To ฿ or not to Ƀ? The debate on the choice of symbol to represent the most popular digital currency, Bitcoin, is poised to take on interesting turns as news sites, forums and meetups are strongly contributing their two satoshis on the issue.
Over the years since Bitcoin has been in the news, it has been most commonly written as BTC, both as an abbreviation and as a reference to it as a form of currency. Rates on prominent exchanges like BTC-e, BitStamp and BitFinex list the currency as BTC. So do BTCChina and OKCoin, the biggest bitcoin exchanges that trade in China using Yuan. The image of an orange serif B with 4 stripes is a common and the only logo on businesses that accept bitcoin today.
Many bitcoin enthusiasts who have been following the currency ever since it took off, have voiced concerns over a move to create a ‘new’ standard symbol, one created by a graphic design company that thinks the symbol is the appropriate one. Most were riled up when the company Ecogex, a Paris based graphic design firm, apparently altered a Wikipedia entry for the Bitcoin symbol, a claim the company categorically denies but has admitted pleasure over.
With no strong preference for either option, we set out with an open mind to find the drive behind the move for change.
Bitcoin deserves the right symbol, declares the home page on Bitcoin Symbol. The’Why Ƀ?’ section says Ƀ is preferable because it corresponds to Unicode character U+0243 which can be used in any Unicode text editor.
What is Unicode anyway?
Unicode is an industry standard that provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, program or language. This means you can type any interesting looking character in Sanskrit, Mandarin or Swahili in your Notepad file by keying in the corresponding alphanumeric value. The contention that the existing symbol does not have Unicode representation stands on weak ground, as the Euro symbol € previously did not have an entry either. The Euro sign started out as a design with 32 proposals, down to 10 candidates based on a popular survey. The European Commission had the final say after which the symbol was included in the Unicode set.
Would it be too much to ask to include the most popular representation of Bitcoin in the Unicode, rather than pip for an unfamiliar character because it already exists in the directory?
Another reason offered is that ฿ raises a problem of differentiation between the Thai Baht and Bitcoin. Multiple currencies already use identical symbols. The $ is probably the most popular with Australia, UK, USA, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Zimbabwe and most countries in the Caribbean among others using it to represent their currencies.
Announcement of adoption of the new symbol by companies like Blockchain, Lamassu and BitPremier is unlikely to generate a massive rush of “me too” reaction the proposal is probably hoping for. The trade-off between the older symbol and the one being proposed by “the industry” is blurry because as of now, they are not the only possible competing choices in the arena.
Alos, before we start symbol fighting, we must be wary that this fight can also viewed as a push by English speaking countries to somehow stick it with a variation of a letter from the Western world, completely ignoring the potential of it being voluminously traded by the world’s two most populous countries China and India. This might encourage other countries to come up with national branding for a currency that might be detrimental to the frictionless and borderless concept of Bitcoin. What we need least in the form of growth hindrance of a powerful medium of global exchange is an ambiguous set of representations of the same entity, based on ideological or chauvinistic notions.
The site says that the ‘problem’ with the current representation is that the existing representation is a logo. “It’s a unique image file, just like it could be used by a company to sell or promote a product”. Hmmm….scroll down a bit, and you enter the site shop, with stickers and Hanes T-shirts, sizes small to extra large for sale, with the new and improved B. The sales proceeds go to the development of the free pack. So far, two donations have been collected totalling $3 on the site since mid-March. Freebies are available in the form of a downloadable graphic pack, that are identical to the stickers on sale. Well, that most definitely will be a problem for those who are selling lapel pins and badges with the current logo!
Early adopters who wish to retain the image of the orange B with 4 stripes as the logo (such as the one used by this and most other publications) have voiced that their sentiments have been sidelined and argue that Reddit where bitcoiners freely express their views and opinions, even on the bitcoin symbol, have come to accept the orange logo on its Bitcoin subreddit. This pedantic issue has probably divided the bitcoin community more than others.
The strongest reason for those who wish the symbol to remain status quo is that it is a tribute to Bitcoin creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, who used the symbol to represent his creation.
The spirit of Bitcoin is to bypass corporate governance to work efficiently, without anyone’s approval or permission. Today’s languages, notations and symbols have evolved over centuries, enriched by their local culture and polished by amalgamation with others. Practically, languages are official only within the confines of the culture, and references to Bitcoin will pretty much follow the path. Attempts to speak for billions from diverse backgrounds will only harm the idea of global acceptance of the currency. As the bitcoin community evolves, so will there be a natural inclination to follow the most convenient representation systems.
Looking into the future when bitcoin will probably become the most widely accepted form of currency, the controversy over what it should be called will be moot, with everyone referring to money as they do now in their native languages – and wishful thinking at this stage – everyone referring to the same currency.
Website: Bitcoin Symbol
Donations: Blockchain Address