Obi Nwosu is the CEO and co-founder of Coinfloor, the UK's longest-running Bitcoin exchange. He has over 20 years’ experience building online marketplaces and bringing virtual currencies to tens of millions of people. Obi writes The Road to Bitcoin Hegemony, a weekly recap of some of the most impactful developments in Bitcoin.
The winds of change rarely blow constantly. Even the strongest gale will back and veer, swirl and eddy, even if all the uprooted trees lie facing in the same direction. We admire those who stand steadfast in the maelstrom, their eyes focused on the final destination and refusing to be blown off course.
The great socialist politician Tony Benn used to talk of weathervanes and signposts: the former spinning in whatever direction the public mood would blow; the latter standing firm, principled, and unbending. This solidity of character marks the great survivors of history, be they a great personage, a famous organisation... or a grand publication.
Like that most famous and respected of British newspapers, the Financial Times. Over the last 130-odd years, the FT has built a reputation as one of the great signposts, careless of shifts in opinion and instead cleaving to its principles of free market, laissez-faire capitalism.
But of late, the Pink ‘Un has allowed itself to spin in the fickle wind of public opinion over the topic of—you guessed it—Bitcoin.
The Financial Times and Bitcoin were never going to be natural bedfellows. The world’s first and greatest cryptocurrency challenges so many of the financial orthodoxies held dear by the bowler-hatted, umbrella-carrying, pinstriped stockbroker on the 8.17 from Guildford. So it’s unsurprising that the paper has taken every opportunity to revel in every perceived setback in Bitcoin’s march towards hegemony.
But what is surprising is that the FT has regularly taken contrary positions on Bitcoin. If we look back a couple of years, the publication’s line seemed to shift almost on a weekly basis, by turns telling its readers not to write off Bitcoin and then warning investors that it’s time to panic.
Such vacillation is a bad look for any newspaper, but it’s particularly poor for a publication of the Financial Times’ stolid reputation. If this had been a blip, it might have been forgivable, since the ability to change one’s opinion in the face of new evidence is the sign of a supple and intelligent mind. But last week saw the FT send its readers dizzy, weathervaning its way around every point of the compass as it struggled to make sense of Bitcoin’s precipitous rise and its inevitable correction.
On Tuesday, buoyed by a surge that saw Bitcoin reach a new UK all-time high of £14,600, the FT ran a column by Izabella Kaminska acknowledging the rationale for Bitcoin. One of the reasons for this vote of confidence were recent developments including increasing corporate adoption by, among others, PayPal.
But spin forward a couple of days, and the FT was proudly proclaiming that Bitcoin had “gone splat”, while apologizing for “accidentally” shilling the currency’s price in Ms Kaminska’s earlier column.If we’re looking for a source of renewable energy, we could do worse than harness a turbine to the FT’s Bitcoin weathervane, which seems to spin fast enough these days to power a good-sized city. But don’t take this mockery as schadenfreude. I’m not in the least bit delighted that so august, so “signpost” a publication as the Financial Times just can’t make up its mind. I’d rather it stuck to its guns and was at least consistent in its mockery or embrace of Bitcoin.
The big question is whether the FT (and other traditional publications) will eventually settle on a consistent line on Bitcoin. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
In October, the BTC Times reported on the implementation of the Schnorr/Taproot consensus rules and their merger into Bitcoin Core. This upgrade is a major step in Bitcoin’s evolution, significantly increasing Bitcoin’s smart contract capabilities while adding another layer of transactional privacy.
Last week came the news that the mining pools Poolin, Slush Pool, and BTC.com—which between them manage around a quarter of the Bitcoin network's total hash rate—had announced their support for the upgrade.
What’s most interesting is how quickly the proposal has been adopted, coming just a month after Schnorr was added to the Bitcoin Core codebase. In fact, at the time of writing, over 80% of mining pools have started signaling Taproot support—all the makings of a lovely seasonal surprise.
Sure, we’re still some way from knowing the exact end mechanism and timelines for activation, but the speed with which mining pools have embraced this upgrade is a compelling sign of how Bitcoin’s unstoppable momentum continues to gather pace. As we all know, Bitcoin’s success rests not just on the miners, but on securing broad cross-community support, so as Yoda, the original wise Hodler would say, "patient, we must be."
The sages at the FT should note the rapid progress of technical standards like Schnorr/Taproot and see it for what it is: the sign of an ecosystem that’s brimming with health and single-minded purpose in its relentless pursuit of Hegemony.