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What Makes Blockchain or Cryptocurrency “Mainstream”?

What Makes Blockchain or Cryptocurrency "Mainstream" and Have we Arrived?

‘Mainstream’ is a term used throughout blockchain, cryptocurrency, and indeed for many technologies, but everyone has a hard time pinning down what it means. So at what point could blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies be classified as “mainstream,” or more the “norm,” rather than new or emerging?

Blockchain technology seems to be permeating every industry and is beginning to be seen as a “must-have” for companies in certain sectors, like finance, trade and logistics, and anywhere transactions occur.

Cryptocurrencies are still operating mostly within their own niche of exchanges, most often seen as an asset or investment class. Though the use of cryptocurrency transactions and payments is increasing, price volatility and the lack of regulatory protection is still deterring wider use. Cryptocurrency adoption appears to be behind that of blockchain.

Quantifying mainstream

“Mainstream” is difficult to quantify. A rough mark could be 50% of sector participants utilizing blockchain or cryptocurrency in some way. These new emerging technologies and monies are often compared to the emergence and growth of the internet.

The internet was at first debunked, then adopted in certain niches like research, universities, and at corporate level, then the internet became mainstream with the advent of user-friendly and functional services.

Author Shane Greenstein pitches 50% as a benchmark for internet adoption, estimating that the internet achieved “mainstream” among researchers by 1989, in Silicon Valley by 1995 and in US households by 2001.

Considering that blockchain, despite powering cryptocurrencies, is also leaping ahead and away from them in terms of adoption, the two could broadly be judged separately.

% of population using cryptocurrencies

In Canada, the Bank of Canada reported in July 2018 that around 5% of Canadian’s owned Bitcoin, an increase from 2.9% in 2016. The figure for USA ownership of cryptocurrencies is around 8% and in Japan a survey of male employees between the ages of 25 and 30 showed 14% invested in cryptocurrency.

% of companies using blockchain technology

A PwC survey published in August 2018 found of 600 companies in 15 territories a massive 84% of the executives asked confirmed their companies were “actively involved” in blockchain technology.

A report by Forbes in July 2018 looked at the largest 50 companies known to be investigating blockchain and found that all ten of the largest companies in the world were looking into blockchain.

Deloitte’s 2018 Global Blockchain Survey found 36% of Canadian companies had blockchain plans in production and a further 48% would begin adopting blockchain in the next calendar year. Out of all other regions globally only the U.S has a lower current adoption rate of blockchain at 14%.

% of countries that have accepted digital currency as part of the economy and moved to regulate it in some way

Global government acceptance of cryptocurrencies is hard to quantify. Research by the Law Library of Congress published in June 2018 indicates that 25 countries have absolute or implicit bans on digital currency. Taking the 195 countries around the world, this equates to around 13% of countries that could be classified as not accepting cryptocurrencies.

We could, broadly speaking, classify countries moving to regulate cryptocurrencies in some way as accepting the new currencies as part of their economies. The Law Library’s reporting shows that 33 countries have either applied tax laws, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing laws, or both. As a percentage this is around 17%.

% of users of Dapps

Decentralized applications (Dapps), built on blockchain technology, could form a significant part of the future of the decentralized internet and everyday technology usage.

Considering the advent of blockchain, and news of many Dapps in development, it’s interesting to consider how many are in use to date. The answer right now is barely any.

Most Dapps are being built on the Ethereum blockchain. DappRadar, a monitoring site, finds that of 968 applications, 24 hour user volume is sitting at around 13,593. In comparison, Facebook alone has around 1.47 billion daily users.

% of retailers accepting digital currency as a payment method

Retail adoption is another statistic that indicates cryptocurrencies may have a long way to go. Retailers are still very shy of cryptocurrencies due to the lack of regulation, the lack of consistency in regulation globally and the volatility of cryptocurrency prices.

Bloomberg, citing Internet Retailer statistics, reported recently that only 3 out of 500 top online retailers accept Bitcoin. Japan leads the way in retail acceptance of Bitcoin with thousands of stores and restaurants accepting the cryptocurrency as a payment method.

Blockchain could be approaching mainstream adoption, cryptocurrencies not yet

Taking the broad statistics above as a loose understanding of ‘mainstream’, it’s looking like blockchain is well on its way to mainstream adoption, at least in commerce and enterprise. For the general public, the use of Dapps may end up being a strong indicator of ‘mainstream’ use – since Dapps are some of the most consumer-facing elements of blockchain technology – and this is where blockchain has yet to advance.

Cryptocurrencies still have a long way to go for mainstream adoption, held back by a lack of regulation, government acceptance, and retail use. As governments and regulators decide exactly what to do about cryptocurrencies, and a global consensus on standards and use is reached, ‘mainstream’ could become more of a reality.

The much quicker acceptance of blockchain as a technology, considering the number of native coins to existing blockchains, may also in the future spur further use and exploration of cryptocurrencies in financial systems and elsewhere.


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