Independent developers are the backbone of the crypto industry, yet their voices are often drowned out in the litany of media commentary, speculation, and debate. That’s why Alex was so excited to meet Fabian Jahr, a Berlin-based bitcoin core contributor and the first recipient of the OKCoin Independent Developer Grant. In the latest episode of OK Let’s Chat, Fabian lends his technical perspective, providing rich commentary on what crypto adoption looks like from the other side of the blockchain.
You can listen to our entire conversation above, but here are a few highlights:
Bitcoin can achieve feats that traditional finance cannot
Fabian first became interested in bitcoin development five years ago, at a moment when cryptocurrency was first getting buzz. Digital assets had become a familiar concept, but they had not yet attracted mainstream attention. What began as a technological curiosity soon took on new dimensions in the fallout of a humanitarian crisis in Syria. “More than one million people were fleeing war zones in Africa and coming to Europe,” Fabian said. “It was probably the biggest media story in that period.”
As the popular discourse debated how to support people fleeing their homes, Fabian realized that bitcoin held one possible solution. “One thing that fascinated me … is the idea that you can basically keep or transfer as many bitcoin as you want,” he explained. “Everything you own could, in theory at least, convert to bitcoin. And then [you could] keep the seed phrase for your wallet just in your mind … you could cross the border with that and nobody will know that you are basically carrying this fortune in your mind.”
Fabian admits that it’s unlikely any Syrians used bitcoin as a safety net, but still, it’s potential enthralled him. Crypto could help underbanked communities in ways traditional systems could not. “It’s in theory possible,” he said. “I think it was the first thing that made me realize that bitcoin was something worth pursuing.”
Taproot and Schnorr is quietly transforming bitcoin’s institutional appeal
Most of Fabian’s work occurs behind the scenes, outside of mainstream crypto discourse. On a typical day, he might be reviewing work from other developers, immerse himself in dev conference findings, or tackle a major project personally. These explorations often give him insights into highly-technical subjects that aren’t discussed outside the developer community.
“[This week of recording is] when the Taproot and Schnorr request was opened,” Fabian says as one example of bitcoin events that excite developers. “[It is] a proposal of using a new digital signature scheme — which is schnorr — and a different way of having payment contracts in bitcoin — which is Taproot.”
Taproot and Schnorr would enhance blockchain efficiency and scalability while creating new avenues for on-chain privacy. While this probably won’t impact everyday traders, it does make smart contracts more feasible for institutional adoption. “This is by far the biggest thing that is going on right now,” Fabian confirmed.
When it comes to mainstream users, initiatives like BTCPay Server are more likely to have an immediate impact. “[It’s] an open-source project that’s building a suite of tools that enable merchants to accept bitcoin,” Fabian continued. “There are, of course, service companies that also build solutions … but BTCPay Server is open-source, you don’t have to pay any fees, and they do a good job of educating users on how to use it.”
Mainstream adoption will occur on a global scale, not within the first-world
Projects like BTCPay Server aside, Fabian is skeptical that mainstream users will adopt bitcoin in the way crypto enthusiasts hope. In his mind, bitcoin is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist in first-world nations like the US or Germany. But that doesn’t mean crypto will fade away — it will just take hold in regions that would benefit from it.
“We are not really the right customer for that,” Fabian admits. “[When you look] more worldwide, more third-world countries, places where governments are not doing a good job, where people have problems … with their privacy being disturbed and dealing with the consequences. These are the areas where the work of helping with adoption needs to be focused. [Bitcoin needs] to become more mainstream in the worldwide sense.”
We’d like to thank Fabian for taking the time to speak with us! Be sure to subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
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