The digital cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, has come a long way since its inception in 2009 but not too many people really know what it is about. Bitcoin seems to be shrouded in some geek-speak mystery that only the technical few can fully submerge themselves in this world-changing technology.
The analyst firm PWC conducted a survey among various consumers and only 6% said they were familiar with digital currencies such as Bitcoin. 83% said they were absolutely clueless, while the remaining 11% said they knew too little to form an informed opinion.
Despite its lack of popularity in the real world, Google Trends has reported an astronomical rise in searches for “bitcoin” from 2011 to 2015. Google searches on Bitcoin far exceed searches for similar products such as Google Wallet and Apple Pay.
So what we have today is a vast majority of consumers who are not yet aware of what Bitcoin is, but they are exhibiting intent to do personal research and read up more about it.
Once more, what is Bitcoin?
In the simplest form possible, Bitcoin is digital money. It is a currency like any other currency, except it has unique characteristics such as: a) it is digital; and b) it is decentralized, meaning it is not affiliated with any government, bank or world finance institution.
Bitcoin can be exchanged into any other currency like dollars or euros.
Bitcoin can be used to buy goods and services sold in bitcoins, at a price determined by current exchange rates based on various exchange markets. It is just like buying something online with SGD at a price set in USD.
Buying in Bitcoin is also very similar to the way electronic payments from banks work. You will have an account number that other people can send bitcoins to. Buying in Bitcoin just has a number of remarkable perks, such as: a) it is much cheaper—transaction fees cost a fraction of what most banks charge; and b) it is much faster—you don’t have to wait for 2-3 banking days, as in most wire transfers, for money to reflect in your account.
So why is it confusing?
Bitcoin was an invention of computer scientists who all spoke the language of geek-speak. A lot of Bitcoin’s attributes were coined using specialized names that only a few super intelligent geeks understood.
It is only now that more layman’s terms are being used to explain and illustrate the process of transacting with Bitcoin.
Moreover, most people are still convinced that there’s nothing wrong with the payment options we have today. Credit cards work. PayPal works. So why change it up?
The answer is a subjective and complex one, but it is also a very important one. Understanding Bitcoin, and later on adapting it, is a necessity for human evolution itself. As more and more aspects of our lives become digitalized, old ways, although good and trustworthy, still need to be challenged in hopes of creating something better.
And just what is a “blockchain?”
This term is the chink in Bitcoin’s armor. Anyone who has tried to explain the blockchain in the simplest way possible only realized that it was not easy to explain at all. Consumers only care about seeing the amounts withdrawn from or deposited to their accounts, and only few of them bother to learn the intricate process that goes on behind the scenes.
The genius of the “blockchain” is that is has created a way for all Bitcoin users to peek at a “logbook of all transactions”. It is an anonymous record of every single Bitcoin transaction that happens around the world. You just need to know your unique ID to be able to trace transactions concerning you.
The beauty of Bitcoin
Bitcoin is transparent. Bitcoin does not depend on banks or governments; instead, it holds all users accountable. Bitcoin is super-fast; you’ll get your money in a matter of seconds instead of days.
The difficulty that Bitcoin is facing today is akin to growing pains of any innovation or futuristic invention. People will doubt and ask questions, but we simply have to let them.
As technology adapts, and as Bitcoin becomes more available to more people, we’ll be gearing ourselves for an entirely new kind of conversation—one that involves pushing the limits of humankind, and creating a safer and better environment for a concept as old as money.