With so much information circulating out there, there’s bound to be inaccurate and, sometimes, downright misleading information about Bitcoin as well. Therefore, in recognition of International Women’s Day, I’d like to dedicate this blog post to address some of the common Bitcoin misconceptions that women may have, which is possibly one of the reasons why (despite its huge potential) so few of us are confident enough to deal in the Bitcoin world.
From what I’ve been reading online among female bitcoin bloggers, there are three major misconceptions among women as to what Bitcoin is and what it isn’t:
#1 NOT JUST A CURRENCY
Bitcoin is largely known as a digital currency because like the US Dollar, it carries a monetary value. However, the reason it does have any value at all is because of the technology behind the Bitcoin protocol. The potential uses of this technology, called the Blockchain, is what drives millions of dollars in venture capital funding into bitcoin startups–also, check out smart contracts. People who first realized it’s potential started buying and hoarding bitcoins as an asset. This drove the price of bitcoins way up to an all-time high of US$1,242/BTC back in 2013. But soon after, that buying frenzy toned down… way down to US$170/BTC at the start of 2015. Bitcoin’s price volatility is what makes it an attractive speculative asset for many people. So, is Bitcoin an asset, investment vehicle, technology, or currency? In my humble opinion, I see Bitcoin fundamentally as a revolutionary technology that will transform the way we handle money. Much like the way e-mail changed the speed and manner in which letters/messages today are sent to one another, Bitcoin does that with fiat currencies. The Bitcoin protocol speeds up the money transfer process and saves both parties the transaction costs by cutting out the middle-man.
#2 NOT COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS
The value of a bitcoin can be exchanged for physical goods and/or services. But the real appeal among Bitcoiners is the ability to shop in a somewhat anonymous way. On the one hand, bitcoins sent or received in exchange for an item are not tied to a name or identity–just a digital wallet address, which is a string of seemingly random number and letters. On the other hand, if you use your credit card, most major retail stores track and analyze your purchase history. That’s how Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did. Yikes! So, it is not as easy to identify you as a buyer/seller of an item if you used bitcoins as it would be if you used a credit card. Word of caution: Don’t try buying illegal stuff or use bitcoins to launder money–although it is difficult to trace and determine your identity, law enforcement can still track you down. Case in point: Silk Road.
#3 NOT JUST FOR ‘TECHIES’
Just a few years ago, you could probably count with your fingers the number of merchants that accept bitcoins as a form of payment for a product or service. Today, increasing numbers of innovative merchants are installing bitcoin payment-processing services in their stores (whether online or at physical premises) and integrating the digital currency into their POS and ordering systems. Notable big names have recently joined the space, including Overstock, Newegg, DISH, Expedia, Microsoft, Dell, Wikipedia, Twitch, Greenpeace, Expedia, and PayPal, among many others. This brings the total to over 100,000 merchants worldwide. Many Bitcoin start-ups are on a mission to make bitcoins easier, faster, and cheaper to use for daily transactions by non-techies. Case in point, this excerpt from a Coindesk news article: “Filipina domestic helpers [working in Hong Kong] could hand over Hong Kong Dollars [to a bitcoin-remittance service provider] and be assured that it would be magically available for pickup as pesos (PHP) at a neighbourhood pawnshop 800 miles away within the same day…In this situation, bitcoin is invisible. It is about as relevant to the customer as SMTP is to the average Gmail user – that is to say, not at all. The only things that matter to the customer are that this new service is offering cheaper remittances and is at least as reliable as any other traditional provider.”
In addition, some bitcoin exchanges are offering another way to spend your bitcoins more conveniently. A bitcoin-loaded prepaid card that lets you to load the card in either bitcoins or fiat currency(ies) and use it to buy goods/services globally. Unlike a traditional bank-issued debit card, this bitcoin-loaded card carries a lower transaction fee (and in some cases, no fees at all) than that of the 3% a bank normally charges. In Gatecoin’s case, our white-labelled Bitcoin debit-card will feature zero foreign transaction fee and can be used in any store that accepts MasterCard. I will post more details on this once our debit card is launched (author squeals with excitement).
Knowledge is power. Knowing the right information, empowers you to make the right decision. I hope this clears out some of the common Bitcoin misconceptions and encourages more women to look into this revolutionary technology.
With that said, I wish all women a year filled with joy, progress, and good health! Let’s #MakeItHappen #IWD2015 #BitcoinWomensDay
Inggrid Yonata of Gatecoin was a multimedia journalist and startup co-founder in the United States. She holds a MSc degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University. She now calls Hong Kong home.