The Redemocratization of Internet Commerce
A broken, undemocratic system that facilitates the means of basic value tranfers is still clinging onto the Internet, but that is about to change...
Without question, the Internet is one of the most significant and influential inventions of the last century. Without it, much of the modern world would cease to function, and it has facilitated scientific and technological advances that would not have been possible otherwise. It is safe to say that virtually no area of human endeavour has not been markedly improved by access to a global interconnected network of computers and people. The Internet is a wonderful “wild west”, where anyone, anywhere can come up with an idea, write some code, and make their concept a reality in an afternoon — or so it used to be.
Over the years, titans of pre-Internet industry have fallen, and new global tech superstars have risen. Small, agile upstart Davids have conquered lumbering Goliaths in a number of tech-related fields, including some that didn’t exist before the Internet.
Few would argue that the advent of e-commerce is one of the landmarks of our new world order, but with few exceptions, rather than create a new financial paradigm, we instead dragged the archaic banking and credit card system into the Internet age. VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, etc. these massive credit card companies, with their predatory fees and usurious interest rates barely lost a step in their transition to moving online without a hiccup in their historic business models.
The freedom and self-reliance promised by cryptocurrency grew well after credit cards were firmly established as the backbone to Internet commerce. Payment processors like PayPal, Square, and Stripe were compelled to fold in credit cards because it was easy, and everyone had one. Digital currencies could not compete, initially, with the infrastructure enjoyed by the major credit card companies. But crypto is the new David, and credit cards don’t even recognize the precarious position they are in. Few Goliaths ever do.
Even when Apple, perennial disruptor and sitting on over 100 billion dollars of cash reserves, became a credit card company with Apple Card, they still run on the Mastercard network and required backing from Goldman Sachs; another so-called innovation built atop the creaky but formidable establishment.
We find ourselves, over two decades into the 21st century, in a world where VISA, Mastercard, American Express and Discover are still behind almost every single online merchant payment. Whether you are supporting your favorite creator on Patreon, buying a t-shirt, or paying a parking ticket, one of these four companies has to agree that you are allowed to make that transaction.
Politics continues to seep into our daily lives like a leaky pipe, the rate of the drip, drip, dripping becoming increasingly impossible to ignore, and more alarming with each new fissure. The credit card companies feel no compunction about deplatforming stores or persons with whom they are not politically or ideologically aligned. As centralized entities run by human beings, they have the luxury of actively picking and choosing who is allowed to accept payments, resulting in a world where your business can be shut down at the whim of a “risk assessment manager” at their own sole discretion and without recourse.
Mastercard, for example, maintains the MATCH list, a Member Alert to Control High Risk Merchants, a database where any credit card company may append the name of businesses or individuals, effectively banning you from participating in e-commerce ever again.
A warning from Stripe, the most popular online payment processor reads: “Due to banking partner restrictions, Stripe generally cannot process for businesses listed on MATCH unless extenuating circumstances apply.”
The only way to be removed from MATCH is to create your own bank and apply to have your entry removed from the list, which is not a viable option for most people to say the least.
Interestingly, Brian Brooks, former chief legal officer of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase seemed to be aware of the inherently unfair and inequitable banking monopoly and tried to combat it when he became Comptroller of Currency in the United States. His proposed “Fair Access to Financial Services” plan would have made unfair or exclusionary practices by credit card companies illegal. However, shortly after proposing this new law, Brooks resigned and his successor immediately ruled to exclude the proposed legislation. If this had not occurred, the Brooks’ Fair Access law would have come into effect on April 1st, 2021.
These realities were certainly on Satoshi Nakamoto’s mind when he was formulating the theoretical framework for Bitcoin. Likewise, the grossly disproportionate power of credit card companies and banks was the fuel that ignited Discreet. We saw the same corrupt system that you do, and we see the same overgrown Goliaths ripe for toppling. Discreet aims to fix all the problems in the current system of global finance, and was designed to be an easy plug-and-play replacement for credit cards, in terms of transaction speed, capacity, and ease-of-use.
On Discreet’s network, no one can deplatform your business or prevent you from receiving payment. Free from centralization or the influence of human bias, we are creating a perfect system of commerce — a beautiful machine to be set in motion, which can never be switched off. Private, fast, secure.
The giants of global commerce have had their day, and it’s long past due for them to be brought to the ground — not through violence, but by being out-maneuvered and out-competed by something more agile, more technologically advanced, and simply more attractive to consumers.
Discreet is the little guy right now, but so are we all, and together we don’t have to be bullied by giants anymore.