Richard Stallman’s GNU (gnunet.org) and French computing institute Inria have released the initial code for an “electronic payment system,” which is “unlike BitCoin or cash.”
GNU’s ‘Not for the Black Market’ Taler
The project, dubbed Taler (for Taxable Anonymous Libre Electronic Reserve), is designed “for the mainstream economy, and not the black market,” its website explains.
Taler, according to the current available literature, is aimed at providing as much a solution to mainstream organizations’ use of parallel payment systems as for customers. While sounding similar to cryptocurrency, the ethos behind the project suggests an attempt to distance itself from Bitcoin.
The website states:
Unlike BitCoin or cash payments, Taler ensures that governments can learn their citizen’s total income and thus collect sales, value-added or income taxes.”
Nonetheless, the system ensures anonymity for users, who will ultimately use coins as a stand-in for national currencies and be free from exposure to any volatility inherent in a new cryptocurrency.
“When you pay with Taler, your identity does not have to be revealed to the merchant. The bank, government and exchange will also never learn how you spent your electronic money,” it is written. “However, you can prove that you paid in court if necessary.”
As such, in terms of stability, Taler is reported to “[use] an electronic exchange holding financial reserves in existing currencies.”
As is standard for a GNU-related project, the Taler is free and the code readily accessible. Stallman, who coined the term “free software” in the 1980s, has nonetheless been quiet on the progress or ultimate potential of Taler in the mainstream economy.
Currently, the project is very much in its infancy, with disclaimers noting pitfalls, which have yet to be addressed. No “real” currencies are currently available for experimentation, with an initial release slated for some time this year.
“There is no auditor, and hence components do not properly support auditors either. As a result, a dishonest exchange could embezzle funds,” an email from systems maintainer and software architect Christian Grothoff states.
“This is a first alpha release of the four key components providing logic for running a bank, exchange, merchant and wallet.”
The development team meanwhile hails from various outlets including Inria, which is in turn placed under the supervision of French government industries of research and development.
In terms of deployment, as The Register points out, criticism of Taler may well come from Bitcoin circles, with critics in turn pointing to weaknesses in the Bitcoin ecosystem to validate the need for a Taler-like platform for the mainstream.
What do you think about the potential of the Taler project? Let us know in the comments sections below.
Images courtesy of stallman.org, wolfvollprecht.de, en.wikipedia.org, taler.net