Recently, Bill Gates told Medium that Bitcoin alone wouldn’t solve all of the challenges inherent in international payments. He has been cautiously optimistic regarding digital currencies but said that Bitcoin has some geopolitical issues that could hold it back.
Despite stating the obvious in an environment that includes the New York City BitLicense and Russia’s repeated attempts to clamp down on Bitcoin, he does have a fair point. Bitcoin is based on useful technology that can make international remittances easy and cheap, but means little if it can’t pass over a few hurdles that have been holding it back.
- Development: Although this has improved since Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn’s warning that core development was falling behind in February 2014, continued complaints include the length of time that it takes to confirm transactions and the fact that it still relies on Proof-of-Work when there are more efficient hashing algorithms available.
- The Image Issue: Bitcoin still has a widespread reputation as the currency used by Silk Road and there are several rumors that it could be used to fund terrorist organizations like ISIS. This may make reputation one of Bitcoin’s biggest Catch-22s: The only way to shake this image is for cryptocurrencies to be used for more aboveboard operations. But who is going to use it when it has such a huge albatross hanging around its neck?
- Lack of adoption: Dell accepts Bitcoin. Microsoft accepts Bitcoin for game purchases. Ebay seems to be developing something of a lukewarm relationship with Bitcoin. However, as Bill Gates put it, “Bitcoin won’t be the dominant system” until consumers can feel safe while using it and economic models can support a large number of small transactions with low fees.
You might see several cool websites like Bitcoin Not Bombs, but Bitcoin by itself won’t be able to solve all of the world’s problems. The people who use it become the key to the cryptocurrency world’s overall destiny. In the right hands, Bitcoin can become a valuable tool that helps more people become involved in economic systems that might have left them out of the mainstream. This is why I’ve thought that we focus too much on adoption by giant corporations and not enough on getting mobile devices with Bitcoin wallets into the hands of normal people who could, to paraphrase one of my favorite fictional capitalists, “earn Bitcoin – and spend Bitcoin!”
I’ve gotten rather serious about creating a Freelancer-like jobs site that works with several cryptocurrencies and why I’ve brainstormed ideas with friends who care about making the world’s unbanked more capable of standing on their own two feet. Both are ideas that are still very much in progress and will be until the funding is in place. The point is to take the lead in helping cryptocurrencies fill their potential as the way that people get paid for their work in the digital age regardless of where they live, whether they have a bank account, or what fees international financial institutions charge for processing payments that cross borders.
As Bill Gates said, Bitcoin might not become the dominant way that money flows across borders in the Digital Age. The recent price slide is proof enough that the value is still too volatile for the comfort of people who might have considered asking for Bitcoin payments as part or all of their salary. If more cryptocurrency enthusiasts are willing to take the lead in development Bitcoin-related applications and encouraging more widespread adoption, though, cryptocurrencies could still remain one of the serious contenders.