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The crypto times, they are a-changin’.
The recent hype around Bitcoin NTFs, also called Ordinals, has driven a key thorn in the side of the maximalist community.
Instead of laying down the rails for “thermodynamically sound money,” it's being used for printing more jpegs. Bitcoin proponents are also concerned about the scarce amount of block space available, a resource apparently too precious to share with digital art.
The rise of Bitcoin NFTs is also a symptom of a bear market, he said. With prices low, block space is inexpensive. “In a bull market, it [Ordinals] would be costing people thousands of dollars to do this,” Casa CTO Jameson Lopp told Decrypt.
To say it’s irked Bitcoin advocates is an understatement.
“I understand that because I've thought all along that NFT art is fairly silly. Personally, I've never found value in tokenized art,” he said. “It's not something that I would pay tens of thousands of dollars for so that I could say that it gives me pleasure that no one else is the owner of this art.”
Lopp’s in a unique position to view the crypto culture wars too, having had to face a similar variety once his wallet firm announced it would add support for Ethereum. Previously, the self-custody wallet provider Casa had only offered Bitcoin services since 2018.
In the belly of the Bitcoin beast
The move to add Ethereum, announced last November, generated similar outrage from many of the same individuals complaining about new inscriptions on Bitcoin.
Today, we are proud to announce a major step in the future of private key management with Casa.
— Casa (@CasaHODL) November 30, 2022
These days, though, adding support for Ethereum looks like it will pay off once the product finally launches in a few weeks, Lopp insists.
“From what we can tell and what we expected, a vast majority of the folks who were openly hostile and upset about it were not even our customers,” he said.
Instead of taking sides, what Casa is really looking at from a business perspective “is to address as much of the market as possible when it comes to encouraging self-custody,” meaning users have to take responsibility for handling sometimes complex aspects of multi-signature transactions.
Self-custody of cryptocurrencies refers to the process of managing your assets yourself with the help of private keys rather than trusting third-party providers like centralized exchanges. The latter is considered a low-entry barrier for those new to the crypto space, however, security is a major concern, something the FTX collapse last year demonstrated as users weren’t able to withdraw their funds.
There are also "multi-sig" wallet options, such as Casa, which offer additional flexibility for the self-custody of crypto assets. Instead of just one private key, a multi-sig wallet is secured by a few at once. If the user loses one key, their funds are still safe.
What irks the Casa CTO the most is less the inter-coin tribalism, but “seeing people who are choosing third-party trusted custodians because they make it really easy to hold every asset and take care of all of the complexities for you.”
Adding support for both Ethereum and Bitcoin thus appears more as a middle-ground.
“From an ideological perspective, it's a trade-off that I'm willing to make if adding other highly adopted assets means that we get more people to self-custody Bitcoin as well,” said Lopp.
Lopp ‘canceled’ by maximalists
Still, many in the Bitcoin community haven’t been as understanding of that compromise.
“I fully understand the tribalistic aspects—this is a result of competing narratives and the fact that you have different assets that are claiming to be the best,” Lopp told Decrypt. “You should expect that their proponents will use various tactics to support one over the other because they're competing for a limited amount of value that they're trying to absorb and get people to adopt.”
Admitting that the Bitcoin space is no stranger to some extreme individuals “who made being a Bitcoin maximalist—whatever that means—a large part of their personality,” Lopp also conceded that he has a lot of issues with the term itself.
Lopp also revealed that he has been “canceled” a number of times, with people getting upset over his interest in privacy-centric cryptocurrencies.
“Some of that went off the rails and became a bit unproductive, especially when you're getting into sort of puritanism like shaming people for being interested in other things,” he said.
According to Lopp, the crypto space “is all about doing what you want without permission,” which also means that “people should expect that they're going to get upset by other people doing certain things, like the Bitcoin NFT controversy that is happening right now.”