Bitcoin has three major problems standing in the way of mass adoption: First, it’s still too much of a pain to buy and transact in. Second, it’s plagued by nefarious connotations and widespread misconceptions. And, third, most people still don’t know what the virtual currency is in the first place, never mind why they should care about it.
The proof of indifference is in the numbers. Three out of four Americans haven’t even heard of the six-year-old digital cash, a study conducted by the research firm GfK and The Street recently revealed. Of those polled, nearly 80 percent said they wouldn’t even think about trying it. Similar surveys echo these findings around the world.
So, no, despite the media hype and high-level endorsements, all systems not go. Even some of the biggest Bitcoin boosters admit that the nascent cryptocurrency they’ve pinned their livelihoods on still has several serious hurdles to clear before appealing to the masses -- both as form of money and as a payments platform.
Jonathan Chester, founder and COO of Bitwage, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based payroll startup that enables employees to collect wages in bitcoin, says three basic things need to happen for the cryptocurrency to go mainstream: “You need it to be accessible, you need it to be usable and you need it to be relatively stable…” Even he gets frustrated when buying meals and goods and services in bitcoin. The point of sale system for Bitcoin “just doesn’t work,” he says. It’s still too long and convoluted.
Connie Gallippi also feels Bitcoin has to be less complicated overall in order to capture the interest -- and trust -- of your average everyday person. “We need to work on how do we bring people in and how do we capture the mainstream audience,” the BitGive Foundation founder and executive director told Entrepreneur. “And it really is going to require making it easier to understand and easier to use.”
Meanwhile Barry Silbert, founder of the Digital Currency Group and prominent Bitcoin booster and investor, says early adopters have a financial stake in spreading awareness and understanding about the cryptocurrency. The better they get at talking about it in terms everyone can grasp, the better for the entire Bitcoin ecosystem. “Ultimately, as the price goes up, as people get excited about it, as people buy it,” he says, “that greed, that speculation, is what drives Bitcoin forward.”
For more on what these digital currency entrepreneurs think needs to happen for Bitcoin to go mainstream, check out the video above, filmed at the recent Inside Bitcoins conference in New York City.