Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bitcoin: Where does it go from here?

So you've heard about Bitcoins. Since its boom in April 2013, Bitcoins have garnered immense media attention and continued to show impressive strength, rising steadily and finally breaking the $200 psychological barrier today. Even the recent Silk Road closure couldn't dampen the demand for Bitcoins, as prices continued to rally after Baidu (the Google of China) announced its acceptance of Bitcoins as a payment mode.
The popularity of Bitcoins can be attributed to two characteristics of the currency; it is decentralized, and there is a finite amount of bitcoins that can be mined. As such, Bitcoins are very often said to be similar to be Gold. These two characteristics can be said to give Bitcoins their perceived value.
However, the question on everyone's mind is, what gives Bitcoins their intrinsic value (See a Reddit discussion on Bitcoin's intrinsic value here)? As a relatively new commodity that is still in its infancy stage, there have been attempts by a large number of parties to predict it's price, and to reason its market fluctuations with existing Economic theories. However, in attempting to analyse the Cryptocurrency market, we must keep in mind its infancy, and hence the significance of non-economic factors. The real problem is not what the price will be, but whether or not Bitcoin will even be here in five, ten years from now. The question we should be asking then, should be, what factors determine the viability of Bitcoins as an alternative currency?
In my opinion, the most important factor driving the demand of Bitcoins is its adoption by corporations. Basically, the more companies accept Bitcoins as payment for products and services, the better it will be for Bitcoin's future. However, this can turn into a chicken-and-egg issue, because corporations will never consider transacting in Bitcoins because of its instability. Until Bitcoins find a stable price, it is highly unlikely that this will happen. As MeldrumLaw pointed out in this Reddit discussion, "Bitcoin needs to stabilize (or all fiat alternatives need to simultaneously collapse) before widespread commercial adoption occurs."
It is true that Bitcoins have no intrinsic value, in the numismatic sense. Yes, Bitcoins solve some algorithmic problems through the mining process. However, these computations do not generate any kind of useful data, or solve any real life problems; there is a lack of "useful" input/output in solving alogorithms. Cryptocurrency needs to be more "useful" and solve a problem, in the same way that Duolingo translates the web while allowing users to learn a new language. With this in mind, I believe that a new cryptocurrency will emerge and overshadow Bitcoin, that actually solves a real world problem or generate useful data from all the computational data used. Imagine what could happen if Google is currently working on their own decentralized cryptocurrency?
Bitcoin prices skyrocketed during the financial crisis in Cyrpus as a result of people's distrust in FIAT currency and an increasing demand for an ungoverned and limited alternative.  Coupled with the large (and growing) number of services built around Bitcoins, I believe that Bitcoins, or at least Cryptocurrencies, will be here to stay for good.
In my next article, I'll be talking about alternative cryptocurrencies, and why Litecoins are a good buy right now. Stay tuned!
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