When Brad first proposed the idea of WingCash to me in 2009, my initial reaction was “are we going to build a cryptocurrency, then?” The answer was “maybe.”
I’ve been interested in cryptocurrencies primarily because of the partition tolerance improvements they might offer. When I talk about partition tolerance, I’m referring to the CAP theorem, which stands for Consistency, Availability, and Partition tolerance. Everyone wants computer systems to be consistent, available, and tolerant of network partitions (meaning the system continues to operate even when parts fail), but the CAP theorem suggests that all systems have to compromise on at least one of those requirements.
Let’s say a cable is cut by a backhoe and a small city gets temporarily isolated from the rest of the Internet. If people in that city have simple digital cash managed by a server outside the city, they won’t be able to spend their digital cash until the city restores Internet access. However, if they hold a cryptocurrency instead of a server-managed currency, they may be able to spend their digital cash even without access to rest of the net. Other examples of this issue include large boats and airplanes, both with limited Internet access.
Sadly, Bitcoin, the dominant cryptocurrency, doesn’t appear to deal with the partition tolerance issue. As far as I know, each Bitcoin transaction has to be recognized by several servers before the recipient can consider the transaction completed. The isolated people would probably have no access to any Bitcoin servers. In fact, I know of no cryptocurrency that solves this.
Another concern that drove me to think about cryptocurrencies is security. Most software developers aren’t given enough time to prevent computer security issues, so the banking system is not as secure as it ought to be. Meanwhile, cryptocurrency developers are required to think very hard about security, so their systems end up remarkably resilient to attack. But is it necessary to develop a cryptocurrency in order to achieve security? Probably not. There are many other motivations that can make secure software development realistic.
Today, WingCash is not a cryptocurrency. I would love to build upon a cryptocurrency because of the mathematical elegance of such systems, but no cryptocurrency I’m aware of fulfills any need I’ve encountered while building WingCash.