On October 3, 2018, Steven Russolillo of The Wall Street Journal published a mini-documentary in which he created the “WSJCoin,” in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the inner workings of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. He was so successful in fact that the cryptocurrency was shut down by the publication’s ethics manager after WSJCoin was pitched to investors.
Trip to Japan to Learn from the Best
With cryptocurrency quickly capturing the attention of mainstream news outlets, many traditional news establishments are scrambling to grasp at an understanding of the emerging technology. The 30-minute video by The Wall Street Journal follows the journey of Russolilio as he goes to Japan, a country that openly embraces bitcoin and similar altcoins not only at the government level but culturally as well.
In Japan, Russolilio meets with several individuals. Two notable individuals include a 21-year-old that dropped out of university to focus on his expanding mining facility for the hardware to run a blockchain and developer Makoto Takemiya who is responsible for actually coding WSJCoin.
WSJCoin’s blockchain of choice was Hyperledger’s Iroha, but in the video, Russolillo describes the Hyperledger and IROHA as two separate platforms. It should be noted that IROHA is a platform that Hyperledger has been working on for some time.
With Takemiya’s help, Russolillo decides the coin supply will be 8.4 billion, which is the average coin supply of the top ten cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. Russolillo also decides instead of allowing each coin to be divisible by eight like in Bitcoin, to limit division to just 2. Takemiya also made this suggestion as people are used to dollars and cents, which are also only divisible to the second decimal point.
WSJCoin’s journey continues to include paying for two beers with two coins, as well as talking to DMM Bitcoin’s President Hitoshi Taguchi about the importance of creating crypto payment systems for users to use the cryptocurrency in real-world applications.
Things Get Physical – and Ethical
Fast forward a couple of minutes in the video and Russolio goes to Hong Kong, where he pitches the WSJCoin at The Wall Street Journal’s annual tech conference and has even printed physical coins for the occasion.
Bitpesa’s CEO Elizabeth Rossiello and Ripple’s former CTO Stefan Thomas were in attendance and relative fans of the concept. Rossiello and Thomas both believe there is a place for a journalism-based cryptocurrency, as the news business has been struggling with finding a viable revenue system since it mostly went digital.
Rossiello reminds that American media paywalls sometimes deny her credit card if it’s from overseas, impeding the purpose of trying to inform a global audience.
Despite the success up until this point, the documentary and WSJCoin face their ending when Neal Lipschutz, who oversees Ethics & Standards at the Wall Street Journal, said this to Russolilio:
“We’re not in the business of getting in the cryptocurrency world. We’re here to report it and explain it, just like we report on banks we don’t go out and start a bank. We’re not going to create a currency.”
Despite the abrupt ending of the journey, all parties involved learned a lot about what goes into a cryptocurrency. Despite all the resources now available, the best way to learn about crypto is perhaps to be directly engaged with it.