Note: The following article has been hand picked for being one of the standouts in the Ziftr article contest on the topic of what needs to happen for Bitcoin to enter the mainstream. Happy reading!
When people talk of Bitcoin “going global” or “hitting the mainstream”, and 2015 being the “year of Bitcoin,” they themselves may well believe it. But plenty of other people will still shake it off with a casual smirk. Why? Because it still sounds ludicrous. This is because even after several years of cool developments, investment, even modest propagation, Bitcoin is still mired in contradictions and confusion.
Never mind the technicalities: even the best-known clichés which have made it to public awareness are either misnomers or downright wrong. For example, many disinterested members of the public still think Bitcoins are a physical entity and that you can apparently go to the moon with them, but on the other hand they’ll probably be arrested (for reasons not clear to them – just that Bitcoin is ‘inherently illegal’) or contacted for work by Burmese cocaine sweatshop moguls.
It’s no secret that BItcoin has an image problem. As the most popular digital currency out there, its path is bound to be more checkered than other, less comprehensive alternatives. Pundits right now tend to say that this is part of Bitcoin’s “growing pains” and that basically all will be OK in the end. Many of their arguments are solid and have widespread support, but turn on any political debate show and you’ll be reminded that armchair punditry, no matter how passionate or well-informed, doesn’t change much on the ground.
How do we purify Bitcoin and make it less murky? How do we take out the stigma so people want to listen to the facts? To my mind, the answer lies not only in lawmakers and federal loudmouths leading the way, but in more sundry areas. We can stop short of renaming Bitcoin to something else (how could we ever get everyone to agree on that?) but for example, we can redesign the logo.
The current style used by online and physical merchants is better and less reminiscent of the nerdy underworld than its predecessors, but it’s still large, unwieldy and orange. It looks like a payment option for Stewie Griffin. If there were an entity able to make Bitcoin’s only point-of-contact material look half as trustworthy and enticing as the crooks at Visa and MasterCard have managed, a major battle would be won.
A lot of those who may end up reading this will discard such arguments. They will say cosmetic touch-ups are the last thing on people’s lists and rightly so. However, I argue that confusion and contradictions are going to alienate a huge section of Joe Public that, whether people like it or not, is indispensible to Bitcoin’s success. Malibu Beach joggers, Jersey Shore meatheads and the Devil wears Prada fashionistas are among the hardest demographics to convince of Bitcoin’s safety and acceptability. If they – and of course many others like them the world over – set the precedent, it’s only a matter of time. Selfie sticks are cool – Bitcoin can be cool. Right?
By Brenda Lawson
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