11 years in, Bitcoin has arguably not yet become what its anonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, wanted the project to become: peer-to-peer digital cash.
Although BTC is being used for commerce in some contexts — evidenced by BitPay’s $1 billion in primarily BTC purchases in 2018 and by products like Flexa, which allows users to use Bitcoin, Ethereum and more in mainstream chains. — it is not yet widely adopted, with only a small percentage of individuals holding it (most reports say under 10%) and an even smaller percentage of businesses (Coinmap says a mere 16,000 businesses worldwide accept Bitcoin) directly accepting it.
While this is not the most popular of opinions in the cryptocurrency community, Ripple’s chief executive Brad Garlinghouse recently threw his weight behind this idea.
Bitcoin Isn’t a Viable Payment System… Yet
At a recent Wall Street Journal event at Davos, Journal House 2020, Garlinghouse took some time to talk about his thoughts on Bitcoin. Sticking to previous comments of his, Garlinghouse asserted that he is ” bullish on BTC as a store of value, but not for payments.”
As to why this is, Garlinghouse joked that “You don’t want to use BTC at Starbucks b/c by the time you get your coffee, it’ll be cold,” referencing the fact that most Bitcoin transactions take at least 10 to 20 minutes to become relatively immutable on the blockchain.
“I’m bullish on BTC as a store of value, but not for payments. You don’t want to use BTC at Starbucks b/c by the time you get your coffee, it’ll be cold.” –@bgarlinghouse at @WSJ Journal House … good point on why there won’t be one crypto to rule them all! pic.twitter.com/c89KrFILoc
— Asheesh Birla (@ashgoblue) January 23, 2020
Garlinghouse isn’t the only one who has recently brought up such sentiment.
Speaking to CNBC in a recent interview at the World Economic Forum event in Davos, Ray Dalio — one of the world’s most prominent investors, who heads Bridgewater Associates — talked Bitcoin.
Halfway through the interview, the leading Wall Street investor said that he thinks Bitcoin currently does not satisfy the two leading use cases of money, store of value and medium of exchange, due to market volatility. Dalio added that because of this, central banks are unlikely to hold the cryptocurrency, but will instead hold gold.
Moves Being Made to Make Bitcoin Usable
Although the consensus among some of Bitcoin’s most committed proponents is that BTC is not yet ready as a form of money, there are moves being made towards making Bitcoin easily usable.
Just recently, fintech giant Square’s in-house cryptocurrency division released the Lightning Development Kit (LDK). This kit will allow developers of Bitcoin software to more easily integrate the Lightning Network, a second-layer scaling solution that effectively migrates some transactions off the main chain to allow for lightning-fast, effectively free, and cross-chain transfers.
Also, the Microsoft-backed crypto infrastructure firm Bakkt just revealed that it is moving ahead with a consumer cryptocurrency application. While details are still scant, The Block last year reported that Starbucks, which has also backed Bakkt, may accept Bitcoin in stores through the app.
On the regulatory side of things, U.S. House Representatives DelBene, Schweikert, Soto, and Emmer introduced the Virtual Currency Tax Fairness Act of 2020.
The bill, should it become law, would solve a primary issue in spending cryptocurrency for day-to-day transactions: smaller transactions of crypto-to-fiat would not be subject to potential capital gains taxes that chip away at the wealth of Bitcoin holders.
The Act will ensure that cryptocurrency transactions where the gains made by an individual would be under $200 will be exempt from capital gains taxes, effectively allow Bitcoin purchasers to buy almost any everyday item — from lunch to toilet paper to coffee — without having to deal with the IRS.
The bill currently has bipartisan support, and members of Congress and other governmental bodies have shown an increasing amount of support towards Bitcoin and its ilk.