When the Bitcoin whitepaper was published over thirteen years ago, it laid out a vision for a world where individuals no longer need to rely on trusted third-parties to conduct business between willing participants in the economy. It changed everything. The idea, forged in math and game theory, created a universal ledger and new currency that is native to the internet, accessible to all, and secured by competitive market forces.
We believe that the economy should be inclusive. We need to build on-ramps to this future where everyone can access and participate in the economy.
In order to achieve this, the nature of financial institutions needs to evolve. We can either embrace this change — by investing in this future as a public good by rethinking our business models and ways to create value — or we can let this future happen to us.
As we create this future, we also have to be realistic about where we are today. The vast majority of people receive wages and pay for goods and services in fiat currency. They must pay taxes in fiat currency. So how do we unleash the potential of bitcoin and decentralized financial infrastructure, when most of us still live in a world of fiat? To do so, we need to build bridges between the fiat and cryptocurrency worlds. Through these connections, we will massively improve the accessibility and utility of crypto assets by reducing the overhead of moving in and out of these assets in order to perform daily economic transactions.
The tbDEX protocol aims to create ubiquitous and accessible on-ramps and off-ramps that allow the average individual to benefit from crypto innovation.
There are serious challenges to realizing this vision. Fiat rails are regulated, and no interface with either the traditional monetary system or “real world” can be completely trustless. We can’t atomically swap a crypto asset with a physical good or service. Nor can we atomically swap a crypto asset for fiat currency or real world assets that require social trust.
This means that such exchanges of value must necessarily be based on other means of governing social trust. Decentralized identifiers (DIDs) provide part of the solution by enabling verifiable digital identities that facilitate trustworthy exchanges between counterparties. But the main benefits are lost if the DID method is not implemented in an open, permissionless, and censorship resistant manner.
We propose a solution that does not rely on a federation to control permission or access to the network; nor does it dictate the level of trust required between counterparties. There is no governance token. Instead, the tbDEX protocol allows participants to negotiate trust directly with each other — or mutually and voluntarily rely on trusted third-parties to vouch for the counterparty. Transaction costs are ultimately driven by risk. At maximum anonymity, transaction costs will necessarily be higher; at maximum disclosure, they should be lower. This approach to price discovery allows the marketplace to find the right balance.
The tbDEX protocol also facilitates the secure exchange of the minimum necessary identity information acceptable to counterparties in order to satisfy requirements, be they legal, regulatory, or related to any other consideration of risk. The protocol itself neither collects nor records any personally identifiable information.
When we announced TBD to the world, we committed to being an open source, open development, and open roadmap business. Today, we make good on that promise by sharing the first draft of the tbDEX whitepaper with the world. We've published it in Github so the community can contribute. If you have feedback, ideas or concerns, please send us a pull request.