The value in the Western Union franchise, or, if you prefer, Western Union’s corporate moat, is not in the ability to transfer money between users, but rather in the worldwide network of franchisees running Western Union software, which tells them who to pay and how much to charge.
The value of Western Union as a company, for the purposes of money remittance, lies entirely in the size and quality of its network of nodes (franchisees). Money remittance is secondary to network quality.
Does this remind you of anything? Sounds a lot like Bitcoin doesn’t it? Yet when dealing with Bitcoin, we tend to not understand where the value is coming from and we fall into the red herring of Digital Cash vs. Digital Gold; forgetting that these two forms are subject to the quality of the underlying communications network.
Of course not! Every system has financial and ecological costs, but how many systems are measuring practical ROI?
People focus on Bitcoin’s consumption, but not Visa’s, for example. Have you considered what Bitcoin can create per kilowatt compared to what the centralized economy can do with the same kilowatt? All systems have consumption which is repurposed in the attempt to create extra value so that efficiencies can be sold to the world in order to make profit. But the real question should be if there’s more profit to be made by using Bitcoin as a tool for efficiency rather than other existing solutions.
Swarm Economy: There is a bitcoin craze at the moment, with prices of bitcoin skyrocketing. Bitcoin is still far from ready for prime time, but as it matures, it will change society’s fundamental operations much more than the Internet did. The net, after all, only allowed people to talk and shop more efficiently. By comparison, bitcoin eradicates the government’s ability to operate.
Let’s begin by looking at what a bitcoin is. It is money. It is a new form of money that isn’t issued by a government. Governments don’t have a monopoly on coming up with things you can trade and barter with, and bitcoin is one such non-governmental barter instrument. The difference between bitcoin and all other such tokens of value that have been invented over the years is that nobody is in control of the money supply, and nobody is in control of the money flow. This means that nobody can start the printing presses to eradicate your savings, and nobody can seize or see your wealth or income. You can think of it as an open-source currency compared to proprietary, state-issued currencies.
There is no central bank. This is a revolutionary concept. People can trade cash at a distance without going through an intermediary. The first time you send the value of a cup of coffee to a friend in India on a Sunday, without any transaction fees, and they have the money instantly, without anybody but you knowing of the transaction, your jaw drops.