How the Email Protocol was Captured by 5 Gatekeepers with Jameson Lopp | Value Stack 40

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Jameson Lopp has been building multisig Bitcoin wallets since 2015. He is the founder and CTO of Casa and also founded Mensa’s Bitcoin Special Interest Group, the Triangle Bitcoin & Business meetup, and several open source Bitcoin projects. He enjoys researching various aspects of the ecosystem and giving presentations about what he has learned the hard way while trying to write robust software that can withstand both adversaries and unsophisticated users.

In this episode, we discuss the history of email and spam prevention, and the actions / missteps that led to centralizing forces of the Mail Protocol, SMTP, into the control of a few gatekeepers over time.

We expand on whether these same forces and gatekeepers are developing and might be present in the Bitcoin protocol today, if the similar missteps are being made, or if we’ve already fought those battles and learned from previous mistakes.


  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:25 What is email and SMTP?
  • 01:20 ARPANET – the early days of email
  • 02:45 The beginning of email spam
  • 04:17 Why most people don’t run their own mail servers today
  • 05:22 AOL and the meteroic rise of commercialized internet
  • 08:50 How uptime needs and free open relays led to centralization
  • 10:24 How spam prevention measures led to centralization over time
  • 14:53 How do email providers define what is spam today?
  • 16:40 Spam solutions as a business and beginnings of email gatekeeping
  • 20:03 Flipping the game theory – imposing economic costs on spam senders (Hashcash)
  • 22:30 Why didn’t Hashcash get adopted into the Mail Protocol?
  • 25:00 Blacklisting, port blocking, and challenges of self-hosting mail servers
  • 28:30 Third parties all the way down – “meta-rules” that crippled SMTP
  • 29:40 How misaligned incentives led to centralization of email
  • 31:00 Bitcoin’s incentives – are the better thought out?
  • 32:20 Points of failure and redundancy
  • 34:20 KYC, the Scaling Wards, censorship, and the custodial problem
  • 37:00 Is bitcoin still vulnerable to incentives that create centralizing forces?
  • 38:55 Should we ossify the bitcoin protocol now?
  • 40:00 Are there scaling issues for self-custody bitcoin long term?
  • 42:00 Importance of the bitcoin culture of Sovereignty
  • 43:30 Why monetary and messaging protocols are different
  • 45:07 Tracking custodial-held bitcoin on-chain on-chain
  • 46:20 Is bitcoin headed in the right direction?
  • 49:00 Are out-of-protocol abstractions a bad thing?
  • 51:10 How can people get involved in helping bitcoin succeed?
  • 53:55 Outro

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