Bitcoin is the Linux of payments. And its killer apps will be for US dollars.

Bitcoin is the Linux of payments. And its killer apps will be for US dollars.: I was scanning the news the other day, and someone on Hacker News mentioned that half the items above the fold on StreetEYE were about Bitcoin. And I said to myself, I haven’t seen the neckbeards this excited since the early days of Linux.

And it hit me, Bitcoin is the new Linux.

Go back to 1998, the days of The Cathedral and the Bazaar and the Halloween Document, when open source zealots were gleefully foreseeing the day when freedom-loving hackers would take down the evil Microsoft empire.

Linux was how virtuous hackers were going to end the hegemony of robber barons who stifled freedom and innovation and extracted monopoly rents.

And a glorified screwdriver shop called VA Linux Systems went public at $30 and hit $320 on its opening day.

And 15 or so years later, what happened? Well, VA Linux is now pretty much forgotten.1

And yet, Linux won the internet and Microsoft has lost relevance. Linux underpins the web — sites like Google and Amazon and devices like Android and Kindle. Apple is still (even more) proprietary, but everything they do is built on Unix foundations.

Where is the promised utopia? Isn’t it just a case, to quote the rock band The Who, of “new boss, same as the old boss”? Sure, the world is a better place because operating systems (OS) and the web are commoditized and are not Bill Gates’s private playground. There is more innovation because people don’t fear that everything they invent will become a bundled Windows OS feature.

Linux is the ubiquitous plumbing of the internet, but does it drive the tech agenda? The tech game is basically the same, isn’t it?

Two killer apps built around Linux are Android and Amazon Web Services (AWS, which has many of the network and platform effects of an OS). How different are they from the old Microsoft platform? Like the old Microsoft ecosystem, Android and AWS are open enough that people can build great software and services on top of them and yet are closely directed by a benevolent (we hope) dictator for life with a strong financial interest in their success.

And very closed, proprietary ecosystems are still around: Only Apple can make an IOS device, and only Apple can decide what software can run on those devices. Not to mention, Linux powers numerous completely closed devices and mostly closed social platforms, such as Facebook.

Linux “won,” and its killer apps are not totally open platforms that are completely different from Microsoft’s.

So, I predict that the killer apps for Bitcoin will be in US dollar transactions.