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The Evolution of Bitcoin Builder Culture

What does it mean to be a Bitcoin builder in today's Bitcoin landscape?
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Bitcoin’s remarkable comeback is a testament to the efforts of a builder community that has long believed in what it can accomplish. These builders have not only played a crucial role in shaping and improving the Bitcoin protocol, but have also fostered a unique and vibrant culture that is now drawing more and more users to the Bitcoin blockchain. 

This builder community has helped Bitcoin weather a bear market and given the wider crypto ecosystem a glimpse at Bitcoin’s potential impact (especially thanks to an explosion of L2 projects). What’s more, we’re still in the early stages of an even bigger Bitcoin-led movement to come, one that will be brought about by Bitcoin builders and dedicated users in the ecosystem.

We asked our Trust Machines team to give their thoughts on Bitcoin’s builder community and what it could bring to Bitcoin down the road.

Bitcoin Builder Culture: The Beginnings

"When I started in Bitcoin, the culture was very industrial since I began as a miner coming from the energy industry,” said Rena Shah, Trust Machines’ VP of Products and Operations. “It felt like Bitcoin was synonymous with internet money, and you could really only buy, sell, hold, or send it.” 

“A decade later, the culture has undergone a rebirth. You can still do those same basic activities, but there’s now an emphasis on creativity,” she added. “Community and products have emerged where Bitcoin building is an immersive experience. It's a part of your fabric as an evolving human being."

What Rena describes mirrors how the perception of Bitcoin has changed over time. When the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto launched the Bitcoin protocol in 2009, they did so mainly with the goal of giving everyday individuals the ability to conduct trustless peer-to-peer transactions. Today’s Bitcoin user, however, has the privilege of doing much more with their assets. With a wallet like Leather, for example, users can participate in the full life cycle of a Bitcoin NFT or Ordinal, and they can connect to emerging DeFi platforms. In other words, Bitcoin is no longer seen simply as a store of value, but the gateway to an entire ecosystem of applications that have real-world implications. 

This transformation was largely driven by the work done by Bitcoin’s builders. Even from the start, developers who were familiar with the Bitcoin protocol suggested that a number of technologies could be used to build additional use cases on Bitcoin. This led to the emergence of scaling solutions like Bitcoin L2s and exploration into possible developments – like rollup technology – that could be implemented on the Bitcoin network. 

However, the challenges that came with scaling Bitcoin still took its toll on developers over the years. Many opted to explore newer blockchains like Ethereum, and those that remained often found themselves coming face-to-face with many of the same infrastructure barriers that came with Bitcoin’s design.

A New Era For Bitcoin Builders

Of course, much has changed since then. The Ordinals protocol’s launch in 2023 signaled a new stage in Bitcoin’s development and emphasized the need for many of the solutions being built on Bitcoin over the years. 

That, in turn, has quickly brought about a new era for Bitcoin builders that differs even from a year ago. Engineer Jacinta Ferrant, who began her work in blockchain technology at Trust Machines, describes how even though the builder community was “incredibly enthusiastic and excited about the future” when she first joined, there was often an “unclear direction and lack of order."

But that has changed significantly in a relatively short amount of time. “There seems to be clarity emerging from the chaos,” said Jacinta, “The excitement is just as palpable, but my knowledge of the space has enabled me to streamline my own focus. I also think the leaders in the industry are emerging from the crowds and the distractions contributing to the chaos are falling by the wayside.”

However, it is important to emphasize that this new era for Bitcoin builders is still in its infancy. Crypto industry veterans have likened what they’re seeing in Bitcoin today to Ethereum’s initial heyday back in 2016. While that’s exciting, it does suggest that there is still much work to be done for mass adoption of Bitcoin to occur.

“You have lessons learned from other communities, what happened, what went wrong, what not to do, how not to build,” said Shailee Adinolfi, Business Development Lead at Trust Machines. “People in emerging markets are using this technology, but we need better user onboarding. That's one of the biggest barriers to retail growth: frictionless onboarding and on-off ramps.”

“If you can fix some of these easy pieces and make it really a delight for users to use, then I think things will change.”

The Road Ahead For Bitcoin Builders

But this new Bitcoin renaissance has also redefined what it means to be a Bitcoin builder. Today’s Bitcoin builder community is made up of business development professionals, designers, product managers, and so many more people from all walks of life who have come together for Bitcoin’s growth.

Ultimately, the ecosystem is expanding as more people recognize the impact trustless and decentralized technologies can have on everyday lives. In other words, more people than ever are looking to explore the very values and principles that embody Bitcoin’s creation.

"Builder culture will go through an experimental phase before it hits a maturation phase,” added Rena. “In the future, on-chain activity will be the default norm. Using Bitcoin-based products built with decentralization in mind will be ubiquitous."