Bitcoin needs to get consumers on its side, enthusiasts say

This week, Inc. announced it won’t be considering accepting Bitcoin. The reason? It’s not in demand among its customers, according to an Amazon spokesperson.

“Obviously it gets a lot of press and we have considered it,” said Tom Taylor, head of Amazon payments, in an interview with Re/code last week. “But we’re not hearing from customers that it’s right for them and don’t have any plans within Amazon to engage Bitcoin.”

While failing to get an endorsement from Amazon may not seem like such a serious blow, what may be more concerning for Bitcoin enthusiasts is the idea consumers aren’t interested in the digital currency. Because it’s not just Amazon that has said it’ll take a pass on Bitcoin – there aren’t many other major household brands that have said they’re interested in Bitcoin adoption.

And whether or not that’s because there’s a lack of consumer interest, Bitcoin enthusiasts are recognizing this is a problem. During the first Canadian Bitcoin Exposition in Toronto Apr. 12, speakers said there has to be wider acceptance and greater education about the digital currency – and the need for a blueprint on how they can repair its battered reputation.

“Consumer protection is paramount – what you do with your business, how you set it up, how you secure the data. Mt. Gox, I can tell you, anywhere I travel, puts the fear of God into people,” said Manie Eagar, an advisor for mergers, acquisitions, and investments and a speaker at the conference. He was referring to Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange that was once the largest of its kind in the world. It filed for bankruptcy in late February.

“[People see Bitcoin] as either illegal, because of what the governments are saying, or what they read in the newspapers,” Eagar added. “So we have a lot of work to do in educating people, and in our technology, and in the community, to make sure we engage at the right level and give people what they want, and make them easier to persuade at the end of the day.”

For Eagar, the key is to inform people of Bitcoin’s potential. For example, he outlined a use case for it as a mobile banking tool. People could use it to do banking without visiting physical branch locations, he said.

They could pay for purchases, exchange money, use loyalty cards, and even set up smart contracts, which allow one party to pay another automatically, once a task is completed. No one has to actually participate in this contract, because the payment automatically goes through once a task has been done.

“We will probably all be mobile bankers on this planet in the very near future,” Eagar said.

For Vitalik Buterin, a cryptocurrency advocate and one of the founders of platform and programming language Ethereum, Bitcoin is just the product of thousands of years of monetary history.

“With currencies, we have this mechanism that allows you to reward certain behaviours … all you need is to convince people to accept it in some fashion,” he said during his presentation. “Obviously the value comes out of somewhere, and the value comes from the social acceptance that the currency has.”

He added Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are no different – if there’s a social consensus those currencies have value, and that value can provide public goods, that makes them money, even if they are digital.

Still, a society that has been founded on thousands of fiat currency won’t turn aside from that overnight – and Eagar is well aware of that.

“How do we brand [Bitcoin]? I don’t know,” Eagar said. “Will it be Dogecoin or Colorcoin, but still Bitcoin at the end of the day? There’s a lot of uncertainty. Bitcoin has become a victim of its own success … At the end of the day, consumers will vote.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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