1994-05-30 - Re: IMP (was Re: ecash-info (fwd))

Header Data

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: rah@shipwright.com (Robert Hettinga)
Message Hash: bce15735d057ded036c67cd049ae72f5cd568c0ac3f4446143d52e9a2d408676
Message ID: <199405302243.PAA04445@netcom.com>
Reply To: <199405301945.PAA11305@zork.tiac.net>
UTC Datetime: 1994-05-30 22:43:32 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 30 May 94 15:43:32 PDT

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Mon, 30 May 94 15:43:32 PDT
To: rah@shipwright.com (Robert Hettinga)
Subject: Re: IMP (was Re: ecash-info (fwd))
In-Reply-To: <199405301945.PAA11305@zork.tiac.net>
Message-ID: <199405302243.PAA04445@netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Robert Hettinga wrote:

> >>        http://digicash.support.nl
> [snip. . .]
> This, like CommerceNet(tm), seems to be pretty much under construction.
> The store windows look nice, however...
> >>...
> >> David Chaum

David Chaum's work is of course central to Cypherpunks, and has been
for the past two years (since Cypherpunks plans were laid...). Eric
Hughes worked with him in '91-'92, and many of us have talked to him
about these issues. Further, his papers on DC-Nets and digital mixes
(the basis of Cypherpunks remailers) are often cited.

I mention this not to chide or "one-up" Robert, but to make clear the
role that Chaum's untraceable digital cash has _always_ had for us.
The strength of true digicash, even if not yet fully
realized/deployed, is why so many of us are skeptical of half-baked
"digital cash" schemes that turn out upon quick inspection to have
none, or few, of the important features.

IMP-interest folks had an especially naive view, for the most part
(based on posts I saw and things I heard from participants). I wished
them well, but it seemed unlikely that a group of such hobbyists could
build a real digicash system while avoiding Chaum's work!

> implicit in it was a sort of top-down-plan idea that was incongruous with
> the do-it-first ethic of the internet. Cypherpunks write code, or Chaum
> does, anyway ;-).

Even with the smiley, are you implying Cypherpunks don't actually
write code? Some do, some don't. But Cypherpunks remailers are fully
operational, as are message pools, a form of digital money (Pr0duct
Cypher's "Magic Money"), etc.

> At the risk of violating that canon, ( I couldn't code my way out of a
> paper bag, even though I've designed an application or two) I'd like to
> start a thread here.
> Could we talk about IMP here?

Digital cash is discussed here often. And every one of the various
"digital money" schemes announced by folks has--I think--been forwared
here and discussed. In my view, Cypherpunks have talked a lot more
about Internet Mercantile Protocols than the IMP-interest list has
talked about crypto (an absolutely core technology, of course).

> 1.) Chaum's e-cash coupled with WWW/Mosaic is a de facto internet
> mercantile protocol.

Hardly. Maybe it will be in the future, but enough infrastructure
pieces are lacking that it can hardly be called a "de facto internet
mercantile protocol." I agree it has huge promise. (I suspect I'm
sounding pedantic in this post...what I'm trying to do is get across
the idea that Cypherpunks are familiar with Chaum's work--or should
be--but that much work remains to be done....merely getting excited
about Chaum's stuff is where many of us were in 1988 to 1992, with the
actual work still lying ahead. And much of the work _still_ lies

(Cf. the soda archives for a "Glossary" and various articles on
Chaumian things.)

(2.) It seems to me that that e-cash, contrary to the status quo's thinking,
> is *critical* to internet commerce. An anonymous cash market is most
> unrestricted and efficient market there is, because privacy/security (more
> than trust, I think) is the capstone of any serious transaction mechanism.
> The imp-interest people seemed to be afraid of e-cash because the
> Chaum-patent hairball reminded them too much of the RSA/PGP fight, and
> probably because they didn't want to be associated with any wild-eyed
> crypto-anarchists(tm).  (As a dyed-in-the-wool yellow-dog congenital
> up-by-your-bootstraps crypto-fascist <gasp> republican, I haven't the
> slightest idea what they're talking about. . .)

Of course crypto and true digital cash is central....this is our whole
message, nearly.

> 3.) Since a big pile of the discussion on this group lately has been about
> our collective concerns about an RSA-approved version of PGP, I think there
> is a real parallel here in e-cash.  Not that some enterprising cypherpunk
> should immediately code up "e-cash for the masses"; that would be way cool
> but probably not within the second-mortgages of the people here. However,

You may be new to the list, but Magic Money/Tacky have been discussed
as recently as last week. And ftp sites have been listed. Also, within
the last week there were several discussions of making the schemes
more "usable by the masses." (Having said this, MM is _not_ an easily
usable, readily-convertible currency or even a payment xfer system for
real currency...again, see the many posts on this.)

> Just a second.  My flame-suit is around here somewhere... OK. Flame on.
> Cheers,
> Bob Hettinga

I don't think of my comments as flamish, but the comments here seem to
bespeak no awareness of the heavy focus Cypherpunks has had on digital
cash for a long time. That we have not "deployed" digital cash is
related to many factors, including patents, lack of financial
incentive (Chaum's folks have spent perhaps 10-20 man-years and
several million dollars, and Chaum holds key patents...it is hard to
imagine any of us competing head on...and make no mistake about it: a
"Pretty Good Digital Cash" scheme would, on the whole, be a much
larger project than PGP was), etc.

Just my views.

--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
tcmay@netcom.com       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409           | knowledge, reputations, information markets, 
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA  | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^859433 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."