Hello there and welcome to DGiT Monthly! A look back at the month that was in tech, geekery, smartphones and more, a look ahead at what’s to come, plus a big story to dive into.
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Here’s your June tech timeline for everything that mattered:
Facebook’s Libra crypto-or-not blockchain currency has been the biggest evolving story throughout June, post-announcement on June 18th. It’s also coincided with a rise in the price of Bitcoin, which had rapidly risen to $13,485.85 by June 26, before dropping back a bit. In 2017, Bitcoin went from $10k to $20k in just 19 days.
Not that Libra is a cryptocurrency, or at least if it is, it’s a cryptocurrency*. That asterisk comes down to a range of interesting technical questions, but the short answer is that it is very different to Bitcoin which is permissionless and uses a trust system. Libra, which is a permissioned system, only allows certain people and certain entities to participate and keep track of the ledger.
One of the interesting developments has been the initial reaction, pause, and then better understanding of Libra. One example is at Stratechery, where initial reactions that assumed Facebook will have final control didn’t prove out.
Facebook signed up 27 partners, and it announced them on the day, including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Uber, Spotify, A16z, and more. But an unexpected wrinkle is that these partners are less "partner" and more "interested party". The New York Times broke the news that none have paid the reported $10m entry fee, and none are obliged to pay, having only signed nonbinding agreements to join. Any or all can still back out. And some are downright wary. It’s also been pointed out that no banks are involved.
Meanwhile, regulators are warning of “very, very” high levels of scrutiny, unlike the wild west of the crypto world a few or two ago.
So, is Libra a good idea? That answer in part comes down to what you think of Facebook. Those that don’t like Facebook and don’t trust it argue it’s a good idea in the wrong hands. Bloomberg’s Editorial Board offered a useful perspective that Facebook’s Libra is a good idea with a lot of risks, and that instantly dismissing the project that will live in Switzerland, with Facebook ceding control, might stifle potential innovation before it begins.
In any case, no one, as yet, has a Calibra wallet, and Libra hasn’t started trading. The proof, won’t be in the computation and speculation, like Bitcoin, but in the experience.
A quieter month in June saw only a handful of new devices widely available:
🔋 We could have had electric cars from the very beginning (Longreads).
☢ The Hiding Place: Inside the world's first long-term storage facility for highly radioactive nuclear waste (Pacific Standard).
Thanks for reading!
See you in the DGiT Daily, and until next time,
Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.
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