A recent Financial Times piece examines whether or not Bitcoin is providing any real innovation to the masses. The article examines if the new blockchain based currency and similar altcoins pass what is called “the innovation test” by asking a series of questions.
“There are five simple tests for a genuine financial innovation. Is it cheaper? Does it offer much better service? Is it faster? Does it democratise access? And what are its side effects?”
The Financial Times cites Kenya’s M-Pesa as an example of an innovation that does the same thing as cryptocurrency, but has been around for over 10 years. The M-Pesa immensely lowered the cost of transactions for millions and powered the Kenyan economy, nearly doubling its national GDP.
When the Afghan Army ran a similar system to pay its soldiers, fraud was reduced dramatically. With everything recorded and leaving a trail, superior officers could no longer skim the cash payments.
Speed is another main issue Bitcoin faces. While credit card companies like Visa can process thousands of transactions per second, Bitcoin transactions typically take 10 to 20 minutes to confirm. And when the market was booming back in the beginning of 2018, the blockchain was backed up, sometimes forcing transactions to take days to be completed.
The volatility that the prices of digital assets experience are another thorn in the side of cryptocurrency. Sending money across foreign borders is one of cryptocurrency’s strongest and most convincing use cases. However, the Financial Times argues that even the strongest uses like this are greatly diminished by quick spikes and drops the asset experiences.
Furthermore, the cost of exchanging back to a fiat once the crypto transaction is completed hurts the bottom line of the whole process, making the crypto option less attractive.
If the Bitcoin and altcoin space intends on building real lasting value, they need to ensure efficiency and safety for its users. Speed and cost of business must be less than conventional means to truly interrupt worldwide business.