In crypto circles we often hear people talk about adoption, “commercial readiness” and global spread of Bitcoin. This is one area of discussion where everyone tends to stay away from crunching numbers and surprisingly enough focus on “the technology”. You’ll hear many legitimate technical reasons why Bitcoin still isn’t ready to become the cryptocurrency of the world, reasons that mostly revolve around BTC’s inability to scale on a global level and its lack of privacy and fungibility.
It’s clear why experts tend to avoid actual numbers; the technology behind Bitcoin is still in relative infancy and it somewhat pointless to analyze Bitcoin adoption at this point. Still, the adoption is happening whether crypto is ready or not; also numbers are fun and interesting trends can be noticed by looking at them. This is why we decided to put the technology talk aside today and take a closer look at some of the Bitcoin (and crypto)-related numbers, in an attempt to determine how close to global adoption we really are.
The best place to start with our insight is the total number of wallets that currently exist on the Bitcoin blockchain. This number sat around 32 million blockchain wallets back in Q4 of 2018, according to a research conducted by the data aggregating portal Statista. This data isn’t exactly clear if the research focused solely on the Bitcoin blockchain or if more blockchains were covered. Still, there’s little reason to believe that the second option is true.
Assuming that each wallet belongs to a single individual and comparing the number to the current world’s population of 7.6 billion people will give you the best idea on how far Bitcoin is from worldwide adoption at the moment. In reality the assumption above is wrong, as there are certainly people who own multiple Bitcoin wallets. The user pool is additionally diluted if you consider that some of the wallets are lost forever and inaccessible. Summing all this data up, we can conclude that less than 0.4% of the world’s population is currently a proud “bitcoiner”.
That being said, the number of Bitcoin wallets has grown steadily ever since Q1 of 2015 (earliest date encompassed in this research). One notable leap is noticeable in Q4 of 2017, when 4.3 million new wallets were added during the last “crypto bullrun”. The fall of Bitcoin price since then hasn’t deterred users new and old from creating wallets, as more than 10 million new ones were registered on the blockchain throughout the year of 2018.
Some sources suggest that the number of usable, accessible Bitcoin wallets out there hovers around 25 million.
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The way these 25 million are spread out across the world is interesting to look at as well. Statista, in co-operation with ING International Survey Mobile Banking, published a multi-country survey on this matter. The survey asked around 15 thousand people from Europe, USA and Australia various questions on the cryptocurrency topic. Among other things, the survey asked those who took it to answer “yes” or “no” to the statement “I own some cryptocurrency”.
The results showed that only 9% of Europeans currently own Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency, with Turkey (18% of questioned Turks said they own cryptocurrency) showcasing the biggest rate of adoption among the questioned countries. Romania with 12%, Poland with 11% and Spain with 10% were the remaining double-digit percentage countries in the survey; countries like France (6%), Belgium (5%) and Luxembourg (4%) closed off the list, having the lowest adoption of the bunch.
USA was somewhere in the middle of this list with 8 percent of its population owning cryptocurrency. Finder.com got similar percentages after questioning 2000 American citizens in February 2018, with 5.15% of the people they questioned confirming they owned Bitcoin. Other surveys reported similar percentages; a joint survey done by Global Blockchain Business and Survey Monkey reported that 5% of Americans own cryptocurrency, with 21% of the polled “considering adding cryptocurrency” to their portfolios. Interestingly enough, only 60% of Americans have heard about cryptocurrency according to the poll above.
Looking at these percentages and considering the country’s total population of 325 million people, we can conclude that the total number of Americans who have taken the crypto pill sits somewhere around 16 and 26 million. Important thing to note is that this group contains both Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency holders.
Previously mentioned survey tried to gain an insight into the demographics of Bitcoin/crypto ownership as well. They’ve determined that 58% of the cryptocurrency holding population falls under the “white male under the age of 34” group. Another survey done by LENDEDU revealed that crypto is especially popular among Gen Z and Millenials, who reported percentages of 32.54% and 38.64% when asked the “do you currently, or have you in the past, owned Bitcoin” question. This same survey revealed that 21% of questioned men and merely 9% of women owned cryptocurrency (Finder got a ratio of 11%/4%).
Some Hidden Numbers
Up until recently it was relatively difficult to purchase altcoins without Bitcoin. However emergence of fiat-to-crypto platforms, most notable of which certainly is Coinbase, allowed many Bitcoin “minimalists” to get into the world of crypto without having to own any BTC whatsoever. Such centralized exchanges brought an interesting dimension to the whole crypto owning matter as well, basically allowing people to “own” cryptocurrency without actually owning it.
This needs to be explained further. While each of these platforms has a direct wallet on a cryptocurrency’s blockchain, individuals who open an account on the exchange don’t get their own blockchain wallet. Their wallets are nothing more than balance sheets stored on the exchange’s servers that the platform uses to settle its users’ transactions. As such, it’s fair to say that a certain number of cryptocurrency holders and users aren’t even registered on public blockchains. These users remain hidden in plain sight; it will be impossible to get their actual number without looking into an exchange’s private customer data.
Some platforms like to give out these numbers to the public on their own; after all, nothing says “success” as large amounts of returning users. Coinbase has recently revealed that they’ve broke the 20 million mark, having recorded its 21 millionth user back in October of 2018. Interestingly enough, the exchange managed to grow its user base significantly in spite of the last year’s bear market, as they sat around 13 million back when the prices originally started dropping.
These 21 million don’t tell the full story though; data shows that the exchange had just above 5.5 million active users in June of 2018. We say “just” since this number sat at 11 million at the turn of 2018, when the total user base was at 13. This clearly tells us that while the overall number of accounts on the platform did grow, people’s interest into actually trading on the exchange has certainly waned. This is most likely due to potential investors waiting for signs of a new prolonged bull run before deciding to start investing again.
For the most part, Coinbase held the monopoly on onboarding individuals from 32 countries of the world onto the crypto train in the past. Other major exchanges like Binance saw the financial benefits of this market and started opening fiat-to-crypto gateways in an effort to challenge this monopoly and get a piece of the pie for themselves. Just recently Binance launched Binance Uganda, an Africa-based f2c suppository that received 40 thousand new registrations in its first week of operations. Binance Jersey, Bittrex, Poloniex, Changelly are just some of the platforms that offer similar services and contribute to the growth of off-chain, relatively hidden crypto population.
Some Forbidden Numbers
While we mentioned markets like EU, USA or Australia where people rarely have issues with purchasing cryptocurrency, one wonders how the blockchain gospel spread is in the so-called “unbanked and underbanked” countries of the world. Countries like China, South Korea, Japan, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Balkan countries and many others have historically been limited in terms of regular financing, as well as Bitcoin/crypto availability.
You’ll find numerous stories online from people living in these countries being unable to purchase cryptocurrency through platforms such as Coinbase or Binance. These limitations were either internally (like in China and South Korea, whose governments imposed bans on crypto trading platforms) or externally introduced (many countries of the world are under international sanctions which forbid centralized crypto exchanges to trade with their residents).
Such limitations did little to stop the spread of the crypto virus, as these markets regularly find themselves at the top of cryptocurrency adoption lists. China has seen its crypto holder numbers explode even after its central bank placed a ban on commercial crypto-related activities earlier this year. The statistical results of a research that was done by Aurora Big Data have shown that the number of industry users of virtual currency applications reached 7.51 million, representing an increase of 230.84% over the same period last year. Other countries have followed suit, showcasing sustained growth and crypto adoption mostly thanks to less-regulated peer-to-peer exchange platforms like Localbitcoins.
Some Additional Numbers
From the numbers above we can safely say that the number of cryptocurrency users around the world sits somewhere around 30 million people. Chainalysis looked into this data more, attempting to determine where exactly investors decided to hold their Bitcoin positions. They got the following numbers:
- 23% of funds were held for speculatory purposes
- 30% of funds were held as investments
- 11% of funds were held as service transactional coins
- 7% of funds were noted as likely lost investment coins
- 29% of funds were either forever lost or still unmined Bitcoins
Their data shows us that the amounts of speculatory and investment funds remained stable throughout the current bear market, possibly signaling a market that is less sensitive to hype and more looking for stability and long-term growth. This stability also shows that while older investors did leave the pool throughout the time frame, new ones did come in and injected their capital. What all this means is that Bitcoin managed to maintain growth throughout its past period of hardships.
Not all is peachy though on the adoption front as the friction between crypto and the common folk is still significant. Around 30% of women and 20% of men (per Finder) have claimed that cryptocurrency is too complicated to understand; 44% of women think that “there is no need” to buy cryptocurrency/were simply disinterested in it. 35% of men shared these feelings towards crypto. Also, 30% of women Finder spoke to said that crypto is too much of a risk, a sentiment that was echoed by almost 40% of men.
Bitcoin is definitely not yet there in terms of global adoption. With barely scalable technology and additional issues we mentioned in the intro, it’s clear by now why this is the case. And even though it has shown some signs of growth and consistency, the most popular cryptocurrency is still light years behind traditional finance solutions like PayPal, Mastercard or Visa. Visa for example boasts an impressive 336 million American users and another 736 million users globally. Bitcoin’s popularity and adoption maybe aren’t where the average crypto person would want them to be, but most of the numbers we saw today imply that this will happen sometime in the future.
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