Are there any alternative approaches to decentralized, electronic currencies?

Bitcoin was built with certain technical characteristics in mind. I'm hoping to see if there are alternative approaches. I don't mean things like Namecoin or other adaptations of the blockchain concept.

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    Can you be more specific? What problem are you trying to solve? Bitcoins offer many features: transactional uses, investment potential, flexible transaction possibilities via scripts, pseudonymity, decentralization etc. Different alternatives are available for each. The term "open source money" is not clear. – nealmcb Aug 31 '11 at 3:58
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    It is best when a question has a clear answer, so when there are different requirements, they should each have their own question. – nealmcb Aug 31 '11 at 4:39

There are "digital bearer certificate" systems, which are an older concept. They require a centralized issuer in order to prevent double-spending. You can think of the certificates as electronic IOUs for a commodity (such as gold) held by the issuer.

Some DBC systems implement Chaumian blinding to anonymize transactions.

Open Transactions is a recent DBC system that has gained some interest. It could be used with Bitcoin as a backing commodity, taking advantage of the properties of both systems.


(answering the original question, before the edit)

I suppose it depends on what specific characteristics matter to you. There are plenty of examples of non-government "money." WoW gold, Linden dollars (Second Life money), and Chuck E. Cheese tokens all count as money in some sense.

I don't think any of those examples truly count as "open source money" though. Perhaps the main problem in developing such a money before Bitcoin was how to trust that transactions are legitimate. Typically this would require some sort of trusted 3rd party (so if I believe in Linden dollars gold then I trust Linden to be honest and not to get hacked). Some mechanism needs to be in place to prevent me from altering the balance in my digital account or from making copies of my money files. Trusted 3rd parties can indeed do this, but I don't think that is in the spirit of "open source money." The block chain concept is the only open-source mechanism I know of to prevent double spending without relying on trusted 3rd parties.

  • -1 He explicitly said "decentralised", so no, all those moneys don't count. – o0'. May 3 '13 at 9:04
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    @Lohoris The "decentralized" part was only added to the question a year and a half after I answered...and by someone besides the original asker! I answered the original question as it was asked... – Michael McGowan May 6 '13 at 4:33
  • Oh, sorry, I totally didn't notice! – o0'. May 6 '13 at 8:58

Yes, there are other alternatives to Bitcoin with overall different approach but with different results such as zCoin, Monero, ... which provides more privacy

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