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Stanford University Offers Course On Building Bitcoin-Enabled Applications

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:46 PM
Lester Coleman
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:46 PM

Stanford University is offering a lab course on building bitcoin-enabled applications. The course is scheduled to run from Jan. 4 to March 11 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays in building 420-041 at the Stanford campus.


The introduction to bitcoin (Jan. 4) presented concepts like digital signatures, the blockchain, transactions and mining.

Instructors are Balaji S. Srinivasan, co-founder and CEO of 21 Inc., and Dan Boneh, a Stanford professor of computer science and electrical engineering.

Some Background Needed

Students will learn how to rewire Internet services based on bitcoin. The school recommends students have a background in Python within a Unix environment, but bitcoin knowledge is not necessary. Students will have to be familiar with basic programming at the Stanford CS106B level. Familiarity with CSS, HTML and JavaScript will be helpful.

The first two weeks provides an introduction to bitcoin-enabled computing.

Students will then build bitcoin-powered versions of some Internet services. The course work will provide insight into an environment in which services are paid using micropayments as opposed to monthly fees or ads.

Students will have open time to build bitcoin projects in the weeks of Jan. 18 and Feb. 15. In other weeks, the course will provide students a stub code that illustrates the basic mechanics of a bitcoin-enabled Internet service. Students will have a week to get the stub code running, add improvements, and test it with peers in an online marketplace.

There will be no final exam. Grading will be based on class participation. Each week, Bitcoin Magazine will report the best student projects.

Also read: Stanford course could grow bitcoin community, says professor

A Course Rundown

The introduction to bitcoin computing (Jan. 11) will cover bitcoin micropayments. Students will learn how to add micropayments transparently to a web service that uses payment gateways implementing the HTTP 402 error code.

Hack Week 1 (Jan. 18) will be a free creativity week. Students will be able to extend any micropayment demo from the prior week to add functionality or create a new one.

Bitcoin Instagram (Jan. 25) will allow students to set a price on Instagram pictures and create a machine-payable stock photo search engine. Students will experiment with monetizing the user-generated content on other services.

Bitcoin Twitter (Feb. 1) will let students develop an app that allows them to accept micropayments from retweets. They will add filters and permissions to make sure they only promote content interesting to followers. Students will experiment with paid endorsements on their other social networks.

Bitcoin WordPress (Feb. 8) will have students develop an app allowing them to monetize a blog by charging small micropayments for page views. Students will place the same micropayment wrapper around other content such as database result pages and wikis.

Hack Week 2 (Feb. 15) will be a free creativity week. Students will extend any code they have worked with from the prior weeks to create new functionality or develop a new demo.

Bitcoin Linux (Feb.22) will let students create a command line program outsourcing part of its code to the cloud. They will charge micropayments for each use. The students will build their own machine-payable command line app.

Bitcoin Google (Feb. 29) will have students develop a web search engine that is funded by micropayments rather than ad views. The project will turn the primary customer into a user as opposed to an advertiser. The search functionality will extend to search other types of content.

Bitcoin Dropbox (March 7) will have students create a file server charging clients per byte with precision below a single satoshi (under $0.000004 USD) using bitcoin micropayment channels. The students will build other types of grid computing services using fine-grained micropayments.

There will be a review and recap on March 14. Students will be able to review demos from the previous weeks.

Image from Shutterstock.