Cryptocurrency has endured its fair share of ups and downs in recent years. The 2017 boom vaulted digital currencies to prominence and garnered rare mainstream media coverage, while 2018’s bust cycle saw the allure of possibilities mostly wear off, replaced by doomsday predictions and death pronouncements.
While crypto remains volatile, it is perhaps more firmly entrenched, and on a wider scale, than at any point in its history. Mass adoption remains elusive, however – a major hurdle on the journey to legitimization. On April 2, Brian Armstrong, the CEO of crypto exchange Coinbase, laid forth in a live AMA his blueprint to achieve that important milestone: reducing volatility while enhancing scalability and usability.
Traditional investors find the inherent volatility of cryptocurrencies extremely off-putting. Armstrong noted that drastic market swings mean these key adopters will be inclined to sit on the sidelines rather than risking their capital. He believes that stablecoins – digital currencies whose value is attached to traditional assets like gold or the US dollar – provide an answer to reducing price volatility. Armstrong posits that using stablecoins in real-world situations can reduce volatility and attract more cautious investors to the fold.
The second half of the equation is improving both the scalability and usability of cryptocurrencies. To reach true mainstream adoption, Armstrong says that crypto needs to reach “Visa and PayPal volumes” for transactions – capability in the range of 500 to 5,000 transactions per second. He cited numerous projects from a handful of teams that may provide solutions, including the Lightning Network, an additional layer to the blockchain that enables unlimited user-to-user transactions on that separate layer; once the users determine the back-and-forth to be finalized, the final result of the transactions is sent to the blockchain, allowing for significantly higher speeds.
Usability – or lack thereof – has long plagued cryptocurrencies. A March 2019 Invest in Blockchain report indicates that 75 percent of crypto owners “still fear the failure of sending transactions while sending crypto.” “We need to get usability simpler and simpler and simpler. Kind of like having the Netscape moment or the iPhone moment,” said Armstrong, who cited the multi-step processes involved with crypto transactions and storage as major impediments to mass adoption. A user-friendly experience like those on popular mainstream apps would do wonders towards alleviating these obstacles, argues Armstrong.
Mass adoption won’t happen overnight, but new developments and vigilant work are bearing fruit for issues involving scalability, usability, and volatility. Cryptocurrencies are far from dead, and a brighter, more consistent future may be here sooner than anticipated.
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