A lost decade or a thriving development? Will Bitcoin ever go mainstream?
Eleven years ago, Satoshi Nakamoto published Bitcoin’s white paper. He probably did not expect that his experiment would be successful on such a scale and market capitalization that even powerful companies with many years of history could envy. On the other hand, despite the 11 years that have passed, Bitcoin is still not mainstream. Many people still associate it with illegal activities and hacking. Many ask themselves whether BTC will ever reach the same level of adoption as the social media giants. If so, how many years will it take? Ten? Twenty?
Bitcoin is still a child
Bitcoin is now 11 years old and it’s worth looking at what this technology has achieved. But before we do that, let’s try to put Bitcoin in some context. Facebook is 14 years old, Twitter 13, YouTube 14, Google Chrome 11, Amazon 23, Linux 28 years old. The World Wide Web – the network where you are reading this article now – is 30 years old. IP addresses and their origins are over 40 years old. According to many surveys and research, if you’re interested in Bitcoin, you’re probably 18 to 34 years old and a man. You probably joined an army of BTC followers in the last five years and have a fraction or even all of the bitcoin. Some of you have a lot more. Some readers will remember the time when you sat in the library with your nose in books and not with your eyes on the computer screen while you were writing your Master’s thesis. If you’re younger, you’re probably used to modern technology and don’t remember the time when everything wasn’t on Wikipedia.
11 years after the publication of the most popular cryptographic whitepaper we face the question: how long do we have to wait until Bitcoin becomes similar to Facebook or YouTube, which we use every day? Ten years? Twenty?
Bitcoin, from the point of view of pure adoption, was a failure. But it remains a lighthouse, the best opportunity we have to really raise the status quo and ultimately change the way we interact with other citizens of the world. When will we be using bitcoins every day? When will basic technology plunge into the structure of our financial life? We will probably not know until that happens.
Potential without a clear way forward
A billion people use Facebook every month. On Twitter it is 330 million. Both platforms have developed rapidly, but their real boom has come in the last few years. Linux runs on 98 percent of servers around the world – it took some time, but adoption accelerated after the boom on dot-com. The Internet is everywhere, but it took him a solid 20 years. How many people use Bitcoin? It’s hard to measure in a decentralized network designed for anonymity. CoVenture Research claims that there are 11.2 million bitcoin addresses that have at least 0.001 BTC, or about $8. This is a large number, larger than the number of inhabitants of New York, Berlin or London. Of course, a single user can and often controls multiple addresses. However, if you do, this rating may be too conservative to be optimistic. A Harris Poll survey conducted for Blockchain Capital in April 2019 showed that 9 percent of Americans – 27 million people – have bitcoin. To sum up, we can safely say that if the cryptographic community were a country, it would be bigger than Belgium.
But it is not 330 million and it is not a billion, as in the case of Facebook and Twitter. We can argue that using Facebook is easier than using Bitcoin, but 11 million in 11 years is not a good sign for BTC. If Bitcoin were a startup, it would exist in the Valley of Death. In the world of startups, the application with 11 million users is strong enough to generate revenue, but not interesting enough to attract huge investments. Bitcoin is like that. It works, but it’s not enough to distract people from other things like the biggest social media do.
Facebook and Twitter have achieved their results by investing much less than the $165 billion Bitcoin market capitalization. Linux promoted itself in such a way that programmers would catch the hook and willingly devote their time. The Internet is growing on its own, because joining it is trivially easy. Bitcoin has some of these features. The road for start-ups is hard. The cryptographic ecosystem is closed to the outside world and difficult to join for the outside world. The network is growing as a result of attacks and troubleshooting. We are in a dynamic, early stage where everyone is a pioneer and there is no clear way forward. The struggle causes programmers to stand up against programmers and cryptographic celebrities to attract mainstream media attention. Only a small, dedicated group keeps the whole thing together.
Warm up before the sprint
In all opinions, Bitcoin shouldn’t last another ten years. All the things that made Linux, Twitter and Facebook, as well as the commercial successes of PS4 and Netflix, are not visible in the development of the most popular cryptocurrency. It is opposed by governments, corporations, banks and its admirers. Bitcoin does not move the world’s financial markets in the same way as Twitter, nor is it subject to the same control as Facebook. The fact that it appears even in such prestigious portals as The New York Times or Bloomberg, although these are only small entries and memories.
And yet, it still exists and develops.
It can be argued that it is unfair to compare BTC with all these platforms and products. But Bitcoin is both a financial instrument and a technical product. It is, like a startup, a work in progress, a product in alpha version, which in time may go to beta. It’s a good idea that needs more years to germinate. When people first looked at Spotify 13 years ago, they saw the future of streaming music that freed us from CDs. When the first users started using YouTube in 2005, they saw the potential for information, entertainment, news and other things to be spread by millions of people around the world. When we look at Bitcoin through the eyes of an uninterested programmer, we see numbers, scams and scams. But when we look at him through the eyes of someone who wants to catch the next big thing, we can see the possibility that one day, not too far in the future, he will make banking and commerce completely different. All the other services and platforms mentioned above are already reaching their peak. However, bitcoin is still warming up.
It is like a star, in which fuel combustion will take several more years. And when there is a shortage of fuel, it will start to grow and expand to a huge size, absorbing everything around it. Very similar to the stars in our sky. It will not simply work in the background of our browsers or programs. It will be rooted in our lives, in the interaction between our money and the world. It will be a currency used between people and robots and between robots and robots. It will become so useful and universal that it will basically disappear from our eyes. We will not even be aware of how often we will use it every day.
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