The Backward Business Plan of BTC+LN
I know, "Bitcoin is not a business or product, it's an open-source project."
Still, Bitcoin needs users to use it and value it. So for the forward-facing component of the protocol at least, lessons from other products and startups are relevant.
New products - especially those that rely on the network effect to succeed - have a pretty clear pattern for success. They start with a real world use for a real world user base. It's usually very niche, and can get away with early fans who aren't super demanding at first, but it needs real value for real users with real uses.
Facebook was a useful tool for a small number of Harvard students. Camera phones were a weird gimmick for a small number of enthusiasts. Email was a niche researcher/techie tool. You get the idea.
There's a wise mantra in the startup world, "Do things that don't scale."
The first version of a new product doesn't need to scale. What it does need to do is completely delight the first users. Getting a small use case right in a non-scalable model is better than trying to launch something for an immediate, best-case global use case. This is only more true the more the product relies on the network effect.
AirBnB founders famously went door to door, took photos of New York apartments and posted the listings themselves. Totally unscalable, but completely necessary to get that first loyal user base. They knew they had to make it so easy for the first users that it'd be dumb to say no. After building a massive customer base, AirBnB can even do more complex things that require more user sophistication, because they have brought their users along with them.
Start getting people to use a non-scalable version, incorporate the real-world feedback, and continue to make improvements bit by bit that make it better and more scalable.
That's how Bitcoin began.
A tiny niche of enthusiasts excitedly mined it and sent it to each other. They gave it away in faucets and setup wallets for people. Totally unscalable activities in the long-run, but entirely necessary to build a base of users.
The more users, the more updates, features, products and wallets built on top, etc.
The key is always to get users, and keep your early users happy. Focus on making a product that works for some people today, and use that as a building block for a product that works for the world tomorrow. Let your happy users do your marketing for you, so your product team doesn't have to keep yelling about how great it is.
Since the blocks became full, BTC has gone in reverse.
The current strategy seems to be one typical of a startup run by well-meaning academic tech types who think only of perfecting the product in it's final, global form, while ignoring early adopters, and incremental growth to the user base.
BTC is now unusable, and wannabe users are told to stop being so damn demanding.
Rather than making it absurdly easy so no one can say no (like AirBnB doing the listing for you), BTC project leaders are making it really hard, and telling people who don't want to do all the work of running a full node (whatever that means to the guy who just wants to send some to his nephew) to buzz off and stop being a "shill" or "spammer".
What would have happened to Facebook if after getting traction and expanding to all Ivy League schools, Zuckerberg would have stopped thinking about current user happiness and new user acquisition, and instead made it harder to post, share, or join the network, and told everyone knocking at the door, "We'll be ready for global scale in a few years. Start working on my codebase or GTFO"? (I'm not a programmer, so I have no idea if, "working on my codebase" makes any sense at all...insert the appropriate analogy for "run a full node", or, "Try the LN testnet").
BTC's right-now use case is dead. Instead, it's now a promise of a future, global use-case when the new second-layer product no one's ever used outside the lab becomes globally adopted. But how is global adoption supposed to happen if those trying to use the current, non-scalable form are shooed away?
The better business approach is to build something a small user base can use today, get them using it, and keep working on the version for global use at each step in growth.
Bitcoin was already beyond a tiny niche user base. It was picking up serious steam. Now it's languishing, and those eager to keep using it today like they were not long ago are shamed on social media for daring to want the product they were once introduced to.
An odd strategy indeed.
Bitcoin Cash, meanwhile, continues on the saner path begun by Bitcoin almost a decade ago. It was set back from a few years of debate and stagnation, but the course correction has been made. With BCH, you see immediately an excited, welcoming, optimistic user base constantly tipping people on Slack, Twitter, and Reddit, inviting new users to Yours, setting up wallets, and sending BCH to all their friends to make using it as easy as possible.
BCH is focusing on solving the problems of the user base today, and making upgrades to grow into the scale of tomorrow, while always working towards that day-after-tomorrow global scale. But why create massive problems today in effort to solve problems far, far down the road that will only occur if major growth continues (not a given!)?
Let's find out what makes people want to use Bitcoin! Let's make it easy for them to do so! Let's solve use cases today, build scale for tomorrow, and with each step, expand the network and incentive for more people to make it work on the largest scale possible.
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