Unfortunately, I'm not privy to the closely-guarded secrets behind most of Bitcoin's projects, however many there may be. Many developers, however, are more than happy to share their ongoing work with the community, enough to definitely get us excited about Bitcoin's prospects for next year. So, without further adieu, these are The 10 Most Anticipated Bitcoin Projects for 2012:
10) BitSynCom and the MeshNet
Though somewhat mysterious about their plans, BitSynCom recently announced a massive project to assist the growing effort to launch what can only be described as "the peoples' Internet." Called MeshNet, it would be a peer-to-peer version of the Internet, dependent on its users for owning and operating the supporting infrastructure.
BitSynCom hopes to integrate Bitcoin with MeshNet to act as a payment system to reward those who maintain the infrastructure and provide bandwidth, and to charge those who use it. The development time for such an ambitious project will likely extend well past 2012, but we may see it get legs next year, especially if SOPA comes to pass in its current form. For more information, you can watch an interview with Yifu Guo of BitSynCom, here.
9) The Bitcoin Bond
"JackH" first mentioned the concept of a Bitcoin Bond back on October 25th of this year. The idea is that a publicly traded entity could be used as a vehicle through which investors could buy a piece of the Bitcoin pie while not directly purchasing any Bitcoins. The Bitcoin buying would be the responsibility of an agent associated with the "company." It's an arrangement that would sound familiar to anyone who dabbles in gold and silver ETFs.
The main driver of the project is to mitigate the fragility of the current relationship between banks and Bitcoin exchanges, as there were several instances of banks suspending their accounts with Mt.Gox, Tradehill, and Intersango over the last few months (though it's been quiet as of late).
The latest hurdle facing "JackH" is the cost of developing the legal framework for the company, which was quoted at over 200,000 British Pounds. Yikes! Apparently Mr. H. does have interested investors, though their pockets aren't quite deep enough to come up with that chunk of change. He continues to look for cheaper lawyers...
8) Bitcoin Browser Extensions
Though several attempts have been made at a browser extension, none have really proven effective nor have caught on with Bitcoin users, and most of the development in this field came to a grinding halt when the bubble burst in June. At the moment, it does not appear that anyone in the community is working on an extension, but with the pending implementation of the URI scheme and release of a thin version of the Satoshi client, a browser extension would be the next logical step and would make Bitcoin incredibly user-friendly. Hopefully we'll see one develop in 2012.
7) Bitcoin Options and Futures Trading on the Major Exchanges
2011 will no doubt be remembered as the year that Bitcoinica took Bitcoin by storm. With leveraged trading, playing the Bitcoin markets went from tee-ball to the big leagues, seemingly overnight. 2012, however, will take things to a whole new level. Mt.Gox and Tradehill have both hinted at the fact that they will be unveiling futures and options markets as part of their development plan, with Mt.Gox possibly bringing the features online as early as next month when they are set to unveil... well, something.
6) ICBIT Stock Exchange
Giving Mt.Gox, Tradehill, and Bitcoinica a run for their money will be the ICBIT Stock Exchange. Currently in alpha testing, the exchange promises options and futures trading, as well as the ability to buy traditional stocks using Bitcoins, all of the above on margin, of course.
Having access to derivatives will help to smooth out the volatility that we currently see in Bitcoin trading, and will also give merchants and miners the ability to hedge their holdings (or future holdings). These are key components to establishing a respectable currency market, and will surely generate a lot of interest outside of the Bitcoin community.
5) Electrum Overlay Network
Still looking for an official name to distinguish itself from the Electrum client (I like Overbit, myself), the Electrum Overlay Network is looking to integrate many of the services that are currently found elsewhere, as well as some that do not already exist, and bring them under the umbrella of a single platform. Features will include:
- Client integration of BTC/fiat exchanges;
- Wallet storage for diskless or extremely low-resource clients;
- Server-side escrows (sending bitcoins to an email address);
- Integration of bitcoin laundry;
- Exchange calculators (to display the “fiat” equivalent value of BTC in clients);
- Firstbits support;
- Mining support for clients; and
- Various transport protocols (especially HTTP Push, which allows PHP websites to integrate easily with Bitcoin).
This feature-rich software will be extremely popular and likely catapult Electrum to the front of the client-race, though you never know what the next guy has in his back pocket. Speaking of which:
4) Bitcoin Client Upgrades
Though not scheduled for the 0.6 version of Bitcoin, Gavin Andresen has hinted several times at his increasingly urgent desire to release a thin version of the standard client. Motivated primarily by the poor first-time user experience that comes with the full blockchain download, Gavin's dev team will likely deliver a thin version of the client in 2012. The blockchain is already topping out at 1.2 GB, and we'd hate to see what it will look like by the end of next year. In fact, most of us would rather never see it again as long as we know the friendly miner community is keeping tabs on it. Please Gavin, make the blockchain go away!
Also sorely needed is the implementation of the Bitcoin URI scheme. Currently, most Bitcoin transactions happen through the copying and pasting of ugly-looking strings of numbers and letters (i.e. public keys) that have to be manually checked and re-checked before a transaction can take place. With the URI Scheme, the click of a link in a browser will automatically launch the client and incorporate the address into a transaction. It's much needed, and we hope to see it next year.
3) New Bitcoin Transaction Types
I touched on this topic with my post about Bitcoin 0.6, but it's important enough that it needs to be repeated. The upcoming version of Bitcoin, and there will no doubt be more than one iteration in 2012, will support new transaction types. Essentially, the new version will allow for transactions with multiple signatures, thus allowing for escrow-type contracts with third-parties involved.
Having the option for multiple signatures will also add a new layer of security to Bitcoin, where you will be able to require that your transactions be signed by two different private keys, stored in physically separated devices. This added level of security will stop potential hackers and wallet thieves in their tracks, and make credit cards look downright irresponsible. It's the reason why new transactions types are number three on our list.
2) Open-Transactions (OT)
Already in private alpha-testing on a live server, OT, the brain-child of Fellow Traveler, is going to be extremely important in 2012. Really, its relationship with Bitcoin only tells part of the story, but it's an important relationship nonetheless. Bitcoin is the oil lubricating an OT machine that will enable such a vast array of financial instruments and contracts that lawyers everywhere will beg for retirement packages before they are inevitably smacked in the face with pink-slips as their jobs are made redundant.
OT will allow for truly anonymous, off-the-blockchain, instantaneous transactions, thus silencing some of Bitcoin's harshest critics. This will be a capability so powerful that integration with TOR will almost be a necessity. Multi-asset trading and smart contracts will be OT's killer apps, though the power of OT will only be limited by the imagination.
1) Max Keiser and the LoveBitcoins.org Campaign
Announced at the European Bitcoin Conference, Max Keiser is teaming up with lovebitcoins.org with the goal of bringing 1,000,000 new users to Bitcoin in 2012.
In addition to his radio and web presence, Max (I'm assuming we're on a first-name basis) has his own segment on Russia Today called the Keiser Report, with a huge audience that is sympathetic to the Bitcoin cause.
Equally important here is the structured marketing organization starting to develop within the Bitcoin community that will be extremely important to promoting the technology in 2012.
2011 was a year of growing pains for Bitcoin. It was both loved and hated by the media and subject to a huge bubble that topped out with a market cap of over $200 million. Hackers and miscreants took shots at exchanges and Bitcoin users alike, yet the currency and the community proved their resilience.
Bitcoin is positioned better than ever to prove to the world its significance and utility. These incredible projects only hint at some of what's to come in 2012, which will no doubt be the year that Bitcoin comes of age.