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How Do We Make Bitcoin User-Friendly?

One of the main criticisms of Bitcoin today is that it isn’t user-friendly. It’ll never catch on with the mainstream population, it’s destined to stay confined to a small group of hardcore techie users, and so forth.

I disagree.

I’ve stated before that the level of bitcoin adoption is closely tied to its usability, and that will change with the growth of an ecosystem of companies around it. Some companies are already making it easy to use, and the latest among them is OneName, a decentralized identity system (DIS) with a user directory made of entries in a decentralized key-value store (the Namecoin blockchain). They’re basically applying the Bitcoin protocol to information— your username, bitcoin address, etc (see screenshot below) are stored in the namecoin protocol.

Aside from the fact that having your information in the blockchain is cool, (nerd alert, sorry) it’s also a great leap forward in terms of bitcoin’s usability. Up to this point, sharing your bitcoin address has been cumbersome. Unless you want to memorize a string of random numbers and letters, you have to resort to copy + pasting it to send to anyone who wants to pay you. There’s really no way to do so verbally without subjecting your interlocutor to auditory assault. Even assuming you felt like memorizing your address, there’s next to no chance that the poor recipient is going to remember more than one or two of the string of bits you’re spewing out.

It’s not the best user experience, and it’s different from handy apps like Venmo, in which you can find your friends by name via your email + social network contacts. OneName—which launched last week —brings the same ease of use to bitcoin.

To sign up for it, simply:

  1. Make a profile. Just one thing — OneName is decentralized in the purest sense of the word. They don’t hold your passphrase (the secret string of 12 words that, if entered into something like, returns your private key) so if you lose it, it’s unrecoverable. Don’t lose it.
  2. Direct anyone to your page on OneName (mine is
  3. Someone clicks the QR code and pays you. BOOM! Easy as that.

Aside from its clear added value from a usability perspective, the best part about OneName is that you retain complete control of your data— nobody owns or controls OneName.

“With Bitcoin, private keys provide us with complete control over our funds — nobody can move it without our permission. In the same way, OneName private keys provide us with complete control over our identities — no individual or entity can usurp our usernames or modify our public data or control the release of our private data without our permission.”

It’s also an open source project, and you can find the protocol specifications here.

Everyone wishes they’d heard about Twitter early enough to claim their name as a handle, but most people didn’t. You should probably snag your OneName handle before they get too big and yours is gone. OneName’s launch was accompanied by afirestorm of attention, (Albert Wenger and Fred Wilson of USV have both written about it already, in the context of decentralized identity) so that might be sooner than you think!

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