By Landon Manning
Bitcoin (BTC), the world’s first and largest decentralized internet currency, has enjoyed a huge wave of success since its humble beginnings. Nonetheless, it continues to face legal, systemic, practical, personal, and many other challenges before it can truly consider adoption as a major global currency.
Since its first block was mined in 2009, Bitcoin has seen both setbacks and victories on its way to implementing the economic vision promised by Bitcoin’s radically decentralized DNA. While cutting-edge financial regulators have worked to nip Bitcoin’s rise in the bud with the BitLicense, city, state, and even national governments are now offering incentives to the Bitcoin community; where bitcoin once had the highest buying power in the underground markets, ads for it are now rocking the Super Bowl. Even with all of these triumphs and accomplishments, the dream of a Bitcoin-powered world seems more distant than ever. What are the main obstacles preventing millions and billions of people from using this currency, not only as a speculative asset, but as perfectly ordinary pocket money?
This question, naturally, has been hotly scrutinized and discussed by all sorts of luminaries, from bitcoin developers to startup leaders and everyone in between – the barriers that still exist for adoption and worldwide use. The Economist, the revered British financial magazine, even researched and reported on some of these factors. Drawing on a wide range of correspondents, from both developed and developing economies around the world, this report argues that many of the biggest barriers today come from potential users.
Although a majority of people claim to favor the use of bitcoin as real money, for example, the data in this report clearly showed that most bitcoin users still tend to view it as a speculative asset: an asset that will accrue value after purchase, and be sold in exchange for USD or other fiat currency. While certain concerns such as lack of understanding or difficult access were certainly very present among these people, by far the most cited concern was that it is difficult to break habits of using cash. Nevertheless, The Economist’Its report showed reason to believe that some of these factors are gradually changing. Bitcoin’s biggest surge came after the onset of the pandemic, after all, which did much to erase consumers’ previous monetary habits. The rise in the mainstream finance world’s buy-in has done a lot of work to make Bitcoin accessible.
A recent panel of various CEOs and thought leaders held at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, Florida aimed to interrogate the issue of barriers to adoption from several different angles. It is necessary to remember, for example, that even where there are no explicit legal barriers, there are myriad possible barriers to signing up for Bitcoin-related services around the world, and services like exchanges are becoming more and more mandatory for a total novice who wants to start holding bitcoins. Most notably, however, is the pressing need to cultivate a genuine belief in the decentralized economic model that Bitcoin has always promised. There are many things that need to be broadcast to hundreds of millions of people to make the dream of a decentralized currency a reality: protection against currency devaluation and the actions of warring governments, radical new economic independence and the personal belief that his own wealth will grow by adopting Bitcoin.
In other words, it seems that all of Bitcoin’s societal gains have left it far from being able to realize its truly visionary design. However, it should make the community reflect on all its incredible gains: so many old barriers to adoption have largely ceased to be relevant. Worries that people can’t buy bitcoin due to illegality, that bitcoin is only good for illegal activities, a general culture of ignorance and disgust: all of these things have generally disappeared in due to the meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies. While the work ahead of us is long, difficult and often frustrating, it should be remembered that most new economic visions stumble and fall long before obstacles like this. Bitcoin, no matter what happens to it in the end, has shown adoption may be closer than it looks.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.