Bitcoin: Bigger Than Google?

One Bitcoin company that continues to cause a stir in the industry is the mysterious 21 Inc. Not only has the business remained in stealth mode since it started back in 2013, it’s captured the interest of some serious heavy-hitters (founders of PayPal, Dropbox, eBay and Expedia are involved), it’s taken investment from chipmaker Qualcomm (a massive player in the global mobile phone business). And then, to top it all off, it’s raised a total of a staggering $116 million already pre-launch.

To put it another way, the only thing that we do know is that some seasoned veterans known for delivering unusually big successes are taking a punt on the chance that this particular business might turn into something very special indeed. I’ve had two fairly high profile people on differen sides of the Atlantic tell me conflicting rumours about the nature of the company’s business so I suspect we’ll just need to wait and see.

However at the weekend, 21’s Chairman and Andreessen Horowitz partner Balaji Srinivasen (@balajis) managed to pique our collective interests still further when he gave a talk in which he stated that Bitcoin can be seen as bigger than Google, in terms of network footprint.

“All of Google today would represent less than 1% of mining. The sheer degree of what is happening in mining hasn’t been appreciated in the press.”

If we view the Bitcoin network as the worlds largest supercomputer, then it’s likely that this is bigger than Google in terms of computing power and power consumption.

As onename.io co-founder Muneeb Ali points out in a follow-up post on Medium, it’s not so much that we’re yet at the stage where it would be beyond Google’s ability to catch up (if they chose to do so). It’s simply the fact that for them to do so would involve massive capital expenditure. They simply don’t have the necessary hardware (ASICs in this case) to suddenly move in that direction quickly. Take on board the fact that they are one of the most cash-rich companies in the world and you get, I believe, a sense of the sheer scale of the project that we’re all so fascinated by.