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Despite Historic Victories, These Barriers Still Exist for Bitcoin Adoption

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By Landon Manning

Bitcoin (BTC), the world’s first and biggest decentralized internet currency, has seen a huge wave of success from its humble beginnings. Nevertheless, it continues to face legal, systemic, practical, personal and many other challenges before it can truly see adoption as a major worldwide currency.

Since its first block was mined back in 2009, Bitcoin has seen both setbacks and victories along the road to enacting the economic vision that Bitcoin’s radically decentralized DNA has promised. While cutting-edge financial regulators once went out of their way to nip Bitcoin’s rise in the bud with the BitLicense, now municipal, state and even national governments offer incentives to the Bitcoin community; where bitcoin once had the most spending power in underground markets, advertisements for it now rock the Super Bowl. Even with all these triumphs and achievements, the dream of a world powered by Bitcoin seems as far away as ever. What are the main obstacles keeping millions and billions of people from using this currency, not just as a speculative asset, but as a perfectly mundane spending money? 

This question, naturally, has been hotly considered and discussed among all sorts of luminaries, be it Bitcoin devs or startup kingpins and all others in between — the barriers that still exist for global adoption and use. The Economist, the venerated British financial magazine, even researched and compiled a report on some of these factors. Calling upon a wide range of correspondents, from the developed and developing economies of the world, this report claims that many of the largest obstacles, at present, come from potential users.

Despite a majority of people claiming to favor bitcoin’s use as an actual currency, for example, the data from this report has clearly shown that most bitcoin users still tend to think of it as a speculative asset: one that will accumulate in value after purchase, and be sold in exchange for USD or some other fiat currency. Although some concerns such as a lack of understanding or difficult access certainly polled high among these individuals, the highest listed concern by far was that it’s difficult to break lifelong habits of cash use. Nevertheless, The Economist’s report showed reasons to believe that some of these factors are gradually changing. Bitcoin’s largest rise took place after the pandemic had started, after all, which has gone a long way towards erasing consumers’ previous monetary habits. Increased buy-in from the world of traditional finance has done a lot of heavy lifting towards making Bitcoin seem accessible.

A recent panel of various CEOs and thought leaders held at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, Florida, aimed at interrogating the problem of adoption barriers from several different perspectives. It’s necessary to remember, for example, that even where explicit legal barriers do not exist, there are a myriad of possible hurdles to sign up for Bitcoin-related services worldwide, and services like exchanges are becoming increasingly mandatory for a total novice who wants to begin holding bitcoin. Most especially, however, is the pressing need to cultivate a genuine belief in the decentralized economic model that Bitcoin has always promised. There are many things that are necessary to spread to hundreds of millions of people for the dream of decentralized money to become a reality: Protection from currency devaluing and the actions of belligerent governments, a radical new economic independence and the personal conviction that one’s own wealth will grow from adopting Bitcoin.

In other words, it does seem like all of Bitcoin’s societal gains have left it far from able to realize its truly visionary design. However, this should cause the community to reflect on all of its incredible gains: so many of the older barriers to adoption have largely ceased to be relevant. Concerns that people could not buy bitcoin due to illegality, that Bitcoin was good for nothing but illegal activity, an overall culture of ignorance and distaste: all these things have generally disappeared due to the meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies. Although the work that lies ahead is long, difficult and often frustrating, it should be remembered that most new economic visions stumble and fall long before obstacles like this. Bitcoin, no matter what happens to it in the end, has shown that its adoption may be closer than it seems.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.



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