After 10 years of existence, the question of whether or not the mass adoption of cryptocurrency has been started is still debated in the space. We reached out to experts in the crypto and blockchain industries, asking them their opinions about the meaning of mass adoption relating to crypto.
Since its inception in January 2009, Bitcoin’s (BTC) popularity has been increasing, peaking in December 2017 when the leading cryptocurrency’s price hit record highs around $20,000 per coin and dropped back down.
Banks and giant retailers, social media and tech behemoths, crypto liquidity, the institutional investors’ involvement, the role of governments and national central banks – what could possibly force the start of crypto’s mass adoption?
Mass adoption of cryptocurrency: What does that mean?
Mass adoption needs to be specified according to the specific use case. Mass adoption as a store of value is different from mass adoption as a payment method, or mass adoption of smart contracts, or NFTs [nonfungible tokens], etc.
While we aren’t at mass adoption of any of these categories yet, we are certainly past the point of “mass awareness” in at least a couple.
The majority of people, in the U.S. at least, have heard of Bitcoin, and from rough estimates, perhaps 2-5% of Americans have used it. When that surpasses maybe 10%, then mass adoption has truly begun.
Joshua Ashley Klayman, Linklaters LLP, U.S. head of fintech and of blockchain and digital assets
First, in my view, there is a distinction between digital assets generally and cryptocurrency specifically. For purposes of my response, I’m going to focus on cryptocurrency – specifically, the use of crypto assets for payments.
Mass adoption of cryptocurrency would mean that use of cryptocurrency would become ordinary course, and no longer a point of discussion, just as mere use or acceptance of fiat would not prompt headlines. Upon mass adoption, so-called “crypto-native” companies potentially may be viewed as “normal” technology companies and would be able to obtain bank accounts and traditional financing.
In order for us to say that mass adoption of crypto has begun, in my view, individuals need to be able to access, purchase, hold and use cryptocurrencies without having to understand what a digital asset is, just as nontechnically sophisticated people can use cell phones without understanding how they work. For that, user experience needs to be enhanced, and scaling needs to be addressed.
Just as importantly, there must be meaningful opportunities in everyday life to pay for goods and services using cryptocurrency, which means that individuals and businesses must be willing to accept cryptocurrency as payment for such goods and services. For that to occur within the United States and in other nations, and across borders, we need to have clear paths forward legally that enable businesses and individuals to transact using crypto.
Cristina Dolan, founder and CEO at InsideChains, vice chair at MIT Enterprise Forum
A number of stages are required for mass adoption of cryptocurrencies to take place. The first stage was awareness, which the hyper-innovation stage of the ICO [initial coin offering] craze kicked off.
The next is institutional adoption, which Libra is working on to pave the way (with its army of lobbyists) to enable institutional, political and regulatory acceptance.
The next phase will require a seamless end-to-end experience for users and institutions to transact, where the user doesn’t have to deal with awkward conversions into an acceptable currency at the point of exchange.
Enabling the last mile will require a mix of well architected user experiences, technologies and institutional acceptance. This will facilitate the creation of marketplaces for digital assets, digital securities and other digitized value including data.
Today, there are many institutions pursuing early B2B [business-to-business] and B2B2C [business-to-business-to-customer] models that utilize a digital tokens of some kind on private network utilizing a variety of different blockchain technologies.
One key ingredient for mass adoption is liquidity, and yet there are currently few marketplaces with the volume and engagement required to provide the efficiencies and liquidity needed.
Shailee Adinolfi, Director of government blockchain solutions at ConsenSys
Mass adoption means governments globally have created an enabling environment for blockchain and cryptocurrency to flourish or adopted the technology in their own practices, whether it’s blockchain-as-a-service for intergovernmental transactions, BTC or ETH-based futures contracts or central bank-issued digital currencies.
We are seeing promising signs of early adoption by governments – for example, Project Khokha with the South African Reserve Bank and Project Ubin with the Monetary Authority of Singapore – but more broadly, policy is lagging behind.
Oliver von Landsberg Sadie, CEO and co-founder of BCB Group
When we attempt to project the growth of the cryptocurrency industry, we see three distinct market segments, each of which will have its own adoption curve. In an organic adoption cycle, the man on the street discovers a great idea and spreads the word, accelerating adoption in the retail segment.
Businesses take note and seek to monetize the opportunity, and so we see the growth of adoption in the commercial segment. As this spreads, financial institutions like banks and payments businesses consolidate industry-wide solutions and lay down the bedrock for efficient global service, and this drives adoption in the institutional segment.
This pattern is playing out with textbook accuracy in cryptocurrency markets. In the beginning, cryptocurrency was the preserve of technophiles and mathematicians, until it found a foothold as a medium of exchange and later as a vehicle of financial speculation in the retail segment.
Businesses like brokerages, exchanges and payment services sprang up to better service this market. Today, we have major institutions like Fidelity, JPMorgan and other headline-grabbers all servicing parts of the cryptocurrency value chain at a global level.
With all three segments now on the adoption curve, we are beyond the inflection point of mass adoption.