Crypto is a realm of jargons. ‘Blockchains,’ ‘miners,’ ‘nonces,’ ‘side-chains,’ ‘full nodes’: are only a limited of the terms in crypto that are recognized to cause confusion & disagreement.
Not only does the uncertainty of vocab undermine the ability of people inside crypto to communicate with each other, but it also questionably turns off people on the outside who might otherwise be interested in delving further.
We started Speaking to a variety of industry figures to find out what some of the most confusing crypto terms are, as well as what can theoretically be done to make the sector’s language clearer. Many trusts that much of the issue will be resolved the more mainstream crypto becomes, whereas others argue that the sector needs to work towards standardizing meanings actively.
Crypto Terms Are Perplexing
Posterior in late July, a Twitter discussion amongst developer Udi Wertheimer and FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried underlined just how misleading specific terms could be.
Wertheimer & Bankman-Fried differed on the meaning of “side-chain,
something which made it harder for them to discuss what they actually intended to discuss. And, as Wertheimer suggests at the end, “side-chain” is not the only perplexing term used in crypto.
Christopher Bendiksen, CoinShare’s Head of Research, agrees that crypto’s vocab isn’t always entirely clear. He said:
“Yes, the language in the crypto sector is ambiguous, and it’s a problem that limits not only our ability to correctly formulate appropriate questions, but it also prevents us from being able to properly analyze and debate important technical issues.“
He also recommends that ambiguity may often “limit the virality of the ideas [within crypto] and therefore the speed of their spread through the population,“
although he doesn’t think this is the primary factor averting crypto’s wider dissemination & adoption.
Confusing Crypto Terms
Although a full list of ambiguous or not exclusively clear terms would be beyond the scope of this article, Bendiksen names some of his “worst offenders.“
First up is the “full node.“
He articulates, “This is the biggest one in my opinion—I believe that a full node is a node that has validated the entire history of its blockchain from genesis, not merely one that has validated block headers, and not merely one that validates ongoing transactions from a trusted starting point. Full sync is necessary.“
One more is “miner.“
Bendisken, speaks, “is it a block-producing node, a hashing machine, a mining operation, or a person controlling such an operation?”
One exciting pair is “fast” & “slow” in the context of blockchains. Conferring to Bendiksen, this can refer to having shorter block intervals, or it can refer to how quickly a blockchain can provide settlement assurance (i.e., finality).
“As an example, Bitcoin is often called ‘slow,’ but in fact, it is the fastest system based on settlement assurance,” he says. “When we say ‘fast’ or ‘slow,’ we need to clarify what we mean by that. Having a 5-second block interval is meaningless if those blocks can be recreated effectively free of cost.“
Supplementary industry figures highpoint other terms. Bitcoin S.V. (B.S.V.) developer Brendan Lee proposes that “much of the vocabulary in crypto is very misleading,” & that even basic terms like “blockchain” are recurrently used to refer to various things.
“The miners between themselves decide what goes on the blockchain. This is the Nakamoto consensus. Their job is to make public records of transactions that took place,” he speaks. “Anyone telling you that their application writes to the blockchain misunderstands the nature of the technology to the point of thinking they play a part in the process of validating and deciding how the system works.“
Lee correspondingly takes issue with the usage of “value,” though in this case, his objection highlights how much of the ‘ambiguity’ in crypto outcomes from arguably ideological variances.
“The market cap metric used to value crypto coins is very misleading,” he says. “While BTC has a speculative market cap in the hundreds of billions, it would be impossible to extract even a tiny fraction of that total amount without causing total devastation to the market and damaging the network, potentially beyond repair.“
Cryptocurrency terms can likewise confuse people outside of crypto, as recommended by Luis Cuede, co-founder of Switzerland-based decentralized services platform Aragon.
“I was talking to people outside of crypto and mentioning the term ‘nonce,’ used in crypto and specifically Ethereum to order transactions in an account,” he says. “Apparently, the term also means ‘a person convicted of a sexual offense, especially against a child’ in English. We should probably rethink some of these terms we use in crypto!“
What Could Be Done Thru?
“The crypto vocabulary will become more standardized once it becomes mainstream,” speaks Ashish Singhal, the founder, & C.E.O. of Indian exchangeCoinSwitch Kuber. “At least that seems to be the case until now.“
Singhal recommends that one way to standardize the terminology is to promote industry-wide definitions & glossaries. This is the opinion taken by Christopher Bendiksen, who trusts that adoption alone won’t be enough to resolve uncertainties.
“This is where forums, conferences, seminars, etc. are highly useful,” Bendiksen says. “Over time, though, I think we’ll inevitably coalesce on certain common meanings of words purely from the fact that the ‘better’ meanings of words will enable more fruitful idea synthesis, topical analysis, and debate, & from there, natural selection will favor them.“