Bitcoin Bits

You could soon be asking a friend for “bits” rather than “bitcoins”.

While many users of Bitcoin have already decided to move to millibitcoins or microbitcoins on their own, the reality is that there haven’t been any official moves to create an official, widely-used denomination of bitcoins. Some people still like saying bitcoins, while others think that millibitcoins are more welcoming to new users of the cryptocurrency. There is currently a debate brewing on the Bitcoin development mailing list where different people are offering their opinions on the matter, and the general consensus seems to be that a move to 100 satoshis as the default setting when viewing an amount of bitcoins is the best idea. The idea of calling these units “bits” was posted on Reddit roughly four months ago.


Why This Move Makes Sense

There is a need to move away from bitcoins as the general unit of account in Bitcoin wallets because nobody likes to request a fraction of a bitcoin as payment for goods or services. While most people in the cryptocurrency space view Dogecoin as nothing more than a joke, the reality is that they made a smart move by creating a larger number of coins over time. For some reason, sending someone 1000 dogecoins seems easier than sending them 0.001 bitcoins. By essentially moving the decimal place over a few places, it will become much easier to send or request quick Bitcoin payments in the future.

The Death of Microbitcoins?

Although the idea of moving to smaller denominations for Bitcoin transactions has been around for quite some time, most people have thought we would see a move to millibitcoins before anything else. The people who thought a move to mBTC would not be enough, advocated for a switch directly to microbitcoins to make sure that we wouldn’t have to make the same move again in the near future. It now seems that many Bitcoin developers are viewing the term “bits” as a possible replacement for microbitcoins. Although there is a general consensus that a move to the 100 satoshi range is a good idea for future default Bitcoin denomination settings, the debate on what those units will be called is still ongoing. There are plenty of different names being tossed around on the developers mailing list right now, but “bits” seems to be the frontrunner at this point. Here’s what Armory’s Alan Reiner had to say on the topic:

I’ve been a staunch supporter of “microbitcoin” and would like to do anything I can to make sure that we jump directly to it if we’re going to promote changing the default units.  And I’m happy to integrate it into Armory as a default (with appropriate explanations and settings/options).  I’m not so convinced about the “bits” name though — I do like it, but I do also think that word is too overloaded.  Though, I think we could get away with it.

The Time is Now

Most people think this change should have been made months ago, but it seems that we’re finally on the verge of an actual revision in the general Bitcoin lexicon. Sending someone 1000 bits sounds better than sending them 0.001 bitcoins, so this should be a move that’s embrace for its ability to lead to more mainstream adoption in the near future. Every Bitcoin enthusiast has a relative who decided to not buy into Bitcoin because they didn’t want to pay $500 for a single Bitcoin, and this could be an easy way to throw that flawed logic out the window.

What do you think about the move to bits? Would you rather stick with microbitcoins? Do you think skipping millibitcoins is the right idea? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

34 Responses

  1. burstup

    CryptoCoinsNews burstupIn Europe, where we use euros and cents. I suppose a penny is a cent, but I’m not sure. That’s not the point I was trying to make though. The point is: Bitcoin is a worldwide currency, so it does not make sense to think in regional denominations.

  2. burstup

    @dawpa2000 I have been using English as a second language for 30 years now – and yet I have no idea what a penny, nickel or dime is. Your proposal does not make a lot of sense to anyone outside of the U.S.,
    while the denomination of 1 BTC = 1 million bits,  1 bit = 100 satoshi would make a lot of sense.

  3. CW

    1 Bitcoin = 1 000 000 Bits, 1 Bit = 100 Satoshi. I love it. It makes sense and will be less confusing than the mess we have now.

  4. mertike

    How can this change to bits happen, with a BIP? Or what is the official process to further this initiative?

  5. David Spencer

    “Bits” is such an obvious move from a PR perspective that the real question is why a bunch of techno-libertarians thought it was an economic imperative to teach Americans remedial math.

  6. Avatar of dawpa2000

    “Bit” is a terrible unit.

    Why not use units that everyone is familiar with?

    Bit”coin” even references existing terminology in its name.

    What are coins? They are pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.

    1 dollar = 100 pennies
    1 quarter = 25 pennies
    1 dime = 10 pennies


    • Yussit

      I agree with you, Bitpenny has a familiar ring to it. Bit is familiar with geeks, not with the masses. And I absolutely love the concept of lowering the first step to purchase Bitcoins, by removing the mental block of “not affording to buy A Bitcoin”

      • Avatar of dawpa2000

        @narp, thanks.

        No where did I say that it MUST be restricted to American terminology. The terms can even be localized to whatever region, resulting in the most familiarity to the user.

  7. Ted Lilley

    I think it’s extremely important to create an widely-accepted, unconfusing set of terms for bitcoin. There is nothing quite so frustrating as trying to learn terminology that has no relation to everyday life (say what you want about the US not getting on board with the metric system).

    Unfortunately, bit is certainly not it. It has existing meanings in both of the ontologies which bitcoin bridges, technology and money. One would be enough to be confusing, let alone both.

    The problem is that there aren’t a lot of good obvious alternatives. Myself, I can only think of one, which borrows from medicine and isn’t perfect either. I think it’s better because of the lack of prior association though.

    The example I have in mind is micrograms. In dosages, conventional usage is to shorten micrograms to mics (pronounced “mikes”). In fact, the spelling would be problematic as well, so I’d recommend instead using the phonetic spelling of mikes. To my ear, it’s better than bits.

    That’s my two bits. ($0.25)

  8. Jason

    I vote for bits.
    1 satoshi = 0.00000001 BTC. Everybody knows this. Smallest unit. Think of it satoshi as a penny.
    100 satoshi = 1 bit. Think of bit as 1 usd.
    1,000,000 = 1 BTC.

    So easy to remember.

    • Bob Archer

      That last one would be 1,000,000 Bits = 1 BTC right?

      Because Satashi is the 8th decimal place. (a hundred millionth)
      Bits would be the 6th decimal place. (a millionth)

      So, Bits * 1,000,000 would = 1 Bit coin?

  9. roselapin

    Why not keep the name bitcoin ?
    There would be “old bitcoin” and “new bitcoin”, the later gradually becoming “bitcoin”. That’s what happened to the franc and it worked.

  10. whitslack

    A “bit” is already a unit of currency. It’s one eighth of a dollar. I don’t see why we don’t just skip straight to satoshis and dispense with the decimal point entirely. The Japanese have the right idea with their yen: zero decimal places after the point.

  11. supersheeppo

    lol guys as Bob Archer pointed out nobody is thinking of changing the “Bitcoin” name to “bits”. it’s just about changing the default denomination from BTC to uBTC and calling it “bits”
    @BobArcher: mmh i think “bits” is better than “pennybits” or something because everything that is related to a penny is automatically considered worthless XD
    Wouldn’t sound right XD

  12. BrightMoon

    This is ridiculous, why not changing Bitcoin in CoinCoinCoin…… ???

    Changes are welcome, if they are any good, not many people are going to like this.

    Bitcoin is a fantastic and strong brand, changing this is not very smart.

    • Xeno

      Wrong. It a very smart move. It would significantly boost adoptions. People would rather having 1000000 bits than 1 bitcoin.

      • Rya no

        Agreed, psychologically it makes sense. Why would you pay .02 bitcoins for a pizza , paying 20 bits or whatever just sounds more logical. If you have 10 bucks to buy bitcoins do you want to be able to buy .02 bitcoins , or 20 bits ? If you want to leave someone a tip are they going to be happy to receive .02 bitcoins , or oh look 20 bits !
        And finally it will cause the price to go up because 1 unit of measurement , 1 bit will be trading at less than a dollar , and I predict that the mental price barrier will climb towards a dollar per bit rather easily , as opposed to people acting like a 1000 dollar single bitcoin is absurd.

    • Xeno

      Who cares… they copied their ideas from bitcoin to begin with it. It’s not like they own the word.

  13. Dan Collins

    ‘Bitcoin’s just sounds better to me.

    We use Bit in a lot of conversation, bit of this, bit of that, computer byte’s or ‘bit’s…. bitCOIN just makes it clear it’s a currency.

    Also, i feel this could have an impact on society’s perception and therefore adoption of it. Having a distinct change in wording, in the core use of the main word of the technology and function , in an idea that has already hit mainstream news.. could further alienate some people.

    Like Armory’s Alan Reiner, I think we could get away with it, it’s just a crying shame this psychological/linguistical key aspect (of many not wanting to pay 100′s for 0.01′s) was not considered much earlier… But maybe there is something deeper to this that we haven’t yet thought about, eg. The developers having the foresight that Bitcoin will be like virtual Gold, while other cryptocurrencies are used for daily life.

    In any case, the move to microbitcoins (whatever we want to call it) is a must in my opinion

  14. MayorLar

    Completely disagree with the idea of changing bitcoin to become a bit.

    The math based digital currency sector has earned a great deal of press around the “word” bitcoin. Yes part of that press has been negative , but the word is now part of the modern lexicon and as such has great value as a trade name and brand name.

    I believe we should keep the core single unit as a bitcoin but there might be merit in changing the decimal values names to something for the average person to adopt.

    Think ten years out. I will store “bitcoin” in my smart wallet — but I might spend in smaller units like — decibits, centibits, millibits , microbits, nanobits etc. I invest in bits just want make it:-)

    The bitcoin brand has great value and we should not forget that adoption will be dependant upon function and ease of use.

    So keep with the program fellas and use your imagination to come up with killer apps that will embed digital currency into the economy.

    • Bob Archer

      I think you misread the intent. From what I read no one is talking about no longer calling Bitcoin, bitcoin. They are thinking of calling microbits just Bits. This would be similar to the word Penny which is 1/100th of a Dollar. So a mBTC = Bits.

      I think thought they might consider Bitpenny… which could be .01 BTC. But still currently 1 Bitpenny is about $5 right now. So that is probably still psychologically too big.

  15. Avatar of Jonathan Saewitz
    Jonathan Saewitz

    Nice article. I think it should be officially called bitcoins, but can be abbreviated to bits. “Hey Adam, I’m sending you five bits now!”

    I also see a big problem with this method: If I want to send a single bitcoin to someone, I’d say “Hey Adam, I’m sending you a bit now!” But ‘a bit’ could either mean a single bitcoin *or* a bit of something. He then might ask “A bit of what?”

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Kyle is a freelance Bitcoin writer and the Marketing Director for Bitcloud. His work has been featured on Business Insider, VICE Motherboard, Let's Talk Bitcoin, and RT's Keiser Report . You can follow him on Twitter (@kyletorpey) or send him an email.