Hey everyone, it’s Whatever Wednesdays again. Whatever Wednesdays is mostly “Crypto Wednesdays” these days. Today I want to talk about Crypto Mass Adoption.
Crypto Mass Adoption?
Currently, cryptocurrency as it stands today is little more than a niche market. Yes, it has grown by leaps and bounds since its early days when Satoshi Nakamoto was mining things by himself/herself/themselves. However, in the grand scheme of things, it is still in its infancy.
So the question I wanted to explore today is when (if ever) will Crypto see Mass Adoption?
Well, before we go down that road, let’s look at a prior example:
Today, the internet is pretty much everywhere, and is readily accessible. In the palm of our hands are little computers with a ridiculous amount of processing power called smartphones. Let’s go back in time to when I was a young boy and computers were not very common. The me from the 1990s could have only dreamed of something that powerful.
Bulletin Board Systems
My dad had a computer and I learned how to use his. Later on, I got my own computer and my own modem. This opened up a new world to me called BBS, also known as Bulletin Board Systems. I am dating myself here, but back in that time, these were essentially the precursors to the “real Internet”, “the internet before the internet”. You would dial in to BBS operators (SysOp) and basically join a forum. The interface was essentially a command line interface with any “graphics” essentially just being colorized upper ASCII (ANSI). Here’s a good article on it:
The Lost Civilization of Dial-Up Bulletin Board Systems – The Atlantic
Back in that time, there was a game called LORD, also known as Legend of the Red Dragon. This game was basically just a text-based RPG (later it got some RIP graphics), but it did something that was very interesting, for the time. You couldn’t just play the game forever. You could only kill a certain number of monsters a day. This placed a limit on what you could do everyday, and required you to log in the next day, and the day after that, and so on. It’s very, very similar to how the current freemium smartphone games work — except now you can just “pay” for “more time” in a pay2win manner.
Here’s the thing, the majority of people, and probably most of the kids my age probably had no idea that BBS ever existed. The truth is, the interface was clunky generally being a command line interface, and it was difficult for the majority of people to understand the value that BBS brought. However, you have to understand that the power to connect people was what made BBS special.
The next generation was America Online. I can only imagine how many CDs were printed giving hours away for free. Also in this generation were Compuserve and Prodigy. However, I think America Online is probably the face of this stage of the Internet.
What was so different about America Online?
Well, it’s user interface, although ugly and clunky by today’s standards, was fresh and user friendly for the 1990s. It made it easy for anyone to get online. In general I would say a lot of people first understood the power of the internet from going through America Online. Access to all the information of the Internet through America Online’s “Webcrawler”, before moving on to Yahoo Search, etc. More so than that, there was a general sense of “trust” related to America Online with its “sandbox” approach to the internet. There were online moderators who you could ask for help, and there was a sense of protection from “hackers”. These “hackers” were for the most part just script kiddies using programs like AOHell, in an attempt to phish passwords or credit card numbers.
After America Online, access to the internet became more wide spread with people getting cable internet and DSL service packages. Kids went to college with its ubiquitous internet access and came home on vacations to get their parents hooked up. The need for a “portal” to the internet became unnecessary. As such, America Online declined.
Nowadays, people don’t even think about how their internet works. They just turn on their computers and double click on Google Chrome and go. My daughter and my son will probably have no idea about what a BBS is/was or the era that was America Online. The history doesn’t, won’t, and shouldn’t matter to them.
Ok, so why the history lesson then?
While the history of the internet doesn’t matter to them, it’s still important, and I think parallels between the internet and crypto have, can, and will continue to be drawn. The reason for this is because they are true paradigm shifts — at least I think so.
In its current state, I think crypto is like the BBS systems I talked about above. There is this small group who use it and they recognize its underlying potential, but no one believes them yet. More so than not believing them, they can’t be bothered to deal with learning about it — yet.
I don’t think that the rest of the world is suddenly going to “wake up” tomorrow and say “crypto is the future”. People are not going to all of the sudden start hiding their private keys and have 10 Hardware Wallets in order to safeguard themselves. A transition from this “small group” to “mass adoption” needs to take place.
Crypto needs an “America Online”.
Prior to mass adoption, we need something that demonstrates the power of cryptocurrency while still being easy to use for the masses. As it stands now, Crypto is very user UNfriendly:
Welcome to Crypto, here’s your exchange account which took a few weeks to get you verified. Make sure you use 2FA so you don’t get hacked. Don’t leave your crypto on an exchange or you might get hacked there too. Keep your crypto on a hardware wallet which costs like $100. Don’t send your crypto to the wrong address or you’ll have lost it forever. Here’s your 24 word passphrase for your hardware wallet. Don’t forget it or you can’t recover it and you’ll lose your crypto forever. Also, don’t keep your passphrase on your computer because that might get hacked too. And so on.
Not exactly the most welcoming environment.
Considering that crypto prides itself on “security”, it doesn’t feel that secure does it? Well, the reason for that is because there’s give and take here. If you want to take responsibility for your money, then there are no shortcuts, you have to take responsibility. One of the reason that banks and credit cards can exist is because people don’t want to take responsibility. If I lose my debit card or credit card, or I get hacked or whatever, I can call up my bank or credit card company and have them reverse the charges usually.
In crypto, there is no one to reverse the charges for you.
Its your money — your responsibility — your fault.
So education is necessary.
So what needs to happen for Mass Adoption?
I think two separate things need to happen.
- One is that people need to become so sick of how their financial institutions operate that they are willing to take responsibility for their own money.
- Two is that onboarding and ease of use of cryptocurrency must become much better.
For this reason, I believe we will see mass adoption first in countries which have the technology available to them with a savvy enough population and are their wit’s end with either their current economy or financial institutions (hyper inflation). This places would include Venezeula and Ethiopia, to name a few.
It is for that reason that I believe in projects like Ripple (XRP) and Cardano (ADA), but for different reasons:
Ripple, although hated by crypto purists for “siding with the banks” — I think it will become Crypto’s “America Online” — building trust in a technology that people are wary of. Of course, America Online had to eventually go under in order for true mass adoption to occur, but I think Ripple plans to adapt when that time comes. It only takes one institution to trust Ripple in order to build from there. This is an “inside out” approach.
Cardano is really trying to appeal to places where banks don’t currently have any power. This equates to “banking the unbanked”, giving these people the benefits of banking without having to rely on a bank, and to use cryptocurrency instead. Their plans to educate in Barbados, Ethiopia, etc. are very long term, but necessary. Once they get big enough, the banks will be forced to deal with them. This is an “outside in” approach.
I’m not sure which will work — but I think some form of both will be necessary for Crypto Mass Adoption to take place. If not, then crypto will never leave the world of BBS.
When will this happen?
No one can predict the future, but I think a reasonable estimate is 5-10 years.
Let’s split the difference and say 7 years — so 2025 or so.
Don’t quote me on that though — future predictions are usually wrong and hindsight is always 20/20.
Before the internet was internet, there were BBS and America Online.
We’re currently in the “BBS” phase for Cryptocurrency.
For Crypto Mass Adoption, we need an “America Online” and:
- People wanting to take responsibility for their own money.
- Better onboarding and ease of use.
If we don’t do the above, crypto will never leave the world of “BBS” and never see Mass Adoption.
Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.
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