Markets By TradingView

A short history of decentralisation in financial cryptography

Financial cryptography is what we sometimes call the space between finance and cryptography, which is a pretty big spectrum. But fun and exciting nonetheless! There is a lot of prior work, extending back to the 1980s, and a lot of different threads. Following is a…


Share to Facebook
Share to Twitter
Share to Linkedin

Financial cryptography is what we sometimes call the space between finance and cryptography, which is a pretty big spectrum. But fun and exciting nonetheless! There is a lot of prior work, extending back to the 1980s, and a lot of different threads.
Following is a list of events that led up to current times, focussing on one particular narrow thread – decentralisation in financial cryptography.

Year, Technology Who What Flaw
Morse et al sending messages over wires allowed news to travel fast, including financial trades and commercial information required network of wires
Marconi et al sending messages over radio waves avoided need for copper infrastructure expensive, open, and soon controlled
Kahn & Cerf decentralisation of internetworking away from telcos led to innovations including independent email, file transfer static, centralised allocation of IP# space & name space
Public Key Cryptography
Diffie & Hellman exchange of keys over distance no persistency, MITM
(conceived in secret by Ellis)
Rivest, Shamir, Adelman persistent psuedonymous identity capable of controlling the identity of user was unknown, MITMs led to CAs as CVP.
Patented (expired early 2000s).
IBM decentralized power of computing away from IT, with Unix and the minicomputer dealt the 1-2 death blow to IBM’s quasi monopoly MS-DOS 🙂 i86 🙂
GSM replaced copper to solve last mile problem massive expensive wireless network led to standards to frequency controls to centralised telcos to SIMs to control vector to modern surveillance society
world wide web
Tim Berners-Lee inter-firm distribution of information shortage of IP#s, difficulty of coding “websites”, complexity of servers led to commercialisation then centralisation
Web of Trust
Zimmerman signed statements of acceptance over a key could be relied upon by a community formed of those with PGP keys no definition of “acceptance,” “responsibility,” “recourse” etc meant no meaning, no value
DigiCash issuance of a “monetary” unit outside a government over the Internet Limited to a centralised server and was quickly contained in a regulatory sense to banks
Smart Contracts
Nick Szabo performance of contractual agreements handled by code prepared by the participants without ability to turn the computer off no implementation
Ricardian Contracts
Grigg independent description of asset without registry permission the underlying was still centralised
Triple Entry Accounting
Boyle & Grigg reliable accounting entries between firms privacy implied the trusting of private signers

Proof of Work
Back & others Proof of non-sock puppet, distributed costs on others Proof of wealth – no cap – those with more money (energy) could price out the market
Fanning, Fanning, Parker distribution of music across network of computers centralised directory still required to search
Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow secure p2p data store with currency to mediate economic incentives never delivered, arguably “too big” for the times
Bram Cohen p2p file sharing protocol free riders, attention from copyright owners
Distributed Hash Table
distribution of directory slow, complicated, subject to attacks
Skype chat, phone, video distributed over customers’s computers corporate control led to change of protocol and breach of security claim
Apple + Android decentralised the CPU from desktop/laptop to *all* the people including developing world, split net between ISP & telco (wireless network still massive and expensive)
Satoshi Nakamoto Nakamoto Signature – PoW consensus from Byzantine herd (DMMS) Nash eq. meant only one issue. Did not solve the developer problem, inability to evolve.  Speed of light /v/ shared ledger.
Roolo, OpenBazaar, Lighthouse, Auger, …
many “decentralise all the things”
decentralisation of many market services previously thought to be centralised
assumes blockchain?


  • This is by no means a complete list.
  • I might update it as better information comes to light.
  • Only things that speak to decentralisation are presented.  Things like the famous Chaumian blinded signature did not really do that, they spoke to privacy instead.
Ian Grigg
Ian Grigg
Major project: Advisor at Akropolis, EOS, Mattereum, Knabu. Financial Cryptographer / Crypto-Plumber. Developed the Ricardo Transaction Engine from 1995-Present. Invented: Ricardian Contract, Triple-Entry Accounting.

You may also like


The Uniswap Governance Debacle

This is another story of why Governance and Tokenomics is so important for the valuation of a DeFi project. Uniswap is a household name in the DeFi space. They are the Apple of the crypto industry. They have great investors, a great team, and they…

Read more

Coinscrum – Cross pollination in an agnostic blockchain community

By Yatu Yoga ::Blockchain Anthropologist exploring the Blockchain, Fintech, and Crypto space :: PHD Researcher at Golsmiths College, London —- The origin story of Coinscrum begins in September 2012, with five guys tentatively meeting up at a pub called the Cleveland Arms to discuss Bitcoin,…

Read more

Network Economies in the Year 2049

By Oscar Pacey :: Network Economies Adviser at Tranquility Node —- We’re early adopters, which must mean the tech doesn’t do what we want it to do yet. Bitcoin isn’t a currency… yet, security tokens don’t provide any new liquidity or features… yet and decentralised…

Read more

The DAO: How to not fuck it up

Written by: Jack du Rose For the last fortnight, we, the Ethereum community, have been creating “The DAO”.We’re at ~$130M right now (subject to the price of Ether), and that I’m sure will jump substantially before the creation period ends.For the uninitiated, “The DAO” is,…

Read more


Subscribe to us

Understanding your dog for dummies cheatsheet

Paid Ad Placement

We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. By clicking “Accept”, you consent to the use of ALL the cookies.