Stephen DeMeulenaere

Alternative, Community, Complementary, Bitcoin, Cryptographic, Digital Currencies & Payment Systems specialist

Stephen DeMeulenaere - Alternative, Community, Complementary, Bitcoin, Cryptographic, Digital Currencies & Payment Systems specialist

10 Digital Currency Platforms Before Bitcoin You Have Probably Never Heard Of

Read just about any blog about Bitcoin, or listen to any expert, or even just read the Wikipedia entry and they will list the digital currencies that came before and led to Bitcoin:

The reasons these systems failed, almost invariably point solely to centralization in the system, as though decentralization of currency would be the necessary key to success that was missing until Bitcoin came along.

Well, obviously I need to shed some more light on the history, because there are thousands of complementary currency systems, centralized at the local level but with an open public transaction ledger that have been in use since the 1930s.

One of the early models from the early 1930s which is still thriving today is the WIR in Switzerland. Wir’s Cooperative Currency / Mutual Credit model is at the foundation of many complementary currency systems in the world today. There is an estimated 4,500 mutual credit systems worldwide.

Since the 1980s, the Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) has been using software to record transactions since the IBM XT and dBase were made available to the public.

In my Pictorial History of Complementary Currency Systems, which I wrote in 2000, I list many more complementary currency systems that have been implemented throughout history as a response to social and economic crises.

In 2004, I was contacted by a young programmer from a neighbouring city in Canada who wanted to take the mutual credit concept and modify it into a purely digital currency platform. His name was Ryan Fugger, and his platform was called Ripple, now known as Ripple Classic which is still live. The Ripple which is now owned by Ripple Labs names Ryan as the person who conceived Ripple.

In fact, here’s an email from 2006 where he discusses his concept with me and the Cyclos payments platform users group:


A few weeks ago, I was going through my folders and came across several others, most of which were abandoned, but which I have uploaded to my Github Repository. These are all precursors to Bitcoin as well, and their theories have been studied by at least one Bitcoin core developer, Jorge Timon who is now a developer with Blockstream who co-created Freicoin which implemented the concept of Demurrage within a digital currency, and contributed to the early theory of sidechains.

The other currencies I uploaded to Github are:

UNILETIM – written in php
Qlets – written in C++
LETS Webtool – written in perl/cgi
Mutual Credit LETS – written in cgi
WebLETS – written in php

In addition to these, we can add:

Geek Credit, 2004, also a P2P Digital Currency
GVB – Global Village Bank – Snapshot from the Internet Archive
Mlets – written for DOS in dBaseIII. Under Copyright.
Cyclos – Initiated in 2005, Currently the most widely-used Complementary Currency Software.
Ven – launched around 2007 (I’m one of the early members)


The real revolution with Digital Currencies is not necessarily that they are decentralized, but that they are competitive with and complementary to existing monetary systems. By offering features of money that do not exist or do not function properly with national currencies, complementary currencies can create niches of monetary and thus economic, efficiency.

Webinar – Friday August 21, 2015, 5:30pm PST

Hi Everyone,

I’m doing a live webinar with The Optimist magazine this Friday afternoon. Click here for more information:

The Money Mosaic

Although many of us have not been making use of the possibilities yet, we’re already living in a multi-currency world. National currencies are facing stiff competition from currencies that are better designed and intended to achieve more important goals. Currencies based on technology and the Internet, and designed by better hearts and minds are leading us to a new form of secularism: the separation of money from state.

These currencies also leading us toward sustainability, as only a stable currency will ultimately be able to achieve, and they are showing how the current design of national currency money has led us down the path of unlimited growth toward ecological catastrophe.

Some of these currencies reside in the digital world, on your phone or computer. Others look and feel much the same as the kinds of money we’re more used to: plastic cards and paper notes. But they’re backed not by debt, but interesting new ideas about what money should really be like, and in this way they offer hope for the overworked and indebted to join those who are already able to live freely and choose how they exchange with others.

What You Will Learn:

We’ll learn about the rise of the Sharing Economy that powers exchanges in everything from unused bedrooms and car seats to dinner-table chairs, and also about Bitcoin, a digital asset currency whose worldwide valuation is now over 4 billion dollars but is the only major currency that isn’t represented by a corporation, government or bank. We’ll see how money is being dismantled into it’s components and changing the meaning of value.

You’ll also come out of this event with a few tools you can implement right away to begin planting the seeds of a better economy right in your own neighborhood and beyond.

Stephen DeMeulenaere

Stephen DeMeulenaere founded the Complementary Currency Resource Center in 2002, bringing together resources from appropriate economics and rural self-development finance he and colleagues collected from their field work in Africa, Asia and Latin America from the early 1990s. Involved in the early development of electronic currencies and exchange platforms, he got onboard with Bitcoin in 2013, becoming a certified Digital Currency professional and co-founder of Coin Academy, a digital currency education and tutorial platform.

– See more at:

My First Dollar Earned for Working with Digital Currencies

In the “old” days, people would stick the first dollar they ever earned on their till. In the digital era, all I can do is copy and paste a transaction. In this case, my first payment ever received for my work with Bitcoin, reviewing Princeton University’s textbook on Digital Cryptographic Currencies for Programmers:


Unfortunately they couldn’t pay me directly with Bitcoin yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long.

Building Towards Cryptographic Credit with Proof-of-Importance

As often happens, when I think about the next blog post I would like to write, I come across an article that helps explain my point. In one way, this is really great because it encourages us to find out about emerging cryptographic currencies, and on the other, it proves that many of us are on the same page about what we want these currencies to be able to do, in this case, to craft an inclusive economy based on personally-issued credit within a distributed cryptographic currency system.

NEM/New Economy Movement is a new alt-coin that builds on the concepts implemented in NXT, but takes the proof one step further than Proof-of-Stake by implementing what they term a Proof-of-Importance algorithm.

Proof-of-Importance adds a reputation indicator to the blockchain, which is very useful in preventing Sybil attacks. It also motivates people to become more involved in the NEM Economy.

This connects to the previous generation of complementary currencies which calculated Turnover, the sum of transactions in and out, to determine a user’s creditworthiness. Complementary Currency systems, unlike Cryptographic Currency systems, are systems that allow each member to issue themselves the credit needed in order to complete a transaction, as long as they are willing to accept this credit others have issued to themselves in return.

But this may be about to change. As Blockchain 2.0 currencies use lighter, faster proofs than Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work algorithm, we inch closer to being able to issue Cryptographic Credit. What would this look like?

Firstly, it would not be centrally-issued credit. For decades, Complementary Currency Systems have allowed their members the right to issue themselves credit in order to, and only in order to purchase items within the system, if you did not already have an existing balance. This allowed people who did not have money, the opportunity to enter into the economy and understand the importance of balanced reciprocal obligation.  You can’t just print your own money and add it to your bank account; but if you need to buy something with it, it is available.

Next, there would be algorithmically-defined limits. Complementary Currency systems, using the Mutual Credit model, allow the system’s creator to decide whether there are limits, or preferably no limits. Setting limits arbitrarily comes from and creates an atmosphere of distrust. As long as the seller knows the Turnover (= Trust Level) of the person who wishes to buy from them, there doesn’t need to be a limit.

However, in a Cryptographic Credit Currency System, one’s access to credit would be determined by their Proof-of-Importance or transaction reputation within the system. It’s like starting with the basic card, and upgrading to the platinum card as you participate more in the system. The more you offer and are willing to accept, the higher your rating rises, and the more money you can issue personally.

Thirdly, it would look more Mutual than Hierarchical. Allowing people to issue themselves credit in the course of a transaction means changing the economy from being exclusive, to being inclusive. To date, nearly all cryptographic currencies are exclusive economies, where people need to purchase the digital currency in order to be able to join the system to participate. As mentioned in the above-linked articles, this creates a hierarchy where the top 5% hold the vast majority of the currency.

Fourthly, it would Interest-Free. In ancient times, interest was not charged between friends, family or community members. It was only charged to mitigate risk in non-local, long-distance transactions. Similarly, as the currency is being issued and spent into an economic community, and in a decentralized way, there would be no need for the charging of interest.

Fiftly, all accounts would belong to humans and have identifiable owners. In order to determine reputation, accounts would need to have identifiable human owners. A tool like OneName points in this direction.

Sixthly, there may be a circulation incentive, known as Demurrage. The only cryptographic currency with demurrage is Freicoin. This method of taxing unspent balances ensures that any excess credit slowly circulates back into the system, which prevents hoarding and hierarchicalization, the process by which social hierarchies are created.

Lead Developer Makoto states this very well in his interview with CoinTelegraph:

Coin Telegraph: Why did you start making another cryptocurrency? Do you see any problems in bitcoin?

Makoto: NEM was started to rectify some of the problems with not only the world economy, but also with other cryptocurrencies. One of the problems is of course distribution of wealth. In fiat-based economies, the richest 1% will soon own more wealth than the other 99% of people. In crypto currencies like Bitcoin, wealth is concentrated to such an extent so as to be an existential threat, and other crypto currencies have been similarly criticized.

Some level of inequality is not necessarily a bad thing, and indeed people have significant individual differences, but it can be a bad thing when it hampers equality of opportunity. If one person can dump and destroy an entire currency, then that reduces the opportunity of others.

With NEM, we really want to bring the focus of money back to the people. The world today is one where money is controlled by powerful elites, banks, and governments; at NEM we want to empower regular people and that is why our motto is, “A new economy starts with you.”

There is a similar system that started several years ago, Ripple’s Web of Trust.

Seventhly, the currency would be stable. In order to issue credit into an economy, the currency and its valuation would have to be known, and therefore stable. In previous generation community currency systems, the currency would be pegged to the national currency. In a cryptographic currency, this could be based on a Basket of Commodities such as with Bernard Lietaer’s Terra currency, or another way of maintaining a relatively stable value.

A Step Towards a Cryptographic Currency System

Taking the concepts from Ripple Classic, Ripple, Web of Trust, and Ripple’s Proof of Consensus together with NEM’s Proof of Importance, we can foresee the possibility of issuing credit in an inclusive Cryptographic Credit Currency system.

We may find that more indicators of trust and reputation are needed, so perhaps apps built on the Ethereum or Blockstream platforms with Demurrage will provide the final pieces of the puzzle that will make Cryptographic Currencies essential in our daily lives in the future.

* I look forward to hearing your comments.

Which Digital Currency do you choose? Theirs or Ours?

The End of Physical Currency: which Digitial Currency do you choose? Theirs or Ours?

The neat thing about blogging is that you can basically timestamp your prediction and come back to it in a year, two or even five and see how your prediction turned out.

This week we received two announcements, one from Europe and one from America that the physical currency spending limits for all citizens are being lowered to an amount so low that buying almost anything these days will be required by law to be reported to a separate department in the government.

For example, if you buy a used sailboat for $5,000, and transfer the money to the seller’s bank account, you (or your bank) will have to report that transaction to what basically amounts to the NSA of the IRS in order to confirm that the transaction is legitimate.

According to the Economic Collapse Blog:

  • In France, starting September 2015 cash transactions above Euro 1,000 are prohibited, and currency exchanges without requiring proof-of-identity are reduced from Euro 8,000 to Euro 1,000. Further, cash deposits or withdrawals from your bank account above Euro 10,000 will be reported to the French “Anti-Fraud and Anti-Money Laundering” Agency Tracfin.
  • French Finance Minister Michel Sapin brazenly stated  that it was necessary to “fight against the use of cash and anonymity in the French economy.
  • In Spain, cash transaction limits are already Euro 2,500, and in Italy, Euro 1,000.

In America, if you regularly deposit large amounts of cash, say for example you own a used-car dealership where many customers prefer to purchase a vehicle in cash, then you may need to fill out a “Suspicious Activity Report”. They say only suspicious transactions need be reported, but then they say “there are minimum quotas for suspicious activity reports that banks must meet.  If they do not submit enough suspicious activity reports, they can be fined (or worse). So why not stuff the quota with a few Mom & Pop small business transactions as well?”

Just this kind of scenario happened with one unlucky person in Iowa:

“A widow’s bank account was seized by the IRS and she now faces criminal charges for depositing her legal inheritance money in lumps instead of all together.

Janet Malone, 68, had $18,775 seized from her — money that was legally earned and was legally bestowed to her by her late husband, Ronald Malone. The problem, according to the government, was the fact that she deposited it in several lumps instead of all at once.

According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Malone deposited the cash in increments between $5,800 and $9,000. The widow’s private financial affairs evidently set off red flags under the watchful gaze of the federal government.”

So why would governments be increasingly limiting use of their own currency?

  1. Capital flight controls: they don’t want their currency “heading for the exists” or circulating faster than better currencies.
  2. Citizen espionage: All these government employees need reasons to keep their job, what better one than to spy not just on everyone as a whole like they have been, but on every single one of us.
  3. Traceable currency: Trying to control a currency through interest rates is so 1800s; they want to be able to do a little bit more. Monetary competition between countries is getting more fierce as they are dragged towards a US Dollar-led monetary collapse. They want to be able to take stern measures if needed, and a traceable currency is the only way to be able to do this.

In short, governments are taking us towards a single currency in which all citizens and transactions are identifiable and traceable.

And we can be sure they are working to implement their own Digital Currency. In fact, some people say they should, including “James Angel, a professor of economics at Georgetown University. He thinks the government should create what he calls “bitdollar,” a bitcoin-like digital currency that’s backed by the US dollar.”

“The world’s governments already are looking for ways to regulate bitcoin. And the Canadian government has explored its very own digital currency, MintChip, which is something akin to Angel’s proposal.”

There is even more interesting and pointed information in this Bitcoin Magazine article which confirms that governments are working towards implementing a fiat digital currency. Ecuador already has one, the Philippines are now considering it.

Our options are to continue using cash for as many kinds of transactions as we can, and to use peer-to-peer currencies like Bitcoin, Ripple, and others that are not easily traceable by government agents whose job it is to track every single one of us.

I’ll be checking back on this article to see how things have progressed, but in the meantime, get educated about Digital Currencies, get your own wallet, and convert some of that increasingly worthless paper for some of our money.

Digital Currency Council Professional Certification

Stephen DeMeulenaere, DCC Certified ProfessionalI’ve been wanting to write another blog post, and it’s high on my list of things to do. But I thought it was really important to take a moment and get my Digital Currency Professional Certification with the Digital Currency Council based in New York.

There are a lot of charlatans & scammers out there that are preying upon people’s ignorance of how these systems work, so it’s really important to have a certification examination that helps to separate those who know, from those who don’t.

The test was a difficult 100 question test that covers even minute details about Bitcoin that only an expert-level person would know, and certainly could not just google info about during the test. Congratulations to the Digital Currency Council for making this possible.

Will Digital Currency Efforts Reach ‘The Last Mile’ in 2015?

Aside from its ups and downs: up in investment, down in price, few would disagree the Digital Currency field had a momentous 2014. Investment poured into dozens of new companies in North America and Europe, and the crash of Mt. Gox and sale of Silk Road bitcoins barely had an effect on the market.

There was also a lot of talk about the need for these Digital Currency companies to go “The Last Mile” and bring their services to the developing world, where mobile phones dispersion far outnumbers bank accounts, and the cost of sending money overseas takes many billions of dollars out of the hands of poor, hard-working migrants, and handicapping local development. We heard very often about how this company or that company is aiming to break into the remittance market in Asia, banking the unbanked in Africa, drop Bitcoins onto an island in Latin America, etc. etc.

Well, I’m standing here somewhere along this Last Mile in Southeast Asia, Bali, Indonesia to be exact, and I can tell you that despite all of the efforts (see below) we, the tight-knit team of Bitcoin/Ripple/Stellar/NXT and other digital currency supporters and promoters have been making across the country, we haven’t yet seen anyone from North America or Europe step up and join hands with us to go the Last Mile to get digital currencies into the hands of ten of millions of Indonesians, let alone Thais, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Burmese, Bangladeshis, etc. etc.

The intention is there, it’s just that nothing concrete has been contributed. I’ve been contacted several times this year by representatives from several different organizations asking me for advice, feedback, picking my brains for useful tidbits from my 17 years of residing in Asia. Not only from small companies producing ATMs or POS Devices, through major coin developers, and right on up to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Bitcoin Indonesia exchange the leading company in the country has been seeking financing the past two years. (If you’re interested, contact me, I’m trying to help them to find financing!) Nobody has contacted them, and it’s not like we can just hop on a plane and fly over to New York or San Francisco or London or Amsterdam, with cap in hand, not on our own meager Rupiah currency which is getting gang-raped by currency speculators as I write this, or over the sky-high visa walls that are keeping Fortress America safe by not letting anyone in that doesn’t have a Christian or European-sounding name.

We have done a lot in Indonesia in 2014 to attract attention and hopefully attract funding. We hope that in 2015, more than one of you reading this will take notice and come and visit us over here, and joining us in reaching the Last Mile.

Short List of Accomplishments in 2014

Accomplishments in the Works for 2015:

  • Attending Inside Bitcoins Singapore, Inside Bitcoins Hong Kong and Bitcoin 2015.
  • Coin Academy Training workshop in Singapore. 

So now you can see there is a lot happening over here, all the more reason to plan your next holiday in Bali, Indonesia! Comment below to contact me directly.