How Widespread is Bitcoin and Other Cryptos in Late 2019?
We’re at the point where gov-bodies and banking institutions, those once disqualifying Bitcoin’s ability to offer an alternative monetary system, are now rushing to issue their own state-backed stablecoins, and digital currencies. Bitcoin and other well-established cryptocurrencies, who practically inspired governments and banks into moving digital, are still having a tough time, however, gaining acceptance by the vast majority of people.
In this article, I will present a series of personal experiences as well as statistical and factual data that may help you cultivate a broader comprehension of how spread cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin might be nowadays, in late 2019.
In order to avoid technical documentation and in-depth analysis subjecting why and how Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technology works, I’ll focus on explaining why it matters, and how it affects us, so whether you’re a total newbie with cryptos or a veteran in the scene, this should cover you:
In a nutshell, cryptocurrencies give everyone who has internet access, including me and you, the ability to transfer monetary value between internet users, instantly, in a cross-border fashion, and without third party authoritarian gloves, trying to leech out of our transactions, as can be observed in a bank’s case.
Essentially, cryptocurrencies empower transaction times, fees, security, integrity, and transparency otherwise impossible by any traditional means of monetary exchange.
For example, you might be a super-rich oligarch backed by all the euros in the world. You want to send some cash to your friend who lives in an X country in South Asia. Well, it’s not impossible, it’s just that it would take your bank anywhere between two days and a full week to process and settle the payment, obviously for a fixed fee regardless of the amount you’re willing to transfer, and even when everything seems to be on point, your friend will probably have a hard time to utilize these euros in a country that doesn’t even know what euros are.
So Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies offer us, the internet users, all the opposites of the above example.
Cryptocurrencies on a global scale
Some people see Bitcoin as an alternative to a banking system, that gradually evolves and manages to offer us cutting-edge banking solutions, while the truth is Bitcoin was able to do what it does today even since its birthday over a decade ago.
It is correct to assume that as time passed more people realized its potential, and the banking institutions, once afraid of it, started to regret their claims about cryptos being a Ponzi-scheme, so far that they’re now trying to create their own cryptos. Isn’t that lovely in an ironic way?
Recently, the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping publically announced the importance of blockchain technology for the already ‘digitalized’ country, saying that China will focus on the technology underlying Bitcoin on a national level, in an attempt to conquer the sphere, while other countries are still scratching their heads over whether cryptos can work or not.
On the other side of the ring, we have Facebook. The world’s largest social media platform that has ‘enslaved’ over two billion netizens in its net, and who now tackles with financial regulators to become a global banking institution, offering not gold, not dollars, but Libra.
Facebook’s in-house private cryptocurrency is supposed to be a cross-border token able to unite various national physical and digital currencies under a single umbrella.
I could keep tipping about tens of other economic super-powers including Russia, France, Germany, the UK, Canada, UAE and more countries and industrial titans that are either already cracking on cryptocurrencies, or planning on issuing their own ‘state-backed digital currency’ somewhere in the near future, but I think your intellectual capabilities are fit enough to realize what stage crypto has so far reached on an international level.
You can read A. Koulis’ research on how different countries categorize and treat cryptocurrencies under regulatory frameworks, in one of our previous publications.
Cryptocurrencies in the EU
As for me, I’ll focus in the Eurozone, and more specifically in Greece, where I live, to present you with practical everyday examples of how cryptocurrencies work, and how widespread they really are in 2019.
The European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and pretty much every Ministry of Finance in the European region have publically expressed their views on cryptocurrencies at some point this year.
From Bruno Le Mair, who said that Libra should never enter European soil, while agreeing with the Germans that the EU should work on its own digital version of the euro, to the Bank of England who says “No to Dollar, Yes to Crypto”, the EU has showcased a heated interest towards cryptocurrencies, although it keeps its distance from the matter, most likely waiting for other countries to make some first-timer mistakes so that the EU could get a headstart with its own version of a sovereign digital currency.
Breaking things in even smaller pieces, and regardless of the policies the socio-political system wants to apply to the brand new industry, which is once again affecting literally everyone who deals with money, from farmers to central banks; we can see that cryptocurrencies have been indeed adopted and used among individuals all over the globe ever since Bitcoin’s introduction and their usage has only grown over time.
Practical examples of crypto adoption in Greece
It’s November 2019, and if you’re living in Greece, where I can assure you, cryptocurrencies are not as popular and spread as they appear to be in Japan, China, or even Russia, you’d probably come across a Bitcoin ATM, a retail shop, an online business, or a services company that accepts Bitcoin or some form of cryptocurrency, without even realizing it.
While Greece as a country has a strong understanding of blockchain technology and its capabilities, some of which are already being used by several government agencies, and local financial institutions, cryptocurrencies are still sort of a ‘taboo’ in the geographical heaven of the globe, mostly due to the fact that the country was the biggest loser during the global financial crisis of 2008, and baby boomers are very skeptic about unzipping their wallets to a new form of money.
Yet, that didn’t stop Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ adoption in the region and a detailed map of how spread Bitcoin is in Greece could be found at weacceptbitcoin.gr.
What my personal experience can reveal is that I can travel in the country for weeks carrying only my crypto wallet, considering that even if I can’t find a gyro shop that accepts crypto, I can most definitely find a local broker and translate my precious ETH, or IOTA into local currency (euro) and continue operating in a regular basis even in the most remote areas of the country.
I can pay my lawyer in crypto, send payments to friends and family using various cryptocurrencies, and even pay for my coffee with BTC or ETH in many popular coffee shops in major cities like Athens and Thessaloniki.
Last year, we were visiting Athens for a business trip and we managed to get an Airbnb using crypto, while we found a local broker who was at our doorstep in less than 20 minutes to provide us with some fiat currency in exchange for Ether (ETH).
Essentially, you can buy anything from a flat, or a yacht to unmanned aerial vehicles and tomatoes using some of the most popular cryptocurrencies in Greece and finding just the right link is always easier than expected using online crypto exchange mediums such as LocalBitcoins or Paxful.
Concluding – What’s ahead?
Watching China moving with a fast pace on the subject, and considering the fact that even prior to crypto, China was practically a cashless society highly dependent on payment apps and internet services, I can be only certain that eventually, this will be the norm also in Greece, and in extent in the broader European area, not as far in the future as many of us would think it’d be.
It is now clear that the EU is considering its own digital representation of euro’s sovereignty, and even if the euro itself fails, the concept remains the same. Digital money is here to stay, and it will only get more space in the payments sector as time passes.
A representative of Piraeus Bank, who I promised I won’t name, told me in confidentiality that Greece’s largest bank is already monitoring the Ethereum blockchain, citing that in five years from now, the bank plans to utilize minimum human personnel in their branches as most operations will be running autonomously utilizing ‘sophisticated payments technology’ and smart-contracts.
Again, this is a sign that cryptos are not subject to if, but to when, and even when cryptocurrencies become a regular thing of modern smart-societies, nothing will really change for the already strong crypto community who utilizes the beneficial fruits of distributed ledger technology even as you read this.