Sometimes it makes sense to step back and assess the big picture, else you can get mired in the daily details and become depressed or listless. Bitcoin is not dying; in fact, it’s doing just fine. The news has recently been full of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), and it’s time to remind everybody of how far we’ve come this year.
What are we so afraid of?
The market has been jittery lately with rumors afoot about what China may or may not do. Those who have been involved in digital currencies for awhile like to joke: “Did China ban Bitcoin again?” Every few months, news comes out that implies China has banned Bitcoin and a minor panic sometimes follows. In retrospect, the perennial Chinese Bitcoin bans have always been much less serious than advertised. Obviously they have never been full bans, and even the restrictions placed on Bitcoin by the government have been able to be worked around.
The biggest news of late is two-fold, and has led to a third rumor. First, the truth. Yes, China has banned initial coin offerings (ICOs). Additionally, yes, China has ordered the shutdown of Bitcoin exchanges in the country. Whether these two “bans” will be permanent or merely placeholders for future regulation remains uncertain.
Now for the rumor. The Internet has been swirling with tales of people who know other people (and so on) who said that China is going to ban Bitcoin mining. This has definitely contributed to some fear in the marketplace. While China’s exchanges represent only about a fifth of the Bitcoin traded globally (down from over 90% a year ago), the vast majority of Bitcoin mining does in fact take place in China.
A government crackdown on exchanges is bad, but not catastrophic. On the other hand, should China’s government order the shutdown (or worse, nationalization) of Bitcoin miners, it would deal the network a solid blow.
From magic Internet money to legal currency
Probably the biggest news of the year was the decision by South Korea and Japan to legalize Bitcoin and other digital currencies, officially classifying them as money. Markets in these two countries have boomed as a result, with Korea’s Bithumb and Japan’s bitFlyer consistently near the top in terms of Bitcoin exchange volume. The best part of that? Besides the new markets that legalization has opened, a huge percentage of Bitcoin’s trading volume shifted away from China as a result.
Links to mainstream financial markets
LedgerX was recently approved by the US Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to create a regulated Bitcoin futures market. Such a market will make it easier for institutional investors to receive exposure to Bitcoin. Additionally, the SEC had hinted in their rejection of the Winklevoss exchange traded fund (ETF) that they might reconsider if regulated futures markets are created. An ETF approval, if we get there, would be absolutely enormous.
Who isn’t running a blockchain trial?
Cointelegraph has reported on countless Fortune 500 companies, many of them global powerhouses, that are experimenting with Blockchain. From Walmart to Microsoft to IBM to banks and even government, Blockchain technology is everywhere. While it’s true that this technology can be adopted without necessarily affecting the price of Bitcoin, it’s unlikely the world will soon forget Blockchain’s original use case: Bitcoin.
Celebrities like Floyd Mayweather and Paris Hilton have recently backed projects that deal with digital currency. Okay, I know, these people aren’t exactly Milton Friedman. At the same time, the influence of celebrities with tens of millions of followers cannot be ignored. The world is full of people who follow every move their favorite celebrity makes.
Burger King? Seriously?
Of all the stories about digital currency and Blockchain that have come out lately, the story of WhopperCoin is one of my favorite. As ridiculous as it sounds, this could be really important. Burger King Russia has announced the creation of its own digital token called “WhopperCoin” which will presumably be used as a reward token rather than a currency.
While this sounds like insignificant news, one must remember that the more people are exposed to digital currency/tokens, the more receptive they will be to Bitcoin and other “serious” projects. If we can get digital currency in ordinary people’s hands through schemes like this, it familiarizes them with the concept and makes them more receptive to Bitcoin and other currencies in the future.
On bad news and bubbles
Yes, there has been a spate of bad news lately. China bans. Bankers denouncing Bitcoin. Calls of bubbles abound. I don’t know what the immediate future holds. The price of Bitcoin could keep falling, or it might reverse course and achieve new highs. We are likely in a bubble, yes, but we could be near the beginning of the bubble just as easily as the end.
In any event, it’s virtually certain that digital currency is here to stay. It may happen sooner or may happen later, but the world is changing digital currencies will play a big role in that change.
By David Dinkins