Vassilis asks, “Will there ever be a time when
bitcoin can be used as everyday currency?”
“What does it take for this to happen? Is it
worth investing in such business solutions?”
Vasilis, I think yes. I think that bitcoin (BTC)
can be used as an everyday currency.
But in order to do that, two things need to happen.
Volatility needs to be reduced to a level that allows
people to plan spending and not be freaked out by…
sudden changes in the price /
exchange rate / value of bitcoin.
For that, it takes more liquidity, more
adoption, more volume of transactions.
The bigger bitcoin gets, the lower the volatility gets.
The more traders, users, and merchants participate,
the [greater] the volume of transactions,
the more liquidity, and the lower the volatility gets.
The second thing, of course, is various scaling solutions
to make it possible to transact at lower fee rates.
At the moment, the fees on the Bitcoin network [can]
make it very difficult to use for small retail transactions.
[It is] mostly suitable to use for large value transactions.
There are a number of possible
solutions that are in play right now.
Including increasing the block size,
which we saw with Bitcoin Cash.
Second-layer networks and the
implementation of Segregated Witness…
open the door for a lot of alternative
solutions, such as sidechains, etc.
Lightning Network is in interoperability testing.
[Wallets should be appearing] and usable on the
main net, at least for beta-testing, pretty soon.
“Is it worth investing in business solutions
around retail, everyday currency use of bitcoin?”
Honestly, not yet. We’ve seen a number of companies
that have tried to base their business plan on enabling…
small amount, retail transactions for bitcoin,
and they are struggling with that business model.
In some cases, they are the same companies
that are demanding a block size increase…
to make their business model work, even if that comes
at the cost of more centralisation of Bitcoin nodes.
At the moment, it’s really not [practical] to do
those types of small retail transactions.
If you base a business around that, you’re going
to have a lot of difficulty making that work.
I think there are a lot more promising
opportunities in building basic infrastructure.
That means: on-ramps and off-ramps, payment systems,
exchanges (preferably decentralised and grassroots),
trading [bitcoin] with other cryptocurrencies, as well
as fiat and for cash [that are] person-to-person.
Things like bitcoin ATMs that allow
people to access bitcoin easily.
Better wallets that do fee management, fee estimation, that have the capability to adjust fees…
with things like replace-by-fee (RBF)
and child-pays-for-parent (CPFP).
All of these kinds of technologies.
The boring but necessary infrastructure stuff is
more important, at this point, than retail sales.
Drew asks, “In 2013, it was ‘banking
the unbanked,’ ‘the other six billion.'”
“Now transaction fees are much higher than the
average daily wage of these people. Is this vision dead?”
Absolutely not. It is not dead. It will be achieved.
It will be achieved through a combination of
multiple technologies, but it will take time.
We are still in the very early stages of this technology.
In these very early stages, the financial conditions
have not yet achieved the types of economies of scale…
that we expect to see over time.
We are not yet in the optimization phase,
we are still in the exploration phase.
[This is] a bit like saying in the 1980s: ‘One day, cellular
telephones will change the lives of farmers in Kenya.”
People would look at you like you’re a crazy person;
at that point, in order to install a cellular telephone,
you also needed a car, because the equipment
was installed in a car. It was too heavy to carry.
It took several years before it was small enough to be
a suitcase sized thing that somebody else carried,
and several more years before it was a brick that
you [held] next to your ear, [with a] massive antenna.
The cost of a phone call was so expensive it brought
tears to my eyes every time I used a cellular telephone,
which I did in 1990.
It was a giant brick, didn’t have any battery life, and cost
a ridiculous amount of money to make a phone call.
In fact, I hoped no one would call me because I had
to pay for incoming calls too, at a ridiculous rate.
Does that mean that vision of everyone having
a cellphone was dead? Absolutely not.
Over the years, we saw the economy of scale kick in.
The software got better, the hardware got better,
the protocols and optimizations got better;
now you have a $5-10 phone that can be charged…
off a solar panel, costs almost nothing to
operate, and also has other functionality.
We are going to [build] systems that are more efficient
than today’s banking system, more efficient than Visa,
that can do orders of magnitude more
transactions, at a fraction of the cost.
The marginal cost of [the average]
transaction will trend towards zero.
We can’t do that on the base blockchain,
but we can do it with a combination of…
scaling the base blockchain, second layer
solutions, sidechains, and various other things.
Maybe some of which we
haven’t even come up with yet.
Most the innovations that are going to be required
haven’t yet been invented, but I wouldn’t count them out.
“Which stage of grief are the banks at these days?”
Bargaining. They are flip-flopping from “this is
stupid internet money that doesn’t mean anything,”
to “Bitcoin will destroy the planet
after it crashes the world economy,”
“it is used by criminals and terrorists trying to destablise
the very foundation of our moral and effective society.”
Bargaining, anger, somewhere between there.
At the same time, they are touting “blockchain.”
They’re pointing at more benign, less
offensive and more centralised versions.
[Saying, for example,] “we hate Bitcoin because
it is full of terrorists, but we love Ripple!”
Great. That’s bargaining.