Want to help Bitcoin? Looking for a project to start or even better a startup? Here is a grocery list of nice services, products and programs to have.
Disclaimer: This is a work in progress. It is never complete and if there is not enough support, I will halt editing. Feel free to fork the next at any time, I see it as public domain. Any improvements whatsoever are welcome. Also, I am not unbiased, I hold bitcoin. General musings: For what is bitcoin useful as a currency? Generally a currency is usable as a store of value and as a medium of exchange. A currency is more attractive if it fulfills any of these two functions better than a competing currency. We will explore how to improve on these functions in this post. Buying and selling stuff: Bitcoin as a medium of exchange A currency is worthless if you can never exchange it to goods, services or something else you desire. We all know that payment via bitcoin is incredibly secure in that there is no chargeback risk and almost no transaction cost. Drawbacks of bitcoin as a medium of exchange is the volatility of exchange rates to other currencies, long confirmation times, lack of ecommerce support, lack of merchant adoption, lack of point-of-sale support and lack of user-friendly interfaces. Let's review these points one by one.
Long confirmation times: This is completely irrelevant in cases where other aspects of the transaction dominate its speed, e.g. in ecommerce shipping completely dominates transaction times. In delivery of digital goods, e.g. music, or acces to content bought through micropayments much quicker transaction times are desirable, preferably in the range of less than a second to guarantee high customer satisfaction. We all know that the protocol does not support this kind of instant transaction, so some kind of service has to exist to mitigate this. Green adresses or some other kind of protocol extention may amend this but in the meantime a provider of such a service can make a profit.
Lack of ecommerce support: Merchants do not write their own software to accept payments but use third-party software. So if someone wants to accept payment in bitcoin and the software they use does not support it, they are unable to. Of course, long-term bitcoin will be supported, either natively or through a payment processor, but our goal is to make this short- to mid-term. If you are in contact with ecommerce software suppliers, contact them and ask for bitcoin support, either natively or though payment processors like Bitwallet or Bitpay. If you are a merchant say so and your word will carry more weight.
Lack of point-of-sale support: This plays into the first bullet point. Payments have to be quick and painless. Also, the merchant has to accept the payment somehow. If we are not talking about a service that is paid by wire transfer but a store or a café, cheap infrastructure needs to be in place to accept coins. Traditional manufacturers of these kind of hardware can be contacted or alternative solutions based on tablets or smartphones can be implemented.
Lack of merchant adoption: All the bullet points above play into this. Ultimately though merchant will adopt bitcoin if and only if they expect increased sales or if they at least avoid lower sales by that. Hoarding bitcoin counteracts this as is thus not in the interest of bitcoin holders. Convince merchants to adopt bitcoin by promising them a minimum transaction volume in the case they accept bitcoin. I propose a campain where you distribute some kind of short and comprehensive infomaterial together with a note of promise that you will do business with the merchant.
Lack of user-friendly interfaces: Any service is dominated by how easy it is to use. Most improvements will thus be achieved by easing the use of bitcoins. To reach this goal you can implement services completely analogous to today's services already in place, that is Paypal like online payments, a bitcoin debit card or even bitcoin paper money. These are technologies that people are familiar with and may be more willing to use. The bitcoin donate button advertised in this subreddit is a supreme example for this. Also, don't be afraid to implement more archaic technologies like transfers by SMS. These services can be very useful in less developed countries and markets where internet access is not ubiquitious, while mobile phones are owned essentially by everyone, but present strong possibilities for growth.
Buying the same tomorrow as today: Bitcoin as a store of value Another huge part of a currencies value is its ability to store value. I want to be able to predict how much purchase power I will have for a given amount of currency. But this is not that easy for a currency seeing as it can be stolen or be erratic in the purchasing power it represents. So risk of theft is a major concern.
Risk of theft: Currently many people store their bitcoins in online wallets or at exchanges. A minority uses cold storage on a wallet that may be compromised but not yet looted. From fiat money we are used to banks insuring deposits and generally enjoying a very high level of security. Similar services for bitcoin can be very useful seeing as not everyone can acquire the technological knowledge to store bitcoin safely. This is completely analogous to fiat currency not being stored in your living room. This is fine for a kind of emergency fund but will not be sufficient for your lifetime savings.
Structural stuff and statistics: Knowing is better than not knowing I have omitted volatility from both points above seeing as it reduces usability in both categories equally. It is easy to see how volatility is a bad thing. This is caused by lack of liquidity, lack of proper statistics, lack of stable exchanges and low user adoption. The latter is ultimately a consquence of low advertising but all these can be fixed.
Lack of proper statistics: Now this one is interesting for all parties involved. Having proper statistics and thus knowledge about the bitcoin community helps reduce risks for investors and properly pricing bitcoins as a currency. Statistics include goods and services bought with bitcoin, regional adoption, GDP, distribution of sectors in the economy, user count, average income ... Essentially any question that is worth asking should be answered. Ideally this information is availably at very low cost or completely free. Maybe an association of bitcoin accepting merchants can provide huge amount of information, especially payments processors.
Lack of liquidity: If not many people want to get either in or out of the economy or transacting in the economy we talk about a lack of liquidity. The more capital is available in the economy, the more liquidity we have, the more transactions can be made. More capital is available when there are more users, richer users, more merchants and more investors. Ultimately, all this will be reached with higher user count.
Lack of stable exchanges: No single exchange should be so big that it can completely disrupt exchange rates. As a user you have the power to use different exchanges. Research them and use the one you are most comfortable with. If there is instability on the one you use, switch over. By this process the strongest exchange will have the highest market share.
Low user adoption: This is connected to the bullet point below. Network effects say that the more users we have, the more user we will have. Educating about the advantages of bitcoin increases user count and essentially all other points mentioned in this post. If bitcoin fulfills people's desires better than other currencies, people will switch over, given that they know about bitcoin. So improve the bitcoin economy and educate, rationally.
Low advertising: There is no single organisation behind bitcoin that profits from advertising. We have to rely on individuals that want to advertise out of passion or have positions big enough to warrant advertising. There is www.weusecoins.com but there has to be more. Create flyers, create memes, create music. Merchants that accept bitcoin will advertise them merely by advertising their acceptance, so encourage adoption. Creating a non-profit to advertise bitcoin or generally help it should be feasible.
Afterthoughts I have focused on bitcoins drawbacks, not on its advantages. When you educate people about bitcoin, tell them about the advantages. This post seeks to educate about current drawbacks and how they can be fixed. Also, I have neglected a possible mining monopoly. For fixing the latter I hope other people can post solutions, this is focused on the user side. The lession, dear reader There is a lot to do and a lot of profit to be made.
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