I’m not a Bitcoin maximalist.
I’m not a Monero maximalist.
I’m a freedom maximalist.
How I got here
I’ve talked about it at length on multiple podcasts, but I came into Bitcoin late in 2017 with purely financial motivations. I saw a way to make some extra $$ on Bitcoin, and rapidly fell down the trap of buying into many different cryptocurrencies purely for profit. When that phase blew up in the bear market of 2018, I thankfully stumbled across the Monero project and community purely by accident through a desire to mine Monero.
This introduction to Monero led to a complete 180 in my views of the world, as many in the Monero community took me under their wing and showed me not only the importance of digital cash (as Bitcoin should be and Monero is), but also the important of financial privacy, self-sovereign stores of value, and the world of self-hosting. The Monero community was inviting, intelligent, intellectually honest, and above all ideologically motivated - discussion of price and “marketcap” were almost entirely frowned upon outside of a few smaller subsets of the community.
While this awakening initially turned me against the concept of Bitcoin entirely due to its transparency and fungibility issues, I thankfully fell into the niche communities built around privacy on Bitcoin, primarily that of Samourai Wallet and Matt Odell. Their desire to hold deeply to convictions on Bitcoin while being intellectually honest with the flaws in its approach gave me a renewed hope for the future of Bitcoin. Their optimism and work on education and development of privacy tools has sparked a new wave of pro-privacy advocacy and focus, bringing much-needed energy, effort, and money to Bitcoin privacy efforts across the board.
Why I (still) love Monero
I’ve spent the last four years focused almost exclusively on Monero, as there was a glaring need for educators and vocal individuals to step up and fill a gap in the Monero community. While Monero has some of the most brilliant developers and researchers, there has been much less of a focus on content creation, educational initiatives, and grassroots marketing campaigns, and I thought that I could help to grow the project in a unique way. Those four years have been an incredibly challenging, stretching, and rewarding time for me as I grew alongside the Monero community and had the chance to help out even without traditional developer skills.
Monero has been, and will continue to be, one of the most important tools in the toolkit of any freedom-loving individual, as its ability to enable fast, cheap, and private-by-default payments is still absolutely unparalleled. Monero’s community has remained laser-focused on building out digital cash without sacrificing decentralization or trustlessness, and it shows in the growing circular economy of Monero, it’s much broader acceptance at merchants than in the past, and in the respect it gets from even the most hardened Bitcoin maximalists in the space. The ability for anyone in the world to gain financial sovereignty and privacy without even realizing they need privacy is absolutely incredible, and sets Monero apart from any other cryptocurrency in the space - even Bitcoin. Privacy must be made accessible and not be locked behind technical and educational barriers.
Monero remains the most powerful and accessible tool for those in oppressive countries, those under targeted surveillance, and those who value privacy deeply, and if I have to recommend a financial tool without the chance to deeply educate, it will continue to be Monero. I also am excited to continue finding ways to dedicate some time to Monero, speak at conferences like Monerotopia and Monerokon, and spread the word about the powerful tool that Monero is in the Bitcoin and privacy communities. That being said, my focus has shifted more to Bitcoin in the recent months.
Why I’m focusing on Bitcoin now
If you read the section above, you may be entirely confused as to why I would love Monero so much and what it offers and yet be focusing my efforts more on Bitcoin today, but it has been a slow and steady journey for me to this point. While the power of Monero has not waned or lessened in practice or in my mind, I’ve come more to grips with the power of network effects, on and off-ramps, and the way that people enter the cryptocurrency space. Let’s break down the reasons I’ve been drawn back into Bitcoin point-by-point.
Most people will enter cryptocurrency through Bitcoin
While this may be an obvious truth to most people, it’s one that has striking implications once you think about it. The fact that the vast majority of users seeking financial sovereignty will enter through Bitcoin means that those of us who care deeply about user privacy should be extremely wary of abandoning all those users who enter through Bitcoin to a transparent and surveilled world. If the majority of people will enter through Bitcoin (and many will stay there), then I feel a responsibility to do what I can to empower them to gain financial privacy irregardless of there being a better tool for financial privacy out there in Monero.
This network effect has showed no signs of stopping, and the broader ecosystem around Bitcoin and its usage in a self-sovereign and non-custodial way has only ramped up in recent years.
If no one fights for privacy on Bitcoin, it becomes a dystopian panopticon
While I am most certainly not preventing the slide towards dystopia in Bitcoin single-handedly, the efforts of a relative few have pushed against the tide towards surveillance, KYC, and custodial solutions over the past few years and have successfully shifted the Bitcoin community to being more mindful of privacy. If everyone who cared deeply about personal privacy abandons Bitcoin due to its inherent transparency, it would rapidly become a dystopian nightmare of surveillance, even worse than the legacy financial system in many ways.
As understanding the need for personal privacy remains relatively niche while Bitcoin becomes more mainstream, an exodus of privacy-conscious individuals in Bitcoin would not lead to a “flippening” of Monero or a similar privacy tool being more used than Bitcoin, but would likely just leave more people captured in a terrifying panopticon. The collapse of Bitcoin as a relatively private on and off-ramp to tools like Monero would also cause great harm to these tools and limit who could actually gain access to them.
All that to say, I believe that I can do my part to help stem the tide and make Bitcoin privacy more accessible, while helping to steer Bitcoiners clear of KYC exchanges, custodial wallets, and the allure of “mass adoption at all costs.”
Bitcoin’s privacy can be made “good enough”
This one will chafe at many in the Monero community, but is a lesson I’ve learned over long discussions with Bitcoiners like Matt Odell, Juraj Bednar, BitcoinQnA, and Alex Gladstein. Though Bitcoin’s privacy is absolutely not where I’d like to see it long-term, for the majority of threat models, Bitcoin’s privacy can be good enough. If we can merely help users to on and off-board from Bitcoin through exchanges that don’t tie personal information to their Bitcoin activity (a la “KYC” exchanges), we can provide “good enough” privacy to users of Bitcoin without them even taking more extreme privacy steps. The tools that allow users to buy and sell Bitcoin without KYC are also rapidly improving as they gain traction, with things like AgoraDesk, azte.co, Peach Bitcoin, RoboSats, and Bisq getting better by the day.
Once identity is properly separated from Bitcoin activity, its pseudonymity can prove to be enough for the average threat model, while more advanced tooling allows those under more targeted surveillance to access powerful privacy. Pairing this default pseudonymity - detached from identity - with improving privacy tools that require less and less manual intervention and effort by Bitcoiners is only improving the base level of privacy in Bitcoin over time. We still have a long ways to go in making privacy tools on the app layer with Bitcoin usable by the masses, but we’re making steady strides there and there are exciting things on the horizon to help.
Bitcoin’s privacy tooling is improving rapidly
If you tried using Bitcoin in a privacy-preserving manner back in 2018 or 2019, it was an absolute nightmare. UX was poor, information on how effective different approaches were was vague and hard to interpret, and there were really only two usable privacy apps (Wasabi Wallet and Samourai Wallet.) The landscape has improved dramatically since I got into the space and started to explore privacy on Bitcoin, with Samourai Wallet’s user experience being night-and-day different, new wallets like Sparrow Wallet implementing an extremely clean user experience while still supporting advanced tools, more and more wallets adopting reusable payment codes via BIP 47 “PayNyms,” and the growth of Lightning bringing with it great promise for the future of Bitcoin privacy.
The ability for a Bitcoiner who wants privacy to actually take real steps today is drastically better than it was in the past, and there is real traction behind improvements both on-chain and via Lightning. While neither are perfect, and privacy on Bitcoin still requires too much manual effort by users, the building blocks have been laid to allow for the next generation of privacy-preserving apps to be built on Bitcoin. When we couple that with the ongoing work to improve Lightning privacy via things like route blinding, alias SCIDs, and BOLT 12, things look very promising. Implementations of all of these features are nearing completion in major implementations of Lightning, and will resolve the biggest issue for Lightning privacy - protecting the recipient in a transaction.
If you want to dig more into the proposed and upcoming privacy improvements for Bitcoin, along with the history around Bitcoin privacy, you can check out my other blog post on the topic:
Bitcoin’s network effects amplify my work’s impact
This one is pretty simple, but as the user base and growing network effect of Bitcoin expands, any work that I can do to empower Bitcoin users to regain privacy, avoid KYC exchanges, and use powerful privacy tools in an accessible way impacts more people.
Where I am now
I recently realized while I had shifted focus to Bitcoin, I had never fully discussed the reasons why with anyone publicly, much less shared the reasoning. This post is an attempt to do that and while I’m sure it doesn’t 100% cover my shift, it hopefully provides some transparency. After many years volunteering in the Monero community and doing what I could there, I feel that the time has come for me to dedicate the majority of my time back to Bitcoin, and my role at Foundation is a key part of that.
Foundation enables me to focus practically all of my time on building out tools for preserving privacy on Bitcoin, educating others on what Bitcoin is and how to use it best, and producing a sovereign computing ecosystem over the coming years that will enable far more people to reach digital sovereignty than have been able to in the past. This empowerment means that I’m no longer having to split my attention and efforts between a fiat job and my passions of personal privacy and financial sovereignty, and instead can do what I love each day and help bring many more people with me on the journey to sovereignty.
What does this mean for my recommendations to those seeking financial freedom? Not much, for now. Whenever possible, Monero is still my go-to recommendation as it provides strong privacy by default and is an amazing spending tool. If Monero isn’t available for some reason, then Bitcoin with proper privacy usage through a wallet like Sparrow wallet is my current recommendation, with a new tool on the horizon that will be my go-to for Bitcoin. While I am focusing my time primarily on Bitcoin now, that doesn’t mean that I’ve forsaken Monero as a tool for freedom or that I will stop recommending it or highlighting its power to the broader space.
I want to maximize freedom available to each and every person who wakes up, and both Bitcoin and Monero provide valuable tools to achieve financial freedom.
This is a much more personal and transparent post than the majority of my writing, and I’d love to talk through it more with each of you. If you have questions around what I’ve mentioned here or want to dive more deeply into things, please reach out via Signal, SimpleX, Threema, or Nostr.