by Liam J Kelly
The controversial privacy-centric cryptocurrency wallet Samourai announced an updated version of their services on September 28, 2018. Samourai wallet update 0.98.87 included two primary features: Translations into Chinese and French, and the omission of a fiat listing. It was the latter adjustment, however, that began a fierce debate within the community. The central intrigue of the discussion provides a philosophical shift more than anything technical.
Contextual, Native Translations
In a blog post, Samourai explained that the total languages in which the services had been translated reached a dozen. The inclusion of French and Chinese, both of which were reportedly completed by “actual bitcoin users from the local region,” means that the both Samourai Wallet and Sentinel enjoy high-quality, localized translations of their services.
The entire list of languages includes Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese (Portugal), Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.
All of the contributed translations were completed by the Samourai community of which anyone can participate. For full details on how to edit or submit translations, follow this link. In the announcement, the team explained that “We have already seen the side effects with installs increasing dramatically from international user bases with a native translation, usually in places where they need Samourai the most.”
If the translations as mentioned earlier inspired greater user adoption, the second feature may have garnered something altogether different.
— Samourai Wallet (@SamouraiWallet) September 29, 2018
Goodbye Fiat, Hello Satoshi
Bitcoin Cash (BCH) evangelist Roger Ver was cited as an example for why Samourai decided to leave fiat conversions, but the move is much farther reaching. When the wallet first launched in 2015, the team included a “Street Price” rate for what users’ bitcoin (BTC) was worth. A simple, “users aren’t ready” to go full crypto cold turkey was assumed; but in 2017 an odd trend began developing.
The obsession with the dollar amount of bitcoin, especially as it peaked near to $20,000 in December, meant people became much more obsessed with the pioneer cryptocurrency’s value as a commodity rather than sound money in and of itself.
The side effects of using the dollar, euro, or fiat amounts to measure one’s holding in BTC is manifold. In the first, it’s philosophical.
In measuring the “success” or “failure” of BTC in fiat, observers treat it more as a novel financial instrument rather than a replacement for current mediums of payment. Such a distinction is currently rewriting the “Wall Street 2.0” narrative in which investors are doubling down on second-degree derivatives of bitcoin and a growing number of fully-auditable stablecoins.
Secondly, it affects how users of BTC measure transaction and mining fees. Samourai told BTCManager that “Miner fees are measured in BTC because they are paid in BTC. The value in USD, for example, will fluctuate as the market fluctuates, while the actual cost paid in BTC will always remain constant. A user can only make rational market decisions such as determining if a transaction fee is for example ‘too expensive’ if they compare data points.”
It is in this point that the Ver jab rings most clearly:
“Prominent altcoin proponent Roger Ver noted to his 500k Twitter followers that ‘TX fees SKYROCKET to $55/TX,’ he, of course, knows better and was maliciously spreading propaganda to further his agenda, but the damage was done. Since then we have noticed many bitcoin users innocently noting their wallet balance, amounts sent, and miner fees in fiat currency instead of BTC.”
The rest of crypto twitter was soon alight with varying opinions on the subject.
Removing fiat conversion from a wallet app in a world where literally *everything* is priced in fiat is not a bold or courageous decision. It’s pure stupidity that cripples the product for questionable ideological reasons. The mental gymnastics are LOL. https://t.co/MH4TNIGR7v
— Agent M. Space (@mikeinspace) September 28, 2018
Sentinel Remains Intact: Merchants Relieved
Despite fiat’s delisting in the wallet, Samourai has kept the measurement for the Sentinel Watch Only. When asked about the decision, Samourai told BTCManager, “We are keeping fiat conversion functionality in our companion app Sentinel Watch Only as many users use Sentinel as a sort of DIY merchant point-of-sale, there is a need for fiat conversion if you are acting as a merchant.“
The consideration fell short for others, however, as many were quick to critique the update.
Bitcoin developer Peter Todd opined that the change is equivalent to “describing the speed of your car about the sun instead of the earth.” The Samourai team seemed pretty unphased and stood firmly by the decision:
“[We are] not worried about discouraging new users from using Samourai. Our user growth comes from a desire for more private transactions, across the entire spectrum from [the] new user to [the] experienced. As long as we continue to deliver on that core value proposition I expect the users will keep coming. Most users really won’t be impacted from a UX point of view since most scan QR codes with the amount already encoded by the merchant. It is simply a scan and send procedure.”
On the other side of the conversation, Samourai found many advocates. The community support for a piece of technology that “Silicon Valley will never build, the regulators will never allow, and the VC’s will never invest in” isn’t missed on the wallet developers at Samourai. When asked about who will ultimately embrace these challenges, they referred to the “supportive user base who values the product.”
As for a replacement, the 0.98.87 update will now list BTC holdings in “Satoshis,” the smallest unit of bitcoin. More importantly, they’re “going to do it whether you like or not.”