When using computers, we like to refer to things with names. For example, this website is known as “www.aaronsw.com”. You can type that into your browser and read these words. There are three big properties we might want from such names:
secure: that when you type the name in you actually get my website and not the website of an imposter
decentralized: that no central authority controls all the names
human-readable: that the name is something you can actually remember instead of some long string of randomness
In a classic paper, my friend Zooko argued that you can get at most two of these properties at any one time.
Recently, DNS legend Dan Kaminsky used this to argue that since electronic cash was pretty much the same as naming, Zooko’s triangle applied to it as well. He used this to argue that BitCoin, the secure, decentralized, human-meaningful electronic cash system was impossible. I have my problems with BitCoin, but it’s manifestly not impossible, so I just assumed Kaminsky had gone wrong somewhere.