John Biggs is the multimedia editor of CoinDesk. The opinions expressed here are his.
Bitcoin just turned 11 and it's useful to watch what this technology has accomplished. First of all, a little context.
Linux is 28 years old. Facebook is 14 years old and Twitter is 13 years old. Linux is 28 years old. The network on which you are reading this – is 30 years old. TCP / IP is about 44 years old, depending on who you ask.
If you like a bitcoin, you're probably between 18 and 34, according to pollsters at the Global Blockchain Business Council. And you probably joined the bitcoin party about five years ago and have a fraction, if not an entire room. Some of you have a lot, a lot more.
I am almost as old as TCP / IP. I am part of the generation that has seen the evolution of computers. If you are younger, you get used to modern networking technologies and you do not remember a time when everything was not done on a screen. You were there for the birth of Bitcoin.
But on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of the publication of the white paper, we are faced with a question: how long do we have to wait until bitcoin becomes like Twitter or Linux, something you use every day? ? Ten years? Twenty?
Bitcoin, from the point of view of pure adoption, has been a failure. But this remains a beacon, the best chance we have to truly upset the status quo and, ultimately, change the way we interact with our fellow citizens around the world.
When will we use Bitcoin daily? When will the underlying technology integrate into the fabric of our financial lives?
Raise your shoulders. We do not know.
Bigger than Belgium
A billion people use Facebook every month. On Twitter, it's 330 million. Both services have grown rapidly, but have really taken off in recent years. Linux occupies 98% of the servers in the world, which took a while, but accelerated after the Internet commerce boom. The Web is ubiquitous, but it took 20 years to make it happen.
How many people use Bitcoin? It is difficult to gauge a decentralized network designed for anonymity. According to a rough research, CoVenture Research indicates that there are "11.2 million bitcoin addresses containing at least 0.001 BTC", or about 9 dollars.
This is an important figure, more than the number of people in New York, including the outer boroughs. Of course, only one user can, and often does, control multiple addresses. Yet this estimate may be too conservative. A poll by Harris Poll in April 2019 for Blockchain Capital revealed that 9% of Americans, or 27 million people, own their own bitcoin.
All in all, it is safe to say that if the cryptography community was a country, it would be larger than Belgium.
But it's not 330 million and it's not a billion. This is enough for the average investor and the programmer to take note of it and if Hollywood thinks the subject is interesting enough for a horrible movie. But 11 million in 11 years is not good for Bitcoin.
If Bitcoin was a startup, it would exist in the Valley of Death. In the world of startups, an application with 11 million users is powerful enough to generate revenue, but not attractive enough to attract massive investment. Bitcoin is like that. It works, but not enough to turn heads outside of a vocal minority.
So where does Bitcoin go? Is 11 million enough? How many more years before mass adoption?
Another shrug of the shoulders. Another stranger. Every day we see the following motion on CoinDesk – the various small changes that make up the story of a platform. (Or is it a movement?)
This highlights the main problem that Bitcoin and the entire cryptosystem must accept. Facebook and Twitter reached these numbers with investments well below the $ 165 billion market capitalization of Bitcoin. Linux and FOSS have attracted enough developers to freely give their time. The Web is growing on its own as it is trivial to join the party.
Bitcoin has few of these traits. Bitcoin startup investment is cold. The cryptosystem is insular and involved, hard to reach for foreigners. The network is growing in fits and starts, mainly because of the growing number. We are in a dynamic early phase in which everyone is a pioneer and there is no clear path to follow. Internal conflicts are between developers and developers, while cryptographic clowns attract the attention of mainstream media. Only a small, dedicated group is holding the center together.
This is bad for Bitcoin.
Clearly, bitcoin should not survive ten years. The rise of Bitcoin has nothing that has made the commercial success of Linux, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook, PS4 and Netflix. You can not create an artificial intelligence that can write Harry Potter novels in bitcoin.
Bitcoin does not move global financial markets as Twitter does not get the same control as Facebook. There is no "bitcoin and cold".
Yet, it still exists.
You will say that it is unfair to compare bitcoin to all these things. But Bitcoin is both a financial instrument and a technical product. It's like a startup, a work in progress, an alpha product that can switch to beta with a little more time. It's a good idea that needs another summer or two to sprout.
When I first examined Spotify 13 years ago, I saw the future of streaming music that released me CDs. When I pasted a copy of Mandrake Linux on my Pentium computer in 1998, I saw the future of free paid software machines. When I look at bitcoin through the eyes of an indifferent programmer, I see numbers, hype and scams. But when I look at bitcoins through the eyes of someone who wants to grab the next big deal, I see the possibility that someday, in the not-too-distant future, banks and commerce will not be very different anymore .
All the other services and tools that I mentioned above are reaching their peak. It's all downhill from here. Bitcoin, to quote the Joker, is just starting to warm up.
Bitcoin is a slow engraving, which will take another five or ten years to really explode. And when it does, it will no longer be visible like Facebook or Netflix. It will not be a level removed from our browsers, hidden as invisible, like Linux. It will be rooted in our lives, in the interaction between our money and the world. It will be the currency used between humans and robots and between robots and robots. This will become so useful that it will go away.
Bitcoin is 11 years old. Where is he going? When will he win?
Raise your shoulders. We do not know. But, compared to all that preceded, there are few ways to stop bitcoin and a lot of energy to move it forward. It's just a matter of time.
Bitcoin Image 2014 via CoinDesk Archive