CS-ECON Seminar Series

How Bitcoin enables a Machine-Payable Web

Speaker:Balaji S. Srinivasan
Date: Friday, October 28, 2016
Time: 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: D344 LSRC, Duke


First, we had the World Wide Web, a web of links between documents. Then we had the Social Web, a social network of relationships between people. We believe the third web will be the Machine-Payable Web, where each node in the network is a machine and each edge is a micropayment between machines. Towards this end, we've developed open source software called 21 that makes it simple to perform micropayments over HTTP. The software allows you to get digital currency onto any machine headlessly, set up web services that accept and transmit bitcoin over HTTP, and discover other machines with similar services to autonomously trade with. The overall effect is to turn digital currency into the ultimate scarce system resource, on par with CPU, RAM, and hard drive space. Just as one can create a database index that consumes disk space to save time, we show that one can now write code that instead spends digital currency to outsource a computation to save time. To illustrate the breadth of the implications, we conclude with several working examples: bitcoin-aware intelligent agents, APIs that implement autonomous surge pricing, and the development of a native market datastructure as a first class alternative to the well known queue. We ask that audience members bring their laptops to code along with the speaker!


Balaji S. Srinivasan is the CEO of 21.co and a Board Partner at the multibillion dollar venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Prior to taking the role of CEO at 21, Dr. Srinivasan was a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. He was named to the MIT TR35, has raised more than $200M in venture capital across multiple companies, was the cofounder and CTO of Founders Fund-backed Counsyl, and taught a MOOC with 200k students at startup.stanford.edu. He holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University.