How Accessible are Cryptocurrencies?

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Bitcoin coin” (CC BY 2.0) by jonrussell

The perceived difficulties of understanding cryptocurrency – not to mention the impenetrable jargon that accompanies conversations about internet-based money – is enough to make anybody cling a little more tightly to their dollar bills. However, one of the main barriers to the uptake of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin may not exist at all.

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way – cryptocurrency can be a chore to get started with. After you’ve found an online exchange and converted from a fiat currency, you still need to create a wallet to store your cryptocoins in.

There’s also the thorny issue of the terminology. Just a quick glance at any article related to cryptocurrencies reveals words like blockchain, mining, hashing, double-spending, and genesis blocks. On the surface, cryptocurrency doesn’t inspire confidence in beginners but the reality is that Bitcoin (for example) isn’t all that far removed from physical currency.

Jargon Busting

Firstly, the jargon issue also applies to pounds, Euros, and dollars. In much the same way as you don’t need to know about inflation rates and the capital adequacy ratio to spend fiat currencies, there’s no reason why you need to know about the blockchain to spend Bitcoin. In the latter case, blockchain is simply machinery behind the scenes.

Some currencies, such as Ethereum, do wear the jargon on the sleeves but that’s only because they have uses beyond what Bitcoin and Litecoin offer. For example, Ethereum has a spendable ‘token’ like a Bitcoin – Ether – but its use is wrapped up in a wider ecosystem used for ultra-secure app development – Ethereum.

Much of the complexity surrounding cryptocurrencies comes from the fact that blockchain, a list of every transaction made in a currency like Bitcoin, ordered into identical ‘blocks’, has lots of uses but the only one in the public consciousness is finance. For example, using the blockchain to store important documents would make them almost immune to forgery.


Hard Rock Casino” (CC BY 2.0) by tedmurphy

Why Bother?

Bitcoin recently enjoyed something of a popularity boost when digital distribution company, Valve, began accepting it as a payment option for its games and technology. Its rationale was that it allows people in developing countries to avoid punitive credit card fees and cross border charges when using the currency over Brazilian real or Indian rupees, for example.

Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies also offer instant, private, and irreversible payments, meaning that things like chargebacks, a hazard associated with the use of credit cards, don’t apply in transactions. For these reasons, Bitcoin in particular has carved out a niche among companies that value immediate withdrawals and deposits, like iGaming firms.

The popularity of Bitcoin with online casinos such as extends to things like on-site access to currency exchanges and Bitcoin faucets, which allow visitors to trade the completion of certain tasks, like filling in Captcha forms, for small amounts of Bitcoin. Vegas Casino also offers 1,000 mBTC (millibitcoin) free to new sign-ups.

Choosing a Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin is arguably the most accessible cryptocurrency, if only because the number of relevant websites and exchanges and the sophistication of online support and other infrastructure outstrips that established by the likes of Litecoin and Dogecoin in recent years. However, most alternative cryptocurrencies – altcoins – are different only by degrees.

Litecoin, for example, is the fourth most popular altcoin on the market. It distinguishes itself from Bitcoin by offering faster transaction speeds and a larger number of minable coins (there can only ever be 16m Bitcoins compared to 48m Litcoins). Litecoin can also be ‘mined’ or created with off-the-shelf computer hardware, whereas Bitcoin requires specialized components.

As a final, topical point, Bitcoin’s value climbed 4.25% on the back of Donald Trump’s election win on Tuesday evening, to $732 per coin. It is by far the most valuable cryptocoin on the market – second-placed Ripple retails for a paltry $10 in comparison.