The concept of a walled garden is not a new one; they have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. A precious garden enclosed by high walls serves many purposes, including providing protection from animal or human intruders. These walled gardens also create microclimates, which allow for specific things to grow and flourish that may not otherwise be able to due to the temperate climate outside the walls.It’s no secret that walled gardens lay at the core of every major software company’s strategy, and they are built around it to generate and sustain a network effect.
Any Apple user knows first hand the way you get trapped within the ecosystem, because of the way their products interact together, but also because of the friction that is introduced when using a non-Apple product. This gives Apple incredible power as we can see with their App Store, where they have total control over who can enter and who cannot. It also creates the need for new Apple-specific products in order for you to maintain a consistent user interface, which is central to the walled garden approach. The same is true for Google, Microsoft, Facebook and most other software company giants. Many people use social media platforms as if they were the internet itself. These platforms are masterful at keeping you inside their gardens, and do everything they can to extend the amount of time you spend within their walls. If it were up to them, you would never leave.
Fundamentally, they do this by designing incentives. Presumably they try to add value, by making their products as good and as easy-to-use as possible, so you simply want to use them over others. It would seem that they also allow a certain amount of friction to exist by not using their products to disincentivize you from exploring other options and therefore exiting their ecosystem. Apple software interfaces is one of the best examples of this, where many people fear having to “learn” how to navigate a different company’s interface and migrate their images, contacts, messages, etc. The reality is that as humans, we’re (in most cases) lazy animals, and a dominant majority of people will follow the path of least resistance. Thus, due to the incentives, they stay inside Apple’s walls. Over time, the walls begin to look more like a cage.
In the same way that these software giants create walled gardens and work to keep us inside them, so too do governments and central banks with political fiat monetary systems. Central banks issue money, and the government insists this money be accepted. The fiat system is a classic example of a walled garden. The difference is that outside the walls of the fiat garden of governments and their central banks there are armed soldiers.
Software giants — while they do everything to incentivize you to stay inside their garden and prey on all your vulnerabilities to make it as unattractive to leave as possible — cannot stop you, and if you exercise your agency, you can leave and never return. Not so with the fiat walled garden. If you try to leave and venture off to explore outside the walls or even to explore a different fiat walled garden, they want to know where you have been, the reasons for leaving and every possible detail about your interactions while you were gone. To the fiat masters, it is their business. You are not simply free to explore.
The fiat standard is a walled garden, and unlike software companies it is one you are kept within by decree. By force. Outside of this garden is the open, permissionless, abundant environment of bitcoin. The fiat masters are counting on the height of the walls, and men with guns on the other side being able to perturb you from scaling the walls and exploring the vast abundant land outside. What they weren’t counting on however, was the invisible force of bitcoin being able to penetrate and then dissolve these walls, and help humanity flourish both inside the garden and outside of it. This invisible force is everywhere and it is nowhere, and it is the key to an abundant future. With bitcoin there are no walls. No borders. The very notion of a walled garden ceases to be possible. Or conversely, it is the ultimate garden in which no walls exist.
This is a guest post by Andrew Keir. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.