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Cyphernomicon 3.3

Cypherpunks -- History, Organization, Agenda:
The Cypherpunks Group and List

    3.3.1. What is it?
           + Formal Rules, Charter, etc.?
             - no formal rules or charter
             - no agreed-upon mission
    3.3.2. "Who are the Cypherpunks?"
           - A mix of about 500-700
           + Can find out who by sending message to
              with the message body text "who cypherpunks" (no quotes, of
             - Is this a privacy flaw? Maybe.
           - Lots of students (they have the time, the Internet
              accounts). Lots of computer science/programming folks. Lots
              of libertarians.
           - quote from Wired article, and from "Whole Earth Review"
    3.3.3. "How did the Cypherpunks group get started?"
           + History?
             - Discussions between Eric Hughes and me, led to Eric's
                decision to host a gathering
             + First meeting was, by coincidence, the same week that PGP
                2.0 was released...we all got copies that day
               - morning session on basics
               - sitting on the floor
               + afternoon we played the "Crypto Game"
                 - remailers, digital money, information for sale, etc.
             - John Gilmore offered his site to host a mailing list, and
                his company's offices to hold monthly meetings
             - The mailing list began almost immediately
           - The Name "Cypherpunks"?
    3.3.4. "Should I join the  Cypherpunks mailing list?"
           - If you are reading this, of course, you are most likely on
              the Cypherpunks list already and this point is moot--you
              may instead be asking if you should_leave_  the List!
           - Only if you are prepared to handle 30-60 messages a day,
              with volumes fluctuating wildly
    3.3.5. "How can I join the Cypherpunk mailing list?"
           - send message to "" with a _body_ text of
              "subscribe cypherpunks" (no quote marks in either, of
    3.3.6. "Membership?"
           - about 500-700 at any given time
           - many folks join, are overwhelmed, and quit
           - other groups: Austin, Colorado, Boston, U.K.
    3.3.7. "Why are there so many libertarians on the Cypherpunks list?"
           + The same question is often asked about the Net in general.
              Lots of suggested reasons:
             - A list like Cypherpunks is going to have privacy and
                freedom advocates. Not all privacy advocates are
                libertarians (e.g., they may want laws restricting data
                collection), but many are. And libertarians naturally
                gravitate to causes like ours.
             - Net grew anarchically, with little control. This appeals
                to free-wheeling types, used to making their own choices
                and building their own worlds.
             - Libertarians are skeptical of central control structures,
                as are most computer programming types. They are
                skeptical that a centrally-run control system can
                coordinate the needs and desires of people. (They are of
                course more than just "skeptical" about this.)
           - In any case, there's not much of a coherent "opposition
              camp" to the anarcho-capitalist, libertarian ideology.
              Forgive me for saying this, my non-libertarian friends on
              the list, but most non-libertarian ideologies I've seen
              expressed on the list have been fragmentary, isolated, and
              not coherent...comments about "how do we take care of the
              poor?" and Christian fundamentalism, for example. If there
              is a coherent alternative to a basically libertarian
              viewpoint, we haven't seen it on the list.
           - (Of course, some might say that the libertarians outshout
              the alternatives...I don't think this is really so.)
    3.3.8. "How did the mailing list get started?"
           - Hugh Daniel, Eric Hughes, and I discussed this the day
              after the first meeting
           - mailing list brought together diverse interests
           - How to hoin?
    3.3.9. "How did Cypherpunks get so much early publicity?"
           - started at the right time, just as PGP was gaining
              popularity, as plans for key escrow were being laid (I
              sounded an alarm in October, 1992, six months before the
              Clipper announcement), and just as "Wired" was preparing
              its first issue
           - Kevin Kelly and Steven Levy attended some of our early
              meetings, setting the stage for very favorable major
              stories in "Wired" (issue 1.2, the cover story), and "Whole
              Earth Review" (Summer, 1993)
           - a niche for a "renegade" and "monkey-wrenching" group, with
              less of a Washington focus
           - publicity in "Wired," "The Whole Earth Review," "The
              Village Voice"
           + Clipper bombshell occupied much of our time, with some
              effect on policy
             - climate of repudiation
             - links to EFF, CPSR, etc.
   3.3.10. "Why the name?"
           - Jude Milhon nicknames us
           - cypherpunkts? (by analogy with Mikropunkts, microdots)
   3.3.11. "What were the early meetings like?"
           - cypherspiel, Crypto Anarchy Game
   3.3.12. "Where are places that I can meet other Cypherpunks?"
           - physical meetings
           - start your place, classroom
           + other organizations
             + "These kind of meetings (DC 2600 meeting at Pentagon City
                Mall, 1st Fri. of
               - every month in the food court, about 5-7pm or so) might
                  be good places for
               - local cypherpunks gatherings as well.  I'm sure there
                  are a lot of other
               - such meetings, but the DC and Baltimore ones are the
                  ones I know of.  <Stanton McCandlish, 7 April 1994>
               - (note that the DC area already meets...)
           - Hackers, raves
           - regional meetings
   3.3.13. "Is the Cypherpunks list monitored? Has it been infiltrated?"
           - Unknown. It wouldn't be hard for anyone to be monitoring
              the list.
           - As to infiltration, no evidence for this. No suspicious
              folks showing up at the physical meetings, at least so far
              as I can see. (Not a very reliable indication.)
   3.3.14. "Why isn't there a recruiting program to increase the number
            of Cypherpunks?"
           - Good question. The mailing list reached about 500
              subscribers a year or so ago and has remained relatively
              constant since then; many subscribers learned of the list
              and its address in the various articles that appeared.
           - Informal organizations often level out in membership
              because no staff exists to publicize, recruit, etc. And
              size is limited because a larger group loses focus. So,
              some stasis is achieved. For us, it may be at the 400-700
              level. It seems unlikely that list membership would ever
              get into the tens of thousands.
   3.3.15. "Why have there been few real achievements in crypto
           + Despite the crush of crypto releases--the WinPGPs,
              SecureDrives, and dozen other such programs--the fact is
              that most of these are straightforward variants on what I
              think have been the two major product classes to be
              introduced in the last several years"
             - PGP, and variants.
             - Remailers, and variants.
           - These two main classes account for about 98% of all product-
              or version-oriented debate on the Net, epitomized by the
              zillions of "Where can I find PGP2.6ui for the Amiga?"
              sorts of posts.
           + Why is this so? Why have these dominated? What else is
             + First, PGP gave an incredible impetus to the whole issue
                of public use of crypto. It brought crypto to the masses,
                or at least to the Net-aware masses. Second, the nearly
                simultaneous appearance of remailers (the Kleinpaste/Julf-
                style and the Cypherpunks "mix"-style) fit in well with
                the sudden awareness about PGP and crypto issues. And
                other simultaneous factors appeared:
               - the appearance of "Wired" and its spectacular success,
                  in early 1993
               - the Clipper chip firestorm, beginning in April 1993
               - the Cypherpunks group got rolling in late 1992,
                  reaching public visibility in several articles in 1993.
                  (By the end of '93, we seemed to be a noun, as Bucky
                  might've said.)
             + But why so little progress in other important areas?
               - digital money, despite at least a dozen reported
                  projects, programs (only a few of which are really
                  anything like Chaum's "digital cash")
               - data havens, information markets, etc.
               - money-laundering schemes, etc.
           + What could change this?
             - Mosaic, WWW, Web
             - A successful digital cash effort

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