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Author Topic: Is calling it a "wallet" the wrong thing?  (Read 5596 times)
theGECK
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March 24, 2011, 07:41:26 PM
 #1

From the beginning of me looking at bitcoin, to the comments that I've heard people over and over talk about, I've wondered about why we call the file that keeps your keypairs "wallet.dat". A wallet is something you put money into, but your money is not stored there, and so people ask about synchronizing their wallets. Many people end up confused by having to diassociate the definition of "wallet" from what they've believed all their life, to the new definition. I've done it myself, instead of realizing that it's more like a key to Fort Knox.

The blockchain contains all of the money. Everything that exists is stored there. Your "wallet.dat" key gives you access to the amount of BTC that is available to it. No money is stored in the "wallet", it just exists to let you look at the little money you own. In that regard, it's more like a silver/gold certificate, or a stock, than a wallet.

Even now, I'm not sure what a good, one-word summary of this concept is. But maybe we would have less confusion about how to "synchronize clients/wallets" if we stopped calling that file the "wallet" and called it something else. Perhaps "deed", or "voucher", or "credentials"? I like credentials, because it is easier to say "just apply your credentials to the Bitcoin program, and it will show you your balance". Credentials already has the connotation of something that you carry to get access to it, so then if you "lose your credentials" you lose access to the money that you had access to.

What are other's thoughts on this? I just know that in my short 1.5 months around this, I've seen lots and lots of people asking about their wallet file, and how it stores money. When many people are confused, I've learned that frequently the easiest thing to do is to change the terminology.

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March 24, 2011, 07:45:19 PM
 #2

Keychain?

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Jered Kenna (TradeHill)
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March 24, 2011, 07:46:59 PM
 #3

From the beginning of me looking at bitcoin, to the comments that I've heard people over and over talk about, I've wondered about why we call the file that keeps your keypairs "wallet.dat". A wallet is something you put money into, but your money is not stored there, and so people ask about synchronizing their wallets. Many people end up confused by having to diassociate the definition of "wallet" from what they've believed all their life, to the new definition. I've done it myself, instead of realizing that it's more like a key to Fort Knox.

The blockchain contains all of the money. Everything that exists is stored there. Your "wallet.dat" key gives you access to the amount of BTC that is available to it. No money is stored in the "wallet", it just exists to let you look at the little money you own. In that regard, it's more like a silver/gold certificate, or a stock, than a wallet.

Even now, I'm not sure what a good, one-word summary of this concept is. But maybe we would have less confusion about how to "synchronize clients/wallets" if we stopped calling that file the "wallet" and called it something else. Perhaps "deed", or "voucher", or "credentials"? I like credentials, because it is easier to say "just apply your credentials to the Bitcoin program, and it will show you your balance". Credentials already has the connotation of something that you carry to get access to it, so then if you "lose your credentials" you lose access to the money that you had access to.

What are other's thoughts on this? I just know that in my short 1.5 months around this, I've seen lots and lots of people asking about their wallet file, and how it stores money. When many people are confused, I've learned that frequently the easiest thing to do is to change the terminology.

I think wallet fits. If you lose your wallet you lose everything in it. Also btc is essentially cash and you put that in your wallet.

I agree that technically credentials or something else sounds better but I personally like wallet and you are sort of storing your btc in it.

Edit: keychain makes sense too, so does making a copy of your keychain. Also it's hard to shake the term wallet when it's what we've been hearing constantly.

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March 24, 2011, 07:56:09 PM
 #4

Keychain?

So, the keychain gets you access to the block chain. It makes my teeth set on edge for some reason, but it makes a lot of sense. You carry your keychain around, which lets you see how much money you have.

Also, stonetz, you actually don't put your BTC in your wallet.dat. That's what I think ends up confusing so many people. I (and they) thought that your bitcoins actually resided in your wallet. So, you then have to think about carrying your wallet from place to place, keeping it synchronized between devices, how to make sure when you make a transaction on your phone it works with your computer, when none of that actually matters. The only thing is making sure that you keep your keychain safe in your belt, or pocket, or dropbox, or wherever. And if you add some keys to your mobile's keychain, then you just have to make sure those keys are on your computer's keychain as well.

Keychain fits really well, especially since we are using Public Key for them, right?

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March 24, 2011, 07:59:53 PM
 #5

Keychain?
I like this.
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March 24, 2011, 08:29:47 PM
 #6

How about masterkey?
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March 24, 2011, 08:31:52 PM
 #7

I think the worst analogy of the Bitcoin system is the "bitcoin" part. It leads to all sorts of misunderstandings, concerns about divisibility being the most common one. It took me some time to understand that there is nothing analogous to coins in the system and bitcoins are actually historical transactions. However, the user never has to know how it works, so it's OK.

Compared to that, "wallet" is actually a pretty good one, and I think it's the reason why the coin analogy was appropriate in the first place. You have your cash stored in your wallet, when you spend it it's gone, when you lose your wallet it's gone. It's harder even to grasp, for the non-technical user, that there aren't actual bitcoins stored there. If you get rid of the wallet analogy, you would have to change nomenclature altogether, starting with "bitcoin".

EDIT: By the way, synchronizing wallets might not ever be an easy/useful thing to do. Being able to use the same key simultaneously from different nodes is a bad idea. You would probably want to transfer your wallet, or split the money in it, which are still good analogies.
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March 24, 2011, 08:39:19 PM
 #8

I think the worst analogy of the Bitcoin system is the "bitcoin" part. It leads to all sorts of misunderstandings, concerns about divisibility being the most common one. It took me some time to understand that there is nothing analogous to coins in the system and bitcoins are actually historical transactions. However, the user never has to know how it works, so it's OK.

Compared to that, "wallet" is actually a pretty good one, an I think it's the reason why the coin analogy was appropriate in the first place. You have your cash stored in your wallet, when you spend it it's gone, when you lose your wallet it's gone. It's harder even to grasp, for the non-technical user, that there aren't actual bitcoins stored there. If you get rid of the wallet analogy, you would have to change nomenclature altogether, starting with "bitcoin".
Let's call it "Bitliquid". Since liquid is uncountable, we'll measure it in liters, and talk about sending 21.5 liters of bitliquid. Divisibility problem solved. Tongue

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Jered Kenna (TradeHill)
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March 24, 2011, 09:58:48 PM
 #9

Geck, I understand it's not actually in there, why I said "sort of"
It's kind of funny to think about it like this "they're not in there....but if you lose the wallet you lose the coins"
I get why, I know you get it and everyone that's posting in this thread so far gets it but it just seems strange to say and I'm sure it's mind blowing to most if they try to understand.

Because of that I still think bit coins are  "sort of" but not really in the wallet.


I like the idea of keychain a lot and master key but they sound similar to things that we already have.
I think wallet is pretty unique among bitcoin terms. Maybe someone will come up with something that makes everyone say AH and agree on.

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March 24, 2011, 10:23:28 PM
 #10

Let's call it "Bitliquid". Since liquid is uncountable, we'll measure it in liters, and talk about sending 21.5 liters of bitliquid. Divisibility problem solved. Tongue

i like this metaphor, though liquid is perfectly countable, on the level of sub-atomic particles (this is tricky in the real world, but since we're using fictional particles, it works), which we can define as 0.00000001 BTC.  and if we consider 1 BTC as a litre, we can work from that using standard prefixes.  0.001 is a millilitre and so on.

we could always call it latinum. =)
Jered Kenna (TradeHill)
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March 24, 2011, 10:41:47 PM
 #11

The word "liquid" is an uncountable noun but you can turn it in to countable nouns easily enough like liter of water, drop of blood, gallon of piss, rain puddle etc etc.

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March 24, 2011, 11:55:59 PM
Last edit: March 25, 2011, 12:14:35 AM by moa
 #12

It is something like a hybrid between tally sticks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tally_stick (particularly analogous is the split tally system of medieval UK) safe deposit box and keychain.

The P2P bitcoin network has the record of the tallies, contained in safe deposit boxes that are held throughout the network in the block data, and the keychain in your wallet.dat has the keys to access those safe deposit boxes where your tally is kept.

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March 25, 2011, 12:21:49 PM
 #13

We could just call it a "key file"

That's not very exciting but to me it makes it pretty clear what it is.
Back up your key file!

I don't think there would be much confusion about it.

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March 25, 2011, 01:44:43 PM
 #14

Purse?

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Jered Kenna (TradeHill)
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March 25, 2011, 02:06:11 PM
 #15

Purse?

That's kind of the opposite of the cool James Bond / Jack Bauer. What if we call it "Briefcase handcuffed to your wrist"

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March 25, 2011, 05:08:27 PM
 #16

Key file is probably the best, since "keychain" is too similar to "block chain". Like you said, not catchy, but it gets the point across.

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March 25, 2011, 05:50:54 PM
 #17

"Safe key"  as in a key that opens the safe.

Do not waste your time debating whether Bitcoin can work. It does work.

"Early adopters will profit" is not a sufficient condition to classify something as a pyramid or Ponzi scheme. If it was, Apple and Microsoft stock are Ponzi schemes.

There is no such thing as "market manipulation." There is only buying and selling.
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March 25, 2011, 06:00:19 PM
 #18

How does the block chain download? Is it into one file? Could we call that file the "safe"?

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March 25, 2011, 06:08:08 PM
 #19

How does the block chain download? Is it into one file? Could we call that file the "safe"?

Then people will want to back up the block chain, which is unnecessary.

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March 25, 2011, 06:14:22 PM
 #20

How does the block chain download? Is it into one file? Could we call that file the "safe"?

Then people will want to back up the block chain, which is unnecessary.

+1, you're right.

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March 26, 2011, 03:44:30 AM
 #21


Call it a Man Bag ... and people will throw it away!

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March 26, 2011, 03:55:13 AM
 #22

While there is an issue with the name bitcoin implying it can't be divided, I think it also serves as a good way to identify that it's a currency in the same manner a gold coin is currency.

I dare say in time there'll be mbc (milliBitCoins) and ubc (microbitcoins) as time goes by, but for now the term 'bit coin' is about as easy as we'll get to be able to explain this weird thing to the uninitiated Smiley

I'm happy with the wallet analogy since it forms a container for your bitcoins. Traditional wallets may contain cards that unlock ATM transactions, so a wallet need not contain actual coins - just the portal to get to them Smiley

How heavy is a BitCoin anyway? I guess they're measured in CO2 from energy generation? Cheesy
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March 26, 2011, 04:12:59 AM
 #23

While there is an issue with the name bitcoin implying it can't be divided

coins work fine.  they'e pieces of eight (decimal places)!

 Cheesy
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March 26, 2011, 11:59:08 AM
 #24

While there is an issue with the name bitcoin implying it can't be divided, I think it also serves as a good way to identify that it's a currency in the same manner a gold coin is currency.

I dare say in time there'll be mbc (milliBitCoins) and ubc (microbitcoins) as time goes by, but for now the term 'bit coin' is about as easy as we'll get to be able to explain this weird thing to the uninitiated Smiley

I'm happy with the wallet analogy since it forms a container for your bitcoins. Traditional wallets may contain cards that unlock ATM transactions, so a wallet need not contain actual coins - just the portal to get to them Smiley
Agreed.
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March 26, 2011, 12:01:12 PM
 #25

While there is an issue with the name bitcoin implying it can't be divided

coins work fine.  they'e pieces of eight (decimal places)!

 Cheesy
mind=blown

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March 26, 2011, 02:46:09 PM
 #26

While there is an issue with the name bitcoin implying it can't be divided

coins work fine.  they'e pieces of eight (decimal places)!

 Cheesy
mind=blown

 Shocked funny how that worked out.  Hadn't ever thought of it.

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March 27, 2011, 05:14:31 AM
 #27

I think "wallet" is just fine, and conveys the sense of what it holds. It also does mesh nicely with the physical world.

A physical wallet stores not only money but ATM cards. That's the parallel to draw with Bitcoin.

Physical world: your money is not stored in your wallet, it's in a bank.
Bitcoin: your money is not stored in your wallet.dat, it's in the block chain.

Physical world: you access your money using the ATM card, which you store in your wallet.
Bitcoin: you access your money using the encryption keys, which you store in your wallet.

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March 28, 2011, 01:56:36 AM
 #28

I think "wallet" is just fine, and conveys the sense of what it holds. It also does mesh nicely with the physical world.

A physical wallet stores not only money but ATM cards. That's the parallel to draw with Bitcoin.

Physical world: your money is not stored in your wallet, it's in a bank.
Bitcoin: your money is not stored in your wallet.dat, it's in the block chain.

Physical world: you access your money using the ATM card, which you store in your wallet.
Bitcoin: you access your money using the encryption keys, which you store in your wallet.



Yeah I agree, wallet doesn't need to be changed in my opinion but I'm voting key file if it is changed.

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March 29, 2011, 04:40:00 AM
 #29

The block chain is really a history of common knowledge. A private key is just a tool used to uniquely interpret that common knowledge, which has personal value or worth in the form of credit.

What else is this interpretation analogous to?
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March 29, 2011, 08:30:55 AM
 #30

I like keychain too, but what about chainkey? Isn't that exactly what it is? A block chain key?
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March 29, 2011, 08:57:30 AM
 #31

I like keychain too, but what about chainkey? Isn't that exactly what it is? A block chain key?

Keys, plural. There is more than one in there, hence key-chain ... how about 'keys file' or too obvious?

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March 29, 2011, 10:23:00 AM
 #32

I warn you. This is going to be abstract, and you need to think outside of the box to properly understand it.

The "key" term y'all are looking for is located outside of the jail you are locked in side of. Your jail is your perception of humanity. If you want to "humanize" Bitcoin, find a hippie and learn from him. He will tell you what karma is. So name it after something that a human with a heart can understand. Call it a tip jar. Tipping is good karma. You can have all sorts of tip jars on the internet and they all accept the same kind of karma. Karma is karma and it doesn't really matter where it comes from, but specializing each tip jar for a different gift I give helps me maximize my good karma.

They understand intuitively how free markets work. They just call it a different thing. Tip jar implies charity. Key implies prison. Think about that last part until you really understand.
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March 29, 2011, 11:38:27 AM
 #33

I warn you. This is going to be abstract, and you need to think outside of the box to properly understand it.

The "key" term y'all are looking for is located outside of the jail you are locked in side of. Your jail is your perception of humanity. If you want to "humanize" Bitcoin, find a hippie and learn from him. He will tell you what karma is. So name it after something that a human with a heart can understand. Call it a tip jar. Tipping is good karma. You can have all sorts of tip jars on the internet and they all accept the same kind of karma. Karma is karma and it doesn't really matter where it comes from, but specializing each tip jar for a different gift I give helps me maximize my good karma.

They understand intuitively how free markets work. They just call it a different thing. Tip jar implies charity. Key implies prison. Think about that last part until you really understand.
I always thought tip jar implied emotional extortion .... and just because I lock my car door doesn't mean I'm not free to leave. Think about that last part until you really understand double negatives  Tongue

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March 29, 2011, 11:48:05 AM
 #34

I always thought tip jar implied emotional extortion .... and just because I lock my car door doesn't mean I'm not free to leave. Think about that last part until you really understand double negatives  Tongue

I'll match your jest and I will raise you this: which is worse, emotional extortion or physical extortion?
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March 29, 2011, 12:53:08 PM
 #35

I always thought tip jar implied emotional extortion .... and just because I lock my car door doesn't mean I'm not free to leave. Think about that last part until you really understand double negatives  Tongue

I'll match your jest and I will raise you this: which is worse, emotional extortion or physical extortion?

Emotional, or was that a hypothetical question?

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March 29, 2011, 08:07:20 PM
 #36

I always thought tip jar implied emotional extortion .... and just because I lock my car door doesn't mean I'm not free to leave. Think about that last part until you really understand double negatives  Tongue

I'll match your jest and I will raise you this: which is worse, emotional extortion or physical extortion?

Emotional, or was that a hypothetical question?

It was an exploratory hypothetical, a thought experiment perhaps.

Which one occurs before the other? It seems like a chicken and the egg problem.

Physical extortion happens because emotional extortion happened previously, and physical extortion happened before all of that, and so on and so forth. It's kind of like Mises' regression theorem. I think ultimately, physical extortion could only be induced from emotional extortion, and emotional extortion comes from a lack of understanding... emotions, ideas, anything. So if we can find a way to fix emotional extortion, we can build an emotional base to fix (end) physical extortion. It seems to me like we can do that by excelling and specializing in our own personal craft or trade, give it away for free and in abundance, and let others figure out how to give credit where credit is due, possibly by tipping us with good karma, I mean bitcoins. Isn't the point of a sound money to teach us the value of scarcity? What is more scarce than money? A unique life. And what is more scarce than that unique life? A moment in time with that unique life. So maybe every moment of our lives are scarce and we must figure out a way to maximize each moment's value.
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March 29, 2011, 08:33:06 PM
 #37

I liked key chain, but it is possibly too similar to block chain.

How about key ring? Too similar to the Gnome keyring? Bitkey ring?
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March 30, 2011, 12:36:56 AM
 #38

I like keychain too, but what about chainkey? Isn't that exactly what it is? A block chain key?

Keys, plural. There is more than one in there, hence key-chain ... how about 'keys file' or too obvious?

Sure there might be numerous keys in there in the literal/digital sense. But your wallet.dat file is currently the "chain's key" in a sense.

Hence chainkey.
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