Like a pack of predators in the night, bitcoin is creeping up into mainstream use from multiple different angles. From the poorest in developing countries to the top banks alike, the digital currency is being used in every stratum of humanity. Bitcoin.com explores some of the biggest use cases that could propel bitcoin to mainstream usage.
Hiding Wealth and Tax Havens
Chinese volumes make up over 90 percent of all bitcoin trading. Whenever the yuan is devalued, and the government announces capital controls, bitcoin’s price usually gets a boost. The digital currency is gaining popularity as a way for the Chinese to get money out of their country.
Estimates place offshore tax havens holdings as large as $32 Trillion dollars. Hiding wealth from governments is one of bitcoin’s biggest use cases to date. This should grow as more people learn to trust bitcoin as a store of wealth, especially when Swiss bank accounts have recently lost their anonymity and the Panama Papers leak revealed that offshore banking is not safe either.
Insurance Against Crumbling Economies
Hyperinflation, demonetization, haircuts, bailouts, and other drastic monetary policies are happening at a faster pace globally. Each time it happens, hundreds or even thousands of the smartest people in that country wake up to bitcoin as they watch the value of their personal savings dwindle.
While each event has so far only added a modest few to the ranks of the bitcoin faithful, bitcoin is becoming better recognized as a hedge against local currency problems after each event.
Remittances Through Mainstream Channels
A large number of startups now offer remittance solutions using bitcoin, undercutting the speed and costs of traditional remittances by a wide margin. In some places, the solution has worked so well that it’s taken over 20 percent of a local remittance corridor. In Korea, one mainstream bank is already using one of these bitcoin-backed services for cross-border remittances.
Torrents and VPNs
Bittorrent is free, you say? Sure, but good VPNs are not. Internet Service Providers (ISP) have to work with their local governments and the MPAA to catch pirates downloading videos, which accounts for roughly three-fourths of streaming activity on the entire web. To get around this roadblock, users buy VPN service to hide from their local ISP and continue to watch free movies and tv shows with little worry. In order to hide the purchase of VPN services, downloaders have turned to Bitcoin. Most VPN services now accept the digital currency as a form of payment, and even encourage it for the sake of privacy.
Unfortunately bitcoin’s excellent features have made it very attractive to the ransomware industry. It’s estimated that over 93 percent of all phishing emails contains links to download ransomware now, with social media also becoming a major attack vector.
Now a Billion dollar industry, the use case of ransomware is hurting bitcoin’s reputation while simultaneously forcing businesses and others with important data to stock up on bitcoins in preparation for a hack. A recent report from Citrix and Censuswide showed that 33 percent of large businesses in the UK already have their bitcoins stocked and ready to go.
Gambling and Adult Industries
It’s no secret that the adult industry is popular on the internet. Both the adult industry and online gambling have laws prohibiting their use in various countries around the world, giving businesses in these niches a very difficult time getting and keeping payment providers. Bitcoin has already started to flourish among a large number of popular sites in both industries.
Micropayments, machine payments, multisignature payments, machine escrow, provably-fair betting, and many other types of functionality that bitcoin allows for the first time is giving the cryptocurrency many new uses among entrepreneurs and startups.
Countless ideas like Internet of Things incentivization, small-scale affiliate payouts, streaming video payments, internet tipping, and monetized Bittorrent downloads were not possible before bitcoin came along.
Now, startups are popping up daily with new business models based upon them. Given time, it’s not just a matter of one of them going mainstream; it’s a matter of mainstream users getting a taste for new abilities that can’t be had without Bitcoin.
The Dark Web
The oldest use case for bitcoin has not disappeared. In June 2011, bitcoin found its first successful industry, selling questionably-legal goods on dark websites like the Silk Road. The drug-filled e-commerce site flourished and caused a dramatic price spike that propelled bitcoin into the news as the new way to get illegal drugs online.
After the Silk Road was shut down, many others have emerged to take its place. This ensures that bitcoin, especially once additional privacy-enhancing features like CoinJoin and TumbleBit are added, will remain the best way to anonymously buy anything online.
Making a Better World
Bitcoin is a possible solution to many of the world’s problems. Satoshi Nakamoto himself was trying to solve a major problem with the existing financial system when he created it. Several ideological reasons exist incentivizing people to hold bitcoin, such as wanting to fix problems with the existing monetary system, or not wanting to fund immoral wars with their taxes. Many more people wanting the benefit of a global trust machine in their everyday life will also become bitcoin holders sooner or later. The amount that each person holds may not be very much, but the sheer number of people who want to change the world for the better is boundless.
Which of these trends do you think is most helping bitcoin reach the mainstream? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, MPAA, FBI, US News
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