The market value of Bitcoin hovers just above the $8,000 mark currently. Granted, this is no small change, but the world’s leading cryptocurrency currently stands at less than half of its all-time high around $20,000, just a couple months ago. Fear is building regarding the long-term sustainability of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, but will improvements in the technology and usability improve adoption rates in 2018?
The truth is nobody knows how it’s going to go. Those who have money invested in Bitcoins say that the drop in price is merely a “January dip.” Closer scrutiny and regulatory attention in the cryptocurrency space may also be a factor. The fall in percentages could also be a market correction from Bitcoin’s astronomical rise at the end of last year. At this stage, it’s impossible to tell, but whatever the case, it was never going to be easy for a currency that sits outside of government regulation.
What can be said is that the technology and accessibility of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are on the rise. Major companies are already starting to accept Bitcoin as payment, including sports, travel companies and fast food chains. Companies like Expedia, Virgin, Subway and Microsoft are among the many already on board.
Blockchain technology, on which cryptocurrencies rely, is gaining a lot of traction—the technology allows public ledgers to be created and stored on peer-to-peer networks, and the possibilities range from legal records to media token systems. This underlying technology is likely to see adoption across a range of industries, regardless of the value of cryptocurrencies.
Where cryptocurrencies themselves are concerned, if the technological propositions put forward by developers go to plan, 2018 will also bring direct improvement in usability. Additionally, the wallets in which coins are stored are becoming more flexible. Apps and even debit cards are hitting the market, which allow the holder to easily spend their cryptocurrency funds. Upgrades are ironing out some of Bitcoin’s most debilitating flaws.
For example, SegWit—activated in August 2017—allows for more transactions to run through the network, technically making it cheaper and faster to send and spend Bitcoin, as well as allowing for second-layer protocols (more on that soon). Adoption has been slow, however. In 2018, the Bitcoin Core wallet will allow SegWit transactions as will trading and broker sites like Coinbase.
Technologies like this also gives the Bitcoin network more flexibility and allow for second-layer solutions to come into play—one of which is the highly-anticipated Lightning Network. The Lightning Network acts as a kind of overlay, which will enable nearly free transactions and instant confirmations. Bitcoin’s transactions have been one of its main drawbacks, so this will be a game-changer. Expect to see exchanges and wallets take up the Lightning Network in 2018.
Privacy is another one of Bitcoin’s “selling points,” yet the transactions are still traceable, and it’s not too difficult to find out from the public ledger where and who is doing what with Bitcoin. Alternative cryptocurrencies have aimed to solve this problem with privacy coins like Verge and Zcoin, but there are also other technological solutions on the horizon for users to gain privacy options with Bitcoin, too. TumbleBit and ZeroLink both disrupt the trail of ownership in their own way.
It’s been a rocky couple months for Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. News of regulation, doubts in the market and prices falling (or correcting, if you have money involved!). Newly developed technology is awaiting adoption in 2018, which promises to reduce confirmation times and fees. This could be a game changer that encourages adoption by more businesses and users.