It seems that 2017 has been the year that cryptocurrencies have exploded into the mainstream consciousness. In a speculative frenzy, the price of Bitcoin has risen over the course of the year from under $1,000 to over $19,000 (though it is at about $14 thousand at the time of this writing) as many look to its advantages (and ignore its disadvantages) as an investment vehicle. Cryptocurrencies as an investment are definitely a wild ride, reflected in their soaring, and sometimes crashing, prices.
But there is another way to evaluate the saturation of cryptocurrency into the national consciousness: By the level of its acceptance in the marketplace. Who accepts payment in cryptocurrencies? Who uses cryptocurrencies on a daily basis?
The last week of this year saw an internet company in Japan jump into the fray by offering over four thousand of its employees the possibility of getting part of their salary paid to them in Bitcoin. Whether employees take the company up on this offer remains to be seen, as Bitcoin’s price volatility, like that of other cryptocurrencies, can make one’s salary worth far more—and far less—than it would be if paid in government-backed currency.
Others have also jumped into the cryptocurrency game. A preschool in New York City announced a few months ago that it would begin accepting tuition payments from parents in Bitcoin, even though it would not accept credit card payments! Even after using a broker to convert Bitcoin back to dollars, the preschool saw Bitcoin as more cost-effective than standard credit cards and the high percentage fees that it would have to pay if it accepted them.
Other companies that have begun accepting Bitcoin include WordPress.com, Subway, Microsoft, Expedia.com, and Domino’s Pizza (through a company called PizzaForCoins.com).
The mainstreaming is not limited to Bitcoin. Ethereum was struck last month with cat craziness as Ethereum-based CryptoKitties stole the headlines with the almost overnight trading of over a million dollars in designer digital cats.
It appears that 2017 was the breakout year for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. 2018 will undoubtedly hold even more surprises.