Since Bitcoin was born in 2009, more and more people become users of decentralized money and their experience becomes empirical data that help answer the questions about the nature of money.
Now, in this year 2019, the first 10 years of life of decentralized currencies are written as fresh history. As of today, there are already transactions of billions of dollars per day in these currencies that are not issued by governments or central banks. Basically they are currencies issued by people, by civilians. A group of civilians is born, becomes a team, then designs and implements a code on a Blockchain. Then they launch their new coin and proceed to wait to see if other people have an interest in this new currency. The rest depends on the luck and on the market. In general, for some currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin, luck seems to be very good. Millions of people around the world own wallets and use these virtual currencies.
At this time, however, in the year X of the Satoshi Era, millions of Cryptocurrency users worry about a dream that appears as very hard to come true: how to get decentralized money be used as real money by billions of people around the world? Moving from the level of millions to the level of billions seems to be a huge challenge. Making it possible to enter any restaurant to have a coffee and pay for it in Bitcoin or in your favorite Cryptocurrency, is still just a dream. Reality for present adopters of Cryptocurrencies is that most people in the world do not use and do not understand Crypto yet. Many Crypto enthusiasts insist in that more education is needed if we want more adoption. Others think that the problem is scalability. And there are also those who think that governments are to blame.
According to the perception that Crypto users have and share, what are the objective reasons that are hindering the achievement of Mass Adoption of Crypto? This is a valuable question that can help start having a clear and panoramic perspective on the different factors that could be affecting. The users of Cryptocurrencies seems to believe strongly that new decentralized money is better for the economy than traditional money issued and controlled by central authorities.
The same millions of users think that the rest of billions of human beings, in the future, will probably prefer the new money based on the Blockchain instead of the old money we have now. If so, then why is adoption not accelerating visibly? Why does not everybody start using Cryptocurrencies as normal money immediately? What obstacles exist out there? In the coming paragraphs we summarize some reasons that Cryptocurrency users themselves expose as fundamental causes for the delay of the Mass-Adoption dream.
Before posting out a list with just some of the many reasons that “hodlers” around the globe provide in order to solve the riddle, there is an extra task one should attend in first place. It is necessary to dedicate one exclusive minute —or two— to define what we understand by “Mass Adoption”. A lot of Crypto fans use this term, but it is not defined usually. People just take the definition for granted. What do users mean when they say “Mass Adoption”? When one says “mass” in this context, one will probably be referring to the majority of the population of the World, in very simple terms.
This, in any case, however, has to include people who are in high levels of financial vulnerability or people who are excluded from socio-economic opportunities in the traditional financial ecosystems. Crypto is expected to help solve inequality. One the other hand, the word “adoption” is usually interpreted as intensive use in everyday life. The question of “why doesn’t Mass Adoption happen sooner?” is somehow equivalent to the question of “why can’t we replace right now old inefficient fiat money issued by bankers, for new virtual decentralized currencies?”. The coming paragraphs contain some of the reasons hodlers raise.
Mining is the process of adding new truths —new trustable data— to the Blockchain. Mining ensures security and the veracity of who owns what. Nonetheless, as it is now, it is totally unacceptable since it implies an enormous waste of energy and time. Mining has some great advantages. To a high extend, the price of mining translates into a support for the price of a currency, since mining tends to be expensive.
Mining protects the market prices of Bitcoin in a direct way and the price of Bitcoin sort of protects the price of altcoins in an indirect way. Without mining prices might fluctuate a lot more, probably. In some cases, mining has been justified as an origin a new jobs and new entrepreneurship, since it created need for cheap energy. However, the price of mining is so high, that the majority of users seem to dream of eliminating mining probably in favor of Proof of Stake which seems to be harder to understand at this moment. Users feels that mining is one of the enemies of scalability.
Exchanges are accused to be an even worse problem. Specially centralized exchanges are condemned by many Crypto believers. It’s common thinking in Crypto that Exchanges are the weak point of Decentralization. An increasing number of Cryptocurrency users describe exchanges as the new type of private banks. They are like entities of domination, since to some extend they shape how adoption occurs while adding to Crypto all the centralized regulation that Crypto tries to eliminate.
Crypto was born in order to generate trustless, censorship-resistant P2P cash. Exchanges are trusted third parties that censor and control cash in private databases. If they consider you are suspicious, they retain your money. They can refuse giving back it to youor can even deplatform you. And, without them, we do not have any real interoperability now. The whole system would collapse now if exchanges closed. We depend too much on them. This makes Crypto too centralized.
III. Using Fiat as Unit of Account
Fiat-attached mentality is in total control of Crypto. Fiat is the unit of account in Crypto. Even the most loyal purist Crypto believer thinks in the value of Bitcoin and alt coins in terms of a given value in Dollars, Euros, Yens or other national currencies. The problems of not having each Crypto as an absolute unit of account for its users, is a big problems. And it is not even at discussion. Most hodlers are so worried about the price expressed in fiat money that they don’t even realize this is a big obstacle for mass adoption. Using fiat as unit of account makes fiat strong.
Mass adoption cannot be achieved if we keep thinking about Crypto assets’ value in terms of some equivalence to fiat currencies. A real mass adoption implies a complete change in mentality to an extent that people would have the option to forget completely about fiat and think only in Crypto. And this can become true. But we need to re-educate our minds. We need to evolve culturally and psychologically. Right now, many claim that this is not possible because of volatility. People think Crypto assets will be volatile forever.
No! This is mathematically and economically impossible. All revolutionary assets initiate their first life cycles as very volatile assets and, as they turn more and more adopted, volatility reduces. Some day strong Crypto assets will be a lot more stable. But we need people to understand this from now, so that they take the risk of beginning to think in Bitcoin and altcoins as units of account.
IV. Generation Gap
Millennials show the greatest interest, hope and involvement in Cryptocurrencies. This generation may even monopolize virtual currencies. True Mass Adoption, however, should not forget and abandon older people. We need to understand that, it might be inevitable that Millennials will master and propel Blockchain technologies at a speed that previous generations cannot reach easily. This means that, to a great extent, the Crypto experiences that we must design and create from now on, may need to focus initially on Millennials. Then, later, with the help of Millennials we will be able to bring Crypto to all the masses. But, we need Millennials in Crypto now.
V. People’s Frustration
If you have a bad experience in Crypto, you will be likely to tell everybody that Crypto is bad. You will scare other people. Every bad experience one person has while using Cryptocurrencies, tends to translate into lots of other people avoiding Crypto for long time. Listening to the someone who had a terrible experience is a factor against adoption. Are we already creating friendly software and friendly experiences in Crypto?
Basically not! The ones that feel in love in Crypto are still mostly tech experts and geeks. Technicians and geeks do not care about bugs or about a hellish user experience, if they understand the underlying magic. This is bad for Mass Adoption. Crypto will be successful only if it becomes digestible for the billions of people who do not care about the computational magic, but about the functionality.
VI. Only Promises and No Actual Delivery
First is first: if you keep on promising to create awesome goods and services on the Blockchain, but those never come to existence, people’s patience and trust will burn-out. And this keeps on happening to many Crypto enthusiasts, specially to those who do not understand the underlying technology. Everyday someone feels disillusioned. Projects promise a lot. But many projects have only one real tangible usecase for their hodlers: trading and speculation.
VII. Failing to Understand that Governments are not the Enemy
Governments are central authorities that result from arrangements that, in most cases, societies have chosen. In an active or in a passive way, people choose the type of social arrangement they have in their own countries or States. People are responsible for the existence of governments, at least in the majority of countries where power is not imposed by tyranny. Governments are, on the other hand, one of the worst nightmares for many Crypto projects. Neither do projects know what to do about governments, nor do they have an idea of how to be compliant and decentralized at the same time.
It has been predicated that the very essence of the Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies antagonizes with Governments. After all, decentralized money is based on unstoppable code. Governments usually do not like unstoppable activities. This does not mean, naturally, that the Blockchain is unregulated. The Blockchain brings self-regulation as well as financial privacy and censorship-resistance.
Governments might be reluctant to accept quickly all the implication of this nature of unstoppable Blockchains. But we cannot decide entirely that, just because of this, they are the enemy. Many governments are right now paying attention to the Blockchain in a very positive way and contributing to the protection of our rights to use Blockchains. Maybe, we need to stop thinking of Governments as the enemy. Governments are human organizations just as Blockchain projects. Each type of organization has a community of believers to protect. Communication and mutual support between these two types organization will be indispensable.
VIII. New Huge Centralized Players that Could Swallow Most of the Market
New non-Crypto “whales” are taking positions in the Blockchain —since it is public, anybody can do it— and starting new gigantic centralized businesses by becoming third parties or intermediaries between people and Crypto. Let’s just consider a huge private corporation headed by Microsoft and Star Bucks called Bakkt. This will open and offer payment systems in Crypto to the masses, as it has been announced.
Even the most common You-can’t-pay-a-coffee-with-Bitcoin problem will be a thing of the past, if Bakkt will make instant payments in Bitcoin a reality for the masses. Bakkt is only one example. Thera are many other example. These companies will probably be the ones that make Crypto useable for the people –what we just wouldn’t do in Crypto on time–. This might prove to be not so good for the development of Crypto as decentralized money. This will subsume big portions of Crypto inside big companies who would charge people for using the Blockchain and for storing and using their own funds while, again, taking full control of those funds.
IX. Extreme ease to Launch a Cryptocurrency Thanks to ERC20 Standard
ERC20 tokens have helped fuel big industries and are on the base of very beneficial projects. However, it is also true that many unserious projects and scams have been launched thanks to the ERC20 protocol or thanks to the relatively low difficulty of creating a token with this standard compared to creating one new Blockchain. Many people cannot differentiate a good project from a bad one! Crypto has not adapted itself to the masses yet!
If you don’t have some technical knowledge you can´t know if a token is good, if it has real usecases or if it is just hot air. This is very contradictory for an industry that aims at Mass Adoption. We need to empower the masses to be able to distinguish at least the basics of what is what. Since even understanding what makes an ERC20 token valuable is so difficult to understand, even now many people fall victims of bad projects that are not offering any real solution based on the Blockchain.
X. Lack of Usability of Crypto’s Fintech
Usability is another problem. It takes several months for a regular person to start feeling a little comfortable moving coins, doing payments and more or less understanding the basics of using digital Crypto assets. Crypto is not friendly to new comers. It’s terribly unfriendly yet. Actually even today, you can’t avoid feeling some level of fear every time you use money, because you can easily lose your funds by making a mistake. You must experience this fear every time you move funds or do transactions on the Blockchain. This transforms Mass Adoption into a mere far dream. The masses will not adapt to conditions like this. Crypto is still too risky now.
XI. Market Dominance and Risk Tolerance of Asian Adopters
One more thing that sits on top of this is culture, specially Western culture. Asia is winning the race of mass adoption by far. They are not afraid of technologies. At least not as much as we are in Europe and in the Americas. At the present speed, definitely Asia will lead Blockchain development and —maybe even— the world. They like technology and they like Cryptocurrencies. This creates a pressure on the side of new developments. New coins and services will prefer to focus on Asian markets if Western markets do not work on the cultural aspects.
XII. Many Coins Believing They will be a Future Form of Payment
A perception error common persons make is to think that money is basically for payments. This error penetrates projects. Becoming a massively adopted payment system has been an obsession for so many coins and tokens. Too many aim at being the new unique universal currency and do not concentrate on developing a solution for some real world problem. In Crypto, however, it is basic knowledge that, if your project is not solving a tangible legitimate problem, then your coin does not have almost any chance to develop real value. Your value will depend only in promises and hype. A coin should never base its value on pure speculation. Actual value comes from usecases or from solutions to actual human problems.
If some solutions to real world problems are tied to a Crypto asset, then this Crypto asset will acquire value. Using Crypto only for payment systems is a trivial thing. This will not make the value of a coin or token increase much, unless your coin is Bitcoin or Litecoin maybe. Of course, we want merchants to accept Crypto and we want to see people hiring others and paying salaries in Crypto. But Crypto is a lot more than that. Payment systems are not enough to raise the value of most Crypto assets. Crypto is a lot more than using coins for payments. The Blockchain exist to solve millions of problems. Coins and tokens exit to fuel many goods and services that we can create on top of the Blockchain.
XIII. Trading and Speculation as the Dominating Financial Activity in Crypto
Crypto is mostly about “trading” in these years. Even today, Crypto transactions are associated mostly to speculation or, in other words, to gambling-like investment. Trading should be seen in Crypto as a small part, never as the most important activity. But it has become a huge trend that could cause damage. So many people believe that Crypto is just for speculation or that Crypto a buying-low-and-selling-high kind of business, that this can make the masses feel negative about adoption. The Blockchain is “to enhance our lives”. It’s one of the most powerful technologies of the world. It has not been created for people to purse profits without producing solutions and progress. We need to develop solutions and to think less about the gambling side of Crypto.