A few days ago, Bitcoin payment processor BitPay revealed some interesting statistics in regards to Bitcoin in 2014. Even though a ton of “news” and “reporting” has been done about the bitcoin price, there is much more to Bitcoin than just it’s monetary value. Where do people use Bitcoin the most? Is there more trading volume? Which companies started accepting bitcoin and is it available for everyone? The answers could surprise you.
Using Bitcoin – Focusing on Wrong Markets
If you have been keeping an eye on Bitcoin news in general, you may have noticed that we are seeing great success for Bitcoin adoption in the Western world. In fact, if you look at the top 5 Bitcoin countries in 2014, you will find the usual suspects there : Untied States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and The Netherlands. No surprised to be found in that list, by any means.
You have to ask yourself whether or not it is a good thing to see those countries in the top 5 though. In the Western world, we already have ample payment options, where Bitcoin will not make a big splash as everyday consumers simply won’t see the benefits of using bitcoin payments over traditional methods such as cash or credit & debit cards.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that I can buy pretty much anything in the world with bitcoin, but that’s only possible because I too in the Western world. For people in Asia and Africa, it is far more difficult to buy anything from a different continent and have it shipped there. This is not Bitcoin’s fault by any means, but it is those people who stand to benefit more from Bitcoin adoption in general.
Unfortunately for people living in Asia, none of the governments there is too keen on the digital currency world, and several countries, including China, have issued multiple warnings to not get involved with Bitcoin or altcoins. On the other hand, when you look at websites such as FiatLeak, most of the Bitcoin trading volume is heading to China regardless. So what are these people collecting Bitcoin for if they can’t spend it?
Note from the author : The obvious answer is “because they see it is as an investment vehicle”. Yes, I know. It was a rhetorical question.
Last but not least; there is one big continent that would love to embrace Bitcoin if they could, and that is Africa. People born,raised and living in Africa usually do not have access to bank accounts, and are subject to incredibly high remittance fees when sending or receiving money to and from other people. One of the many subjects coming to discussion is Western Union, whom pretty much dominate the remittance market in Africa.
Even though there is nearly no Bitcoin activity to speak of in Africa, except for some local initiatives in certain countries, things might change over the coming few months. After all, Africa’s first Bitcoin conference will be hosted in South Africa on April 16th & 17th. It will be interesting to see whether or not that conference will impact Bitcoin adoption in Africa in general.
New Companies Accepting Bitcoin in 2014
When it comes to talking about merchant adoption, many Bitcoin enthusiasts feel as if 2014 has been a breakthrough year. Granted, several major brands have started accepting bitcoin payments, such as Dell, overstock, Expedia, Microsoft, Paypal, Twitch, Greenpeace and Wikipedia. But how many of those companies are actually beneficial to the everyday consumer?
Let’s take Microsoft as an example. The announcement about them accepting Bitcoin was great news, and the first step of breaking grounds in the technology industry. After all, this would mean we could pay any Microsoft service or product in bitcoin. Huzzah! That is, if you live in the United States, as the rest of us simply can’t use bitcoin to pay for anything Microsoft related. When I want to purchase something from the Microsoft store as a European, I can only pay with credit cards or Paypal.
But wait, BrainTree lets you pay in Bitcoin when completing a Paypal transaction, that’s the solution! Well, no , it isn’t. While BrainTree has enabled the option to use Bitcoin as a Paypal payment method, Paypal merchants need to turn on this option themselves as well. So far, hardly anyone has done so. Plus, once again, this feature is only available for US merchants, leaving the rest of the world looking on from the outside.
If we take a look at companies accepting bitcoin payments on a global scale, the options are far and few between. Expedia is one of those companies, although they have had their fair share of issues with handling bitcoin payments already, leading to double booking of flights and refunds taking a few weeks to complete. Not the best of starts, but you can chalk that up as growing pains.
And what about a company called Global Payments? Surely they must work internationally? And to an extent, yes, they do, even though their services are only available in a dozen different regions. However, Global Payments is available in the Asia Pacific region, so they have that going for them. Definitely a company to keep an eye on in the future.
Other than that, there is good old Wikipedia, source of many articles related to topics I never thought would interest me in the first place. It is amazing how much time you can spend on Wikipedia when looking up one thing, and finding yourself still browsing pages on a completely unrelated topic 3 hours later. Then again, you can use Bitcoin as a donation method only, so that’s not worth as much to most people as it should be.
Universal Venture Capitalist Funds Dwindling
The final point I want to touch on is venture capitalist funding. Even though there is an overall increase in funding, there is one area that concerns me the most. “Universal” projects, as in projects that anyone and everyone can benefit from, have seen their VC investments nearly cut in half in 2014, as numbers dropped from US$40.5m in 2013 to US$25.4m in 2014.
Most of the VC money is going into services such as payment processors (which will hopefully include expanding to regions where there is a far bigger demand for a Bitcoin alternative), Mining (don’t even get me started), Financial Services (which will hopefully benefit people in Africa, South America and Asia too at some point) and Bitcoin Wallets.
It is clear that Bitcoin has had a great year in 2014, but there are a lot of things left to improve. For instance, where efforts should be focused. Secondly, which areas of the Bitcoin aspect that need more funding, especially EDUCATION. Lastly, expanding available services to a global scale.