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Bitcoin: all hype and bluster or a brave new world

The biggest question about Bitcoin is whether it’s really important or just a bubble that’s about to burst.

Advocates would obviously claim the former and critics the latter, and both have some substance.

On the advocate’s side, the economy is in its early days and, like any new form of commerce, will have its challenges.  The greatest of these is government resistance.  Governments, along with media, have labelled Bitcoin as an economy that fuels the drug trade, terrorism, money laundering and illicit crimes.

Much of this spawned from the website Silk Road, which has now been shut down, but any torrent-based web service in the Dark Web can see that Bitcoin is of value, as it’s the nearest thing to cash that’s out  there.

As a virtually anonymous currency, it fuels illegal activities.

The advocates would defend their position by first saying that Bitcoin’s are not truly anonymous. They can be tracked and traced as every Bitcoin movement is logged with an IP address exchange to show who sold what to whom.

The advocates would also say that Bitcoin is similar to cash, so do you make cash illegal?  No.  And like anything in the world of trade and technology, there are always some people out there who will use innovation for crime.  Just as cybercriminals, launderers and paedophiles use the Dark Web to satisfy their needs, they will use methods of exchange in that network that work to satisfy them.  That may be Bitcoin but, when Bitcoin did not exist, it was just as easy to use barter, gold, virtual accounts and other forms of value exchange to satisfy them.  You don’t shut down the internet just because illegal activities take place on it, so why would you shut down Bitcoin just because some people use it for illegal activity?

The arguments rage on and on, with governments accusing Bitcoin of being used for tax avoidance.  Again, that may be true, but tax avoidance is legal.  Tax evasion is not.  The real issue that government faces is that Bitcoin can be used to move monies without government control.  That’s the real reason they’re worried. Maybe they should be or, maybe, they should think about taxing in other forms.  Rather than directly taxing income, tax consumption.  Tax everyday usage of everyday services.  Tax in a different way.

In other words, according to the advocates, Bitcoin Is going to succeed in spite of government blocks, so live with it.  That is why we are seeing governments around the world struggling with Bitcoin.  Some are advising that it is not used at all (Thailand), some see it as tradable instrument (Germany), others question its legitimacy (USA) and one is starting to see it as the citizen’s choice of stored value (China).

Whatever pans out in the governmental debate, the bottom-line is that a digital currency is here, and the natural question to follow is: is it here to stay?

That’s where the real focus should be: not on whether Bitcoin is a bubble about to burst, but more upon what will be the digital currency of choice for the future.

Today, Bitcoin is a virtual economy worth just over $12 billion.  A year ago, it was worth a billion.  Next year, it could be worth $100 billion.  In five years, $1 trillion.

That is the core question: is Bitcoin the one?

There will be ‘the one’, so is Bitcoin it?

That’s where I’m not so sure.

I know that Bitcoin is a great whirlwind ride, and that folks are making a quick buck out of it, but is this the real cryptocurrency for the next generation?

Is it the new Visa?

I don’t know.

After all there are an awful lot of other cryptocurrencies out there, and their values are all bobbling up and down rapidly. 



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$ 104,016

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In other words, the real point of Bitcoin is that it is leading the rise of a new generation of finance.  A generation that is based upon digital exchange and fit for the network age.

Similar to a decade ago, when PayPal was processing a few million and had competition from big banks (Citibank’s C2it), big players (Western Union’s PayingFast), as well as new entrants such as  ProPay and BidPay (that latter also acquired by Western Union), one dominant player will eventually arise.

Is that Bitcoin?

Or, like MySpace was usurped by Facebook and Yahoo! by Google, will there be another, better model out there?

Some say there already is. https://ripple.com/guide


This is part of a three part series on Bitcoin this week:

Part One: The relationship between Bitcoin and Mount Everest

We were talking about Bitcoin yesterday at the Financial Services Club Vienna, and there was a great dialogue about the difficulties of buying and then using Bitcoins. I’ll talk more about the practicalities and details of that conversation later this…

Part Two: What is this thing called Bitcoin?

Some of us know the numbers. If you’d invested $1,000 in Bitcoins in summer 2011, you would be sitting on around $500,000 today. That’s because we didn’t invest $1,000 in summer 2011. Nevertheless, some of us did invest $1,000 in…

Part Three: Bitcoin: all hype and bluster or a brave new world

The biggest question about Bitcoin is whether it’s really important or just a bubble that’s about to burst. Advocates would obviously claim the former and critics the latter, and both have some substance. On the advocate’s side, the economy is…

About Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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