Earlier this week, we wrote an article speculating that the end may be near for Bitcoin, despite the fact that it remains a buzzworthy tech trend of sorts. For several years now we’ve been hearing about the ups and downs of the leading cryptocurrency’s value, as well as various developments regarding its acceptance among consumers and governments alike. There’s always something going on with Bitcoin, even if most of us haven’t really been affected by it in any way (unless we chose to be).
It’s that last bit that appears to be one of the lingering problems for Bitcoin. As trendy as it has sounded at times, and as high as its value has soared (nearly $1000 in late 2013, and currently approaching an 18-month high), people just aren’t affected by it! Or rather, huge numbers of people in countries where Bitcoin is thought to be prevalent don’t even really know about it.
That’s not to say people don’t know what it is. The average consumer can probably explain Bitcoin at least in loose terminology as a cryptocurrency free of central bank regulation and traded on a transparent digital system. But knowing about how or why one might use this currency is a whole different ballgame.
Consider, for instance, the most basic concept relating to any form of currency: where do you keep it? Someone who hasn’t really considered the specifics of Bitcoin might simply say “online” as an answer to this question, and in a very unspecific way that person would be partially correct. But the reality is that there are multiple Bitcoin wallet options that require some legitimate education to understand. The basic idea is that a software program or USB stick can shelter your Bitcoin account address and password, which you need to access and make use of cryptocurrency. But the specifics are a little more complicated. And even when you grasp the general concept there are options within it to sift through.
That’s the how. But what about the why? One common argument for why people ought to use Bitcoin is that it’s going to replace currency. But this is kind of a catch-22. Bitcoin isn’t going to replace regular currency unless everyone starts using it; but everyone isn’t going to start using it unless it replaces regular currency. Meanwhile, the other argument in favor of Bitcoin has commonly been that it’s safer or more secure because your money isn’t tied up in a bank. Also because transactions are all transparently recorded on the blockchain. But even with this argument there’s some debate as to whether just how safe Bitcoin is.
Frankly, there are just a lot of lingering question marks and gaps in understanding. And perhaps worst of all, just two years ago a survey indicated that 76 percent of Americans were unfamiliar with Bitcoin. 80 percent said they’d rather own gold than Bitcoin. Those numbers are sure to have gone down a little bit in the two years since they were recorded. However, it’s not as if Bitcoin has experienced a major leap in that time span. In fact, the survey numbers came not too long after the cryptocurrency’s peak value near $1000, when it truly looked like a disruptive force in tech and currency.
It’s still uncertain if Bitcoin will ever truly “end,” and it should be acknowledged again that its value has been steadily increasing for some time now. But as far as public use goes, and regarding the idea that it could ever become a commonplace currency, it’s easy to have doubts at this stage. Simply put, people still don’t really grasp what it’s all about.
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