The future of money is a decentralised, unregulated, completely digital currency. I feel like the only thing that anyone’s talking about now is bitcoin.
Bitcoin ATMs, the
Silk Road shutdown, the man who just
bought a house with his long-forgotten bitcoin investment.
It reminds me of the BitTorrent protocol. At its core, an innovative and efficient standard, BitTorrent started life as an exciting way to share files – but quickly spiralled into a copyright-infringers dream. Soon after it became mainstream, cyber-pirates
used it to distribute copyrighted films, music and software.
Now bitcoin faces the same problem – a standard with so much potential, tarnished by revelations of underground drug-distribution networks, money laundering, extreme and unpredictable
value fluctuations and its complex relationship with financial regulators and government.
Uncertainty is one reason why bitcoin hasn't exploded – regulator and consumer. It doesn't help that while some governments send out a
knee-jerk reaction to the currency, others openly
acknowledge it. This mixed bag of responses heightens the confusion and mystery surrounding the currency, ultimately holding it back from public acceptance.
These reactions aren't unfounded, though. The volatility of bitcoin makes it a risky investment and damages its credibility as a viable currency.
At the end of last year one bitcoin traded at $13.30. Today one bitcoin will set you back $214. A 466% gain in value in just under a year. Compare this to the USD/EUR rate which has fluctuated less than 10% in a year – and you can imagine the problems bitcoin
poses as a viable retail currency.
They say that any publicity is good publicity – and I believe it's true for bitcoin too. All the bad raps only highlight what a disruptive force a digital currency could be right now. In an environment where the remittance market is
growing bigger than anyone’s wildest dreams, where interchange fees are starting to
feel like a cartel and when even the European Central Bank is
starting to worry about everyone dawdling towards SEPA migration deadlines – it feels like the industry in need of a shakeup. Or is it a revolution?