason to understand that this initiative is pretty geeky and not as mercantile as the Bitcoin Foundation. Let’s just hope that the promise in regards to the absence of the lobbying component is kept.
Reactions on the B Foundation.
There is no better way of understanding the magnitude and influence of such a launch than to read the opinions of some of the most critical and cynical voices in Bitcoin. John Carvalho, a self-declared seeker of objectivity who is known for blasting projects which he deems worthy of the “scam” label, has expressed favorable opinions in regards to the B Foundation.
There's nothing wrong with people organizing to help Bitcoin. Things get tricky when you start trying to "represent" it. https://t.co/lDHfRuRpA8
— John Carvalho (@BitcoinErrorLog) September 23, 2018
Other members of the community have also shown support for the initiative and implied that financial aid for development and education are noble causes worth pursuing, while the political and lobbying line should not be crossed.
Ppl coming together to further a cause is a good thing. We should encourage more of these to come together. Not under the assumption of controlling bitcoin but to play a part in advancing it. It is well established that we follow rough consensus and no matter how many of /1
— Hanakookie Bitcoin Govenor (@Hanakookie1) September 23, 2018
Furthermore, in the exclusive interview for Crypto Insider, Riccardo Spagni has expressed mostly favorable views about the B Foundation, by saying that the people involved are more knowledgeable and experienced in regards to the phenomena, as the Bitcoin Foundation was an early experiment which taught the entire community a series of valuable lessons.
“I don’t fundamentally have a problem with a bunch of people getting together and say “Let’s spin up an organization that is going to help Bitcoin”. I think calling it a foundation is probably a bad idea because of the historical damage that the Bitcoin Foundation did. And it was mostly through ineptitude, not really through malice or because they set out to do harm. But it was all just because everything was so nascent and they didn’t really know what they were doing. And I think these new foundations are definitely coming at things from a more mature perspective. You know, they’ve got at least some background that we’ve built over the past few years. And yet, at the same time, I still don’t know if it’s gonna make a difference overall because let’s face it: Bitcoin works just fine without the Bitcoin Foundation and without any foundation. Also, Bitcoin will be around a lot longer than any of these foundations.” – Riccardo Spagni
So, Is The B Foundation Good for Bitcoin?
The safest and most objective answer is “It all remains to be seen”. While past events show us that creating centralization in a natively decentralized and anarchistic environment is a bad idea, it’s good to remain supportive of educational initiatives which also nurture innovation in the field. Furthermore, the fact that so many influential Bitcoin developers have put their reputation on the line in order to pledge allegiance to this project should be indicative of good faith.
Even though trusted third parties are security holes, there’s nothing wrong with spreading knowledge and helping talented minds reach their full potential in a blossoming and revolutionary field. The key to success and legitimacy is to just stay away from the political and representation prerogatives, and perhaps that is the biggest challenge that the B Foundation will face. Maybe that calling it a “Foundation” instead of “Association” or some other synonym was a bad call if we take into account past experiences associated with the F-word, but we shouldn’t be pessimistic – the Bitcoin project will outlive any organization or person involved. And somehow that’s the best news we can have.
Giacomo Zucco, co-founder of the initiative, long-time Bitcoin advocate and theoretician of BTC maximalism agreed to comment on the article and said the following:
I’m actually happy of the negative reactions: they show the very strong immune system of Bitcoin. Also, some points raised are completely reasonable, and I truly had a lot of fun reading some of the trolling! While the main target of our efforts are people “outside Bitcoin”, we are taking the feedback we received from some fellow bitcoiners very seriously. While it will be hard, and maybe not always possible, to mitigate the concerns they raised, we are discussing a lot about how to do that. We are considering even changing the name, to make it less ambiguous, and to reduce the number of “famous” people involved. Of course, in a few days discussion will have to end and real work will have to be resumed. The outcome will not be perfect. Hopefully, we will reassure our friends with some ‘proof of work’ during the next months and years.
Francois Pouliot, Satoshi Portal CEO and Bitcoin entrepreneur who acts as personal advisor to the B Foundation leaders Giacomo Zucco and Alena Vranova, has said the following:
Bitcoin doesn’t need a foundation to represent network and ecosystem participants. It needs an institution where motivated individuals and companies committed to Bitcoin’s success can come together to strategically coordinate the allocation of the resources, provide logistical and administrative support to relevant Bitcoin projects and ensure good management and accountability of the financial contributions of its donors.