Bitcoin Foundation's Financial Standards Working Group Publishes Agenda

In a press release published October 7th, the Bitcoin Foundation's Financial Standards Working Group outlined a trio of priorities for the last and first quarters of 2014 and 2015, respectively, to include "consensus driven" attempts to alter the way Bitcoin is labeled and represented. Bitcoin Foundation Executive Director Jon Matonis suggested the proposals to recommend Bitcoin subunits and a unicode symbol as well as to apply for ISO 4217 approval for a standard currency code beginning with "X" were "important step[s] towards removing obstacles for mainstream adoption."

Despite the widespread use of the code "BTC" amongst trading sites and Bitcoin's financial institutions, the group points out that fiat-focused operations including and Bloomberg have "already adopted the leading code 'XBT'". The group's release further describes ISO 4217's dominion over precious metals and supra-national currencies such as the East Caribbean dollar, though it stops short of detailing precisely how Bitcoin fits into either of these categories. Debate surrounding which, if any, symbol to use when referencing amounts in Bitcoin has centered on what some perceive as the need for a corresponding unicode character usable in a variety of typefaces. In April of this year, French graphic design studio ECOGEX argued that the use of non-unicode Bitcoin symbols in logos prevented an "open-source graphic identity," and proposed the unicode consortium-approved Ƀ (U+0243) symbol be adopted in place of graphics-based logos. The working group's stated candidates for an "official" symbol include Ƀ, as well as B⃦ and ฿, which is already in use as a symbol for the Thai Baht.

Completing the working group's set of goals is the "recommendation" of Bitcoin subunits. The group's release states,

In a currency, there is usually a main unit (base), and a subunit that is a fraction of the main unit. Currencies today operate with two decimal spaces to the right ($1.00). In Bitcoin, there are currently eight so one could theoretically pay you 0.00000001 or one hundred-millionth of a Bitcoin. Not only is this confusing for consumers, it does not fit in existing systems and software for accounting practices.

Bitcoin's considerable flexibility in terms of representing and exchanging amounts to eight decimal places (dubbed a "satoshi", a universally-accepted fact that the release fails to recognize) is naturally a new concept for many users, and a feature that will require the adaptation of existing accounting practices and tools. Answering for the working group's (and by extension, the Bitcoin Foundation's) focus on attempting to make Bitcoin simpler and easier at the cost of its utility is not, apparently, on the Q4 2014 – Q1 2015 agenda.

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