Bitcoin is no longer the new kid at school. It's now been ten years since the first block was mined, handing out a reward of no less than 50 bitcoins (nearly $280,000 in today's money.) So that should be long enough for people to have got to grips with the idea and understood what Bitcoin can, can't, and won't do.
It hasn't quite worked out that way though. Talk to people about cryptocurrencies, and you still get looks of confusion and unrealistic expectations. Here are four things people are still getting wrong about Bitcoin:
If It's Gone Quiet, It's Gone Away
Look at the search trends for "Bitcoin" on Google, and you see a generally flat line until the end of 2017, followed by a huge spike as the dollar price jumped towards $20,000. That spike then falls so that most of 2018 and 2019 have been relatively flat.
The press have stopped talking about Bitcoin so if that's the only place you encounter it, then you could be forgiven for thinking it's disappeared.
It's done nothing of the sort. It's just become less newsworthy... which is what a currency is supposed to do. The press aren't talking about Bitcoin because it's no longer rocketing to crazy prices. Instead, it's just doing its thing: holding value, being exchanged, and growing in use.
The Only Measure of Bitcoin's Success is a High Dollar Price
Bitcoin hasn't yet returned to the heights it reached at the end of 2017--and that's fine too because success for Bitcoin is nothing to do with its price. In fact, if the dollar price of Bitcoin rises too high too quickly, as it did in 2017, it stops working as a currency. Customers hold onto it, expecting it to rise in value, and businesses can't price their goods in it. The measure of Bitcoin's success isn't its dollar price, high or low. It's the number of people who own it and the number of transactions in which it's used. By that measure, with more than $16 billion worth of Bitcoin circulated every day, the currency is doing just fine.
People Will Spend Bitcoin Like Cash
The absence of Bitcoin notes and coins that can be used in stores has nothing to do with the popularity of Bitcoin. The currency was never intended to be physical. It was meant to be used on the Internet, to make international transactions or to move value from one digital platform to another. China has already largely moved away from a cash economy; even local grocery stores there expect customers to pay by scanning the QR code on their mobile phones. That's exactly how Bitcoin is supposed to be used too.
You won't be reaching into your pocket or digging down the back of your sofa to pull out your Bitcoin change. But you can expect to be flashing your phone to pay with it, even when you're just buying a can of soda.
Bitcoin Will Have a Sudden Breakout
Bitcoin's big breakout has already happened. Whatever huge surge of attention the currency was going to win came at the end of 2017. The decline in price since then shook off many of the speculators. What we're left with now isn't a sudden burst of new entrants, pushing the price up in one giant burst. Instead, we have a gradual take-up that is slowly normalizing Bitcoin and its use.
That's where we are now, and it's exactly the right place for Bitcoin to be.