While Bitcoin has been attempting to bring money into the modern age, it hasn’t been alone. The Royal Canadian Mint has been hard at work developing their own digital transaction system called MintChip. It touts many of the cash-like features that Bitcoin merchants love and is backed by a governmental entity, so it’s lacking a lot of the barriers to mainstream success that Bitcoin has, and while one might think that the general reaction of the Bitcoin community to a competitor would be hostile (and for a certain group it certainly was) the majority of us had one response: Irreversible transactions with a purely digital government-backed fiat currency? I’d use that to buy Bitcoins, it’s better than PayPal. Apparently the MintChip folks weren’t too happy about that.
See, the Royal Canadian Mint have been running what they’re calling “The MintChip Challenge” – a social site designed for the submission of clever ideas: what would you do with MintChip? Entrant RichardV led the charge saying only “A digital currency can be used for purchasing bitcoin.” This immediately became the most popular submission on the site, gathering far more votes (and comments) than any other entrant. From the moment it was posted to the close of the competition it solidly occupied the #1 slot – and not by a slim margin either.
There were some dissenting comments, but most seemed to indicate that the suggestion was a serious one, with some users even discussing the technical details of how one could implement a MintChip exchange. All seemed well, until the results came in: Not only did the #1 voted entry not win, we didn’t even make the list.
Rules-lawyers in the crowd will no doubt point out that it was never explicitly stated in the official competition rules that the voting system would be used to decide the winners, just to choose the field from which the winners would be chosen. OK, sure, the rules are pretty clearly stated, but so is the unspoken intent: when you implement a voting system, the highest voted suggestion that isn’t “I’d pay for my hookers and blow with MintChip” wins, especially when it’s a landslide vote. Apparently they weren’t taking us seriously – apparently they tossed us in the “ridiculous” pile and awarded the win to “A digital currency can be used for anonymous donations” instead – despite the fact that identity verification is built into MintChip and you can’t actually do that. That’s right, their winner is a suggestion that MintChip can’t even implement.
It might be a little over the top to call it “fraud” – they didn’t technically violate the rules of the competition – but it sure feels like it. What do you think?