In the original whitepaper, Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned Bitcoin as a peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that would facilitate transactions without the oversight on a trustworthy, centralized party.
Since then, cryptocurrency has surged in popularity as an asset class – and Bitcoin is now just one of many digital currencies out there. Investment has poured into the sector because many see the blockchain as an important foundational technology for the future, and it’s also gained traction for speculative reasons.
However, strictly from a payments perspective, certain issues have cropped up since the original Bitcoin vision was outlined, and they’ve ultimately prevented crypto from receiving mainstream adoption as a currency for day-to-day transactions.
What are these obstacles, and how will they be overcome?
The Retail Opportunity
Today’s infographic comes to us from NetCents, and it highlights the growing acceptance of cryptocurrency by retailers and a willingness for consumers to consider using it.
Importantly, the graphic also highlights the major hindrances preventing crypto from reaching mass payment adoption, as well as how the future may look significantly different than today.
In 2017, the amount of brick-and-mortar retailers accepting crypto grew by 30.3% to 11,291 retailers globally.
At the same time, users have also warmed up to the idea: a recent survey found that 40% of people familiar with the digital currency would be open to using it in everyday transactions.
So why aren’t most people able to buy a coffee at their neighborhood cafe with Bitcoin?
There are three main obstacles to using cryptocurrency for everyday transactions. (Note: this list mainly focuses on Bitcoin examples)
1. Price volatility
In 2017 alone, the Bitcoin price fluctuated between $1,000 and $20,000. Big swings in price make it unattractive for day-to-day transactions.
2. Slow transaction times
The average confirmation for Bitcoin takes about 20 minutes per transaction right now – but during past stretches of activity (such as in Jan 2018), it got as high as 41 hours.
3. High transaction fees
The average transaction costs around $1 right now, but just months ago, the average Bitcoin transaction costed $40.
These factors are not necessarily problematic at all times – but one can see why these challenges may make crypto less appealing for everyday retail transactions, such as one at the grocery store or the local coffee shop.
Crypto to the Masses?
Despite these concerns, there is much optimism that crypto can be a boon to retailers – even brick-and-mortar ones. The blockchain is still new, and people around the world are working to solve these payments issues night and day.
Crypto e-payments companies are constantly introducing new technologies and features that could potentially decrease transaction costs and provide instant settlements for retailers, while also eliminating the issue of fraudulent chargebacks. Making ground on these issues would make crypto significantly more appealing to the masses as a form of payment.
What else needs to be done to push crypto into the mainstream?
The Beginning of a Bitcoin Bull Run?
After 15 months of losses and stagnation, Bitcoin has made a miraculous recovery — going on a 150% bull run since its lows in December 2018.
The Beginning of a Bitcoin Bull Run?
After 15 months of losses and stagnation, Bitcoin has made a miraculous recovery — rising more than 150% from its lowest point in December 2018.
In its heyday, Bitcoin had surpassed $10,000 in early December 2017, before briefly crossing the $20,000 mark for a single day on December 17th. A year later, the digital currency had fallen back to Earth, dropping below $3,200.
Now that the dust of that wild speculative frenzy has settled, Bitcoin is back on the upswing. What could be causing this most recent surge in growth?
We look at four possible explanations for the Bitcoin bull run, as originally outlined by Aaron Hankin at MarketWatch:
Bitcoin has seen several technical milestones this year, such as surpassing the psychological barrier of $5,000 in early 2019, breaking the 200-day moving average, and scoring the golden cross (when the 50-day moving average crosses above the 200-day moving average).
Bitcoin is experiencing a steady increase in adoption across several markets. The term Bitcoin has become a household name — even if people don’t understand what it does, they know what it is.
Companies such as Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon, and Nordstrom are looking for ways to integrate cryptocurrencies into daily transactions for faster payment clearance, innovative rewards programs, and efficient customer service interactions.
Bitcoin has possibly seen a shift in public perception. There have been fewer negative articles about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, and the news stories that are negative no longer have as big of an impact as they once did.
When Binance announced hackers stole $40 million in bitcoin and when accusations of an $850-million cover-up were leveled against Bitfinex and Tether, the Bitcoin bull run barely flinched and continued to climb.
Wavering Gold Investment
Investor confidence in gold has been more stagnant in recent times. To capitalize on this, Grayscale Investments (of Digital Currency Group) posted a campaign in May 2019 promoting Bitcoin as an ideal alternative to gold because it is borderless, secure, and more efficient for storing value.
Despite the World Gold Council’s response denying those claims, the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust saw OTC Markets Group’s highest trading volumes five days later.
Where to from here?
After a long skid, it appears Bitcoin is showing signs of life again. Bitcoin’s price can be highly volatile, so it remains to be seen whether this is the beginning of a bull run, or whether this is just another bump in the roller coaster ride.
Editor’s note: The price of Bitcoin has fallen to $7,100 at time of publishing and will likely continue to experience extreme volatility. However, even at a price of $7,100, this is still a 120% increase from lows in Dec 2018. As well, an earlier version of this graphic had incorrect dates on the timeline. That has now been corrected.
How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible
Under the current global financial system, billions of people do not have access to quality assets. Here’s how decentralized finance is changing that.
Infographic: How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible
Did you know that a majority of the global population doesn’t have access to quality financial assets?
In advanced economies, we are lucky to have simple options to grow and protect our wealth. Banks are all over the place, markets are robust, and we can invest our money into assets like stocks or bonds at the drop of a hat.
In the United States, roughly 52% of people are invested in the stock market – but in a place like India, for example, this portion drops to a paltry 2%. How can we make it possible for people on the “outside” of the financial system to gain access?
Breaking Down Barriers
Today’s infographic comes to us from Abra, and it shows how decentralized finance could make investing a more universal phenomenon, especially for those that don’t have access to the modern financial system.
It lays out four key obstacles that prevent people in developing markets from investing in quality financial assets in the first place:
- The Geographic Lottery
Where you live plays a massive role in determining your ability to build wealth. In advanced Western economies, the average person is much more likely to be invested in financial markets that can help compound wealth.
- Financial Literacy and Complexity
Roughly 3.5 billion adults globally lack an understanding of basic financial concepts, which creates an impenetrable barrier to investing.
- Local Market Turmoil
Even if a person is mentally prepared to invest, local market turmoil (hyperinflation, political crises, closed borders, etc.) can make it difficult to get access to stable assets.
- The Cost of Investing in Foreign Markets
Foreign assets can be pricey. One share of Amazon is $1,800, which is realistically more money than many people around the world can afford.
In other words, there are billions of people globally that can’t take advantage of some of the most effective wealth-building tactics.
This is just one flaw in the current financial system, a paradigm that has created massive amounts of wealth but only for a specific and well-connected group of people.
Enter Decentralized Finance
Could decentralized finance be the alternative to open up access to financial markets?
By combining apps with blockchain technology – specifically through public blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum – decentralized finance makes it possible to get around some of the barriers that are created by more traditional systems.
Here are some of the innovations that are making this possible:
Smart contracts could automate transactions and remove intermediaries, making investing cheaper, faster, and more accessible.
Fractional investing could allow partial or shared ownership of financial assets by using tokenization. This would make expensive stocks like Amazon ($1,800 per share) available to a much wider segment of the population.
Location independent investing is possible through smartphones. This would make it possible for people in remote parts of the developing world to invest, even without access to nearby financial institutions or local markets.
Like the internet with knowledge, decentralized finance could reshape the world by making financial access universal. Who’s ready?
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