Bitcoin, the digital currency once known for powering the black market of the deep web, has officially caught the attention of the proverbial Man. The US government is working to regulate and control the crytocurrency; law enforcement is confiscating millions of virtual coins used for illegal transactions; and venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are chomping at the bit to profit from the hype.
While capitalist society embraces the futurist money, the bitcoin community is left at something of a crossroads: Do you play nice with the establishment, or reject it and dive deeper into the underbelly of the web?
The developers of Dark Wallet wholeheartedly subscribe to the latter mindset. The group, called UnSystem, are self-proclaimed cryto-anarchists led by Cody Wilson—who you may remember as the creator of the controversial 3D-printed gun. After getting himself in hot water with the government for making the digital files to print an unregulated weapon freely available on the internet, Wilson's now endeavoring to bring bitcoin back to its anarchist roots.
The group launched an Indiegogo campaign yesterday to raise $50,000 to build Dark Wallet, which they expect to launch early next year. The tool is a browser plug-in for Chrome or Firefox, intended to be easy to use for consumers that aren’t tech-savvy, to encourage the masses to adopt the alternative currency.
Like other bitcoin wallets, you'll be able to store, send, and receive coins, and interact with block chain, the bitcoin public ledger. But Dark Wallet will include extra protections to make sure transactions are secure, anonymous, and hard to trace—including a protocol called "trustless mixing” that combines users' coins together before encoding it into the ledger.
Bitcoin’s pseudo-anonymity and untraceability have been called into question lately, especially after the Feds’ much-publicized bust of the black marketplace Silk Road. And though Motherboard’s Alex Liu explained that the Silk Road bust didn’t represent a serious threat to the cryptocurrency, bitcoin users are divided.
The Bitcoin Foundation is lobbying Washington to compromise on regulations. But UnSystem, and others that share the group’s libertarian ethos, argue that any government control would defeat the purpose of the digital currency. From their base in an anarchist compound outside of Barcelona, the group envisions a techno-utopian, contraband society where law enforcement can't keep up with the latest technology. Dark Wallet will put that to the test, and it will be interesting to see how many bitcoin users follow their lead.