Meta logo in a computer screen

Sinking Meta seeks COPA lifeline

Facebook’s membership in the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (COPA) is causing BTC maxis to question whether they’re still the anti-heroes they imagined themselves to be or just foot soldiers in the plot to keep Bitcoin from breaching Web2’s castle walls.

On January 31, COPA announced that Meta—the corporation formerly known as Facebook—has joined the ranks of those (allegedly) devoted to lowering the chance of patent litigation. Meta is also joining COPA’s board alongside crypto exchange Coinbase (NASDAQ: COIN) and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s payment processing company Block (formerly Square).

COPA’s announcement said Meta has “pledged not to enforce its core cryptocurrency patents against anyone, except for defensive reasons, effectively making these patents freely available for all to use.” Presumably, Meta will soon extend this magnanimous gesture to the 35,000 non-crypto patents it currently holds so that other industry sectors can feel similarly empowered. No? Why not? Oh, right… the whole capitalism thing.

Anyway, it’s not entirely clear what ‘core’ crypto patents Meta still possesses, given that the COPA news came the same day Meta announced that it had sold its ill-fated stablecoin project Diem (formerly Libra) to Silvergate Capital Corporation.

That sale included the “intellectual property and other assets related to the running of the Diem Payment Network” but Meta may have held on to patents related to its Novi digital currency wallet, along with those tied to its similarly scrapped game-based Facebook Credits virtual currency.

Despite its lofty rhetoric, COPA was actually formed in response to the growing number of blockchain related patents generated by Dr. Craig Wright, the real-world figure behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym credited with authoring the Bitcoin white paper. In fact, COPA’s only concrete action to date has been to launch a civil action against Wright to undermine his claim to the white paper’s copyright.

Interestingly, crypto news site CoinDesk quoted COPA GM Max Sills as saying Meta ‘committed to joining COPA in November 2021.’ That date coincides with the Kleiman v. Wright trial in Florida, which concluded with the jury declaring that Wright had no assistance from his former colleague Dave Kleiman in creating Bitcoin or writing the white paper.

But what would motivate these corporate colossuses to circle their wagons and direct their concentrated fire at an Australian inventor who until a few years ago was on absolutely no one’s radar? In a word: fear. Evidence produced during the Kleiman trial appears to have erased any lingering doubts that Wright is Satoshi, while amplifying concerns that Wright’s disruptive vision of Bitcoin’s future will tear down the walls that Twitter and Facebook have so painstakingly constructed around their digital gardens. 

Patent war pending

Wright, an acknowledged polymath, earned COPA’s enmity by exercising his ever-active brain in dreaming up patent-worthy inventions and seeking to legally protect his ownership of said inventions. Wright has successfully implemented the white paper version of Bitcoin (BSV). The BSV Blockchain can pack an unprecedented number of transactions into individual blocks while users pay transaction fees measured in fractions of a penny.

In other words, BSV actually resembles the peer-to-peer electronic cash described in the Bitcoin white paper, while the BTC protocol that COPA supports has been so functionally neutered by the centralized BTC protocol developers that it can no longer serve as anything other than an inert form of ‘digital gold.’ Michael Saylor, founder and CEO of COPA member MicroStrategy (NASDAQ: MSTR), has gone so far as to publicly state that he will essentially use his company’s massive BTC holdings as collateral, presumably to borrow fiat currency so that he can actually pay for things in the real world.

This self-imposed technical hobbling allowed centralized protocol developer groups such as Blockstream to build so-called Layer 2 ‘solutions’ to remedy BTC’s manufactured throughput constraints, further centralizing control of the network. In legal terms, these centralized protocol developers and the people directing them represent a general partnership with all the attendant fiduciary responsibilities

There wouldn’t be much point to these solutions if the larger world outside BTC Maxiville discovers that BSV is the real Bitcoin. That discovery would also threaten other digital payment methods—such as Block’s Cash App—while causing BTC’s overinflated value to plummet to the point that Saylor’s cache of tokens might not buy him a coffee.

Clearly Wright must be stopped, by whatever means necessary. So, COPA hits him high, while thousands of laser-eyed social media minions—like Peter McCormack and Magnus ‘hodlonaut’ Granath—aim lower, apparently based on their eagerness to play a role in the financial revolution they believe is occurring. But Meta’s COPA membership threatens to undermine that heroic narrative.

Decentralization theater

Most BTC maxis treat Dorsey with the fawning reverence normally associated with K-pop stans, but Facebook’s lengthy list of social crimes—harvesting and selling personal data, facilitating the spread of disinformation, anticompetitive tactics, lying about its intentions and pledging only to ‘do better’ when caught—means Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg is viewed through a far more pejorative lens.

That pejorative view was reflected in the fact that COPA’s Meta announcement chose not to mention Zuckerberg by name. His Libra/Diem project (Zuck’s Bucks?) was intended to create a universal online currency that, while donning a veneer of decentralization, would have almost certainly been under Zuck’s majority control.

Diem’s centralized nature was openly mocked by BTC Maxis, whose blinders allow them to overlook the fact that control over the BTC protocol is absolutely centralized in the hands of a few BTC Core protocol developers. Moreover, these protocol developers, including Blockstream, are entirely beholden to investors such as quasi-ponzi Tether and Digital Currency Group, the Mastercard-linked Little Jack Horners of crypto (determined to stick their thumbs in everyone’s pie).

So BTC is neither decentralized nor an emancipation proclamation from big banks. But at least it’s cool, right? Got that bleeding edge vibe to it. Only now it’s inextricably linked to Facebook and its legions of tipsy soccer moms and would-be mad scientists drinking their own urine to cure rickets. Still, totally cool. Totally.

Caught in a Web(2)

Even as Meta’s COPA membership was announced, Dorsey was publicly slamming Zuckerberg for wasting time in developing the proprietary Diem rather than incorporating BTC into Facebook. Dorsey accused Zuckerberg of trying to create “a currency that was owned by Facebook … to bring more and more people onto the Facebook ecosystem.”

Yet Dorsey and Zuck have common cause in ensuring that BSV remains in the shadows, as its data- and transaction-handling capacity makes it the perfect vehicle for bringing Web3—the internet’s newest and most promising phase—from mere concept to execution. The transition from a data harvesting advertising economic model on the internet to a data sovereign transaction based economic model on the metanet is gaining steam much to the dismay of Zuck and Dorsey.

For the uninitiated, Web1 represents the internet’s early, highly decentralized system of standalone websites created largely by individuals. Web2 imposed a centralized system of vertical silos from which corporations such as Twitter, Facebook, TikTok et al harvested reams of customer data, which was then sold to third parties to drive Web2’s advertising-based revenue model.

Web3—in the form of BSV’s Metanet—aims to offer users a reprieve from this predatory behavior by restoring control over their personal data, allowing users to decide who can access their data and what fees they might charge third parties for access. Users pay the platforms and transaction processors micropayments in transaction fee giving them ownership over the data they generate. Simply put, it’s digital sovereignty, and it’s making the Web2 giants feel like dinosaurs nervously scanning the sky for any extinction-level asteroids hurtling their way.

Dr. Wright put the Web2 titans—specifically, “today’s cancerous evil Twitter-based Silicon Valley” ecosystem—on notice last June that the Metanet’s digital cash transaction-based system would “destroy their business model.” Dorsey and Zuckerberg appear to have received this message loud and clear, at least, if their ensuing actions are any indication.

A few months after Wright’s missive, Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s pivot to focusing on building the Metaverse, while Dorsey left his role as Twitter’s CEO the month after that (perhaps not so coincidentally the day the Kleiman v. Wright jury went out for deliberation). Dorsey has since gone on a public vendetta against the very notion of Web3, largely because he fears that someone other than the Web2 incumbents will end up controlling it.

Zuck took an even more predictable (and predictably selfish) course, attempting to paint Meta as leading the charge on Web3. However, given the utter lack of specifics on Meta’s progress, the net effect was a bit like Zuck planting his flag in a field in Kansas and declaring Meta’s now in sole control of Neptune or something.

But with Meta now officially part of the COPA cabal, Zuckerberg does seem poised to assume control of the group’s direction. For one thing, he’s a control freak who ought to have ‘doesn’t play well with others’ tattooed on his forehead. And Zuckerberg also appears to be the COPA member most acutely aware of the power slipping from his grasp. 

Desperate times, desperate measures

On Wednesday, Meta’s Q4 2021 earnings report revealed that Facebook had suffered its first ever decline in daily active users, while growth at its other apps (Instagram, WhatsApp) is slowing. This resulted in Meta’s share price falling by more than one-quarter, with total paper losses topping $200b, making it the biggest single-day plunge by an American company ever. (Zuck’s personal loss was said to be around $29b.)

Zuckerberg blamed the decline on increased competition from rivals like TikTok and warned that future revenue would decline now that Apple has imposed ad-tracking privacy changes, limiting Meta’s ability to scrape the data on which its ad-based revenue depends.

But investors also expressed alarm at the $10b+ Meta burned last year in its push to develop its metaverse (with Meta at the center of this ‘verse’, naturally). As the Libra/Diem fiasco amply demonstrated, the general public (and any number of governments) simply doesn’t trust Zuckerberg not to impose dictatorial control on any system over which he might gain control, leading investors to worry that this metaverse push will ultimately join Diem on the discard pile.

A way out (and forward)

Zuckerberg’s minions likely returned from this January’s CES technology trade show with reports that some of the biggest buzz centered on Transmira and its Omniscape XR (experiential reality) platform. Zuckerberg was likely alarmed at how much further ahead of the game Transmira is, particularly compared to Meta’s in-house vaporware.

Transmira CEO Robert Rice hasn’t been shy in crediting BSV for providing the foundation on which he could build a product like Omniscape. “We’re building it all on Bitcoin SV because it’s fast, scalable, and very inexpensive to do transactions.”

Zuckerberg has a history of using his deep pockets to simply buy innovation rather than develop it in-house, so he might soon make Rice an offer he can’t refuse. But attempting to replicate Omniscape’s success without utilizing the BSV blockchain would be like taking the fat tires off a Formula 1 machine and replacing them with training wheels.

Zuckerberg isn’t about to admit that he needs any external elements to be successful but one of his less self-absorbed rivals—perhaps one that has so far resisted the urge to join the COPA cabal—might make the calculation that it was worth striking a deal with nChain, the company through which Dr. Wright develops his patents, to take advantage of the disruptive technology on offer.

The history of business is littered with comfortable incumbents who resisted change by sandbagging plucky upstarts who, unlike the fat cats, didn’t fear innovation. The oil and gas industry spent decades and billions of dollars to convince both regulators and the public that climate change was a hoax and that renewable energy sources would never meet the world’s energy needs. They did this despite their own internal research showing that these statements were lies, because they were too invested in the status quo to make significant changes to their operations.

Like these fossil fuel laggards who eventually saw the wisdom (and the profits) in developing renewable operations of their own, today’s Web2 dinosaurs will eventually come to their senses and admit—publicly for a change—that Wright is Satoshi and BSV is the only blockchain with the capacity to grow to meet tomorrow’s needs.

To paraphrase Zuckerberg’s go-to phrase whenever he’s caught in a lie, he and his Web2 ilk need to do better. If the individuals making the decisions for these companies can’t—or won’t—recognize the wisdom of switching to superior technology like BSV, two facades will crumble: (a) they’re not the all-knowing visionaries they allowed the world to think they are, and (b) they really don’t give a damn about their users after all.

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