“What is Bitcoin?” was one of the most searched terms of 2014 according to Google and reasonably so. When I first heard about it years ago, I was so confused as to what it actually was and even more confused about what it wasn’t. Well, as it turns out Bitcoin is a number of things but the more I read about Bitcoin across the web I’ve heard a lot of people call it things that are completely wrong. So in order to help remove a bunch of the confusion, I have compiled this list of things that Bitcoin is NOT.
Bitcoins are Not Physical Coins
This took me so long to understand. When I first heard about Bitcoin back in 2009/2010, I did a bunch of reading and I was only more confused than before I started doing research. People were calling them online tokens but apparently there was also a guy in Utah that was minting something called a “Recalescence Coin” or a physical bitcoin. This made me confused when I learned that bitcoin can only be manifested online. Well how was this guy making bitcoins then? It took some more digging to figure out that bitcoins are nothing but information. That’s all. But as we all know, information can be written down just about anywhere and that’s what the maker of these Recalescence Coins was doing. One of the ways that this coin minter decided to store bitcoins was laser etched into the face of gold coin and a very tamper resistant seal over the etching. It probably doesn’t help that lots of tech publications still use images of physical coins in a number of their blog posts as the featured image.
Bitcoin is Not a Ponzi Scheme
I get so frustrated whenever I hear this for two reasons. First because the person telling me this does not know what a Ponzi scheme is and second they don’t understand what bitcoin is. So they just sound like a double idiot. Ponzi schemes are centrally controlled lies to get investors to continually buy into something and then pay the old investors with money from the new investors. Eventually the lie will collapse. There ARE however lots of Ponzi schemes masquerading as businesses in the bitcoin economy. One of the most common bitcoin related Ponzi schemes is “cloud mining”. You buy a Bitcoin miner somewhere in the world and then receive daily payouts, that slowly get smaller over time as the complexity of mining increases. As new people buy into the cloud mining pools, those funds are often used to pay the older “investors” and they think that they are mining Bitcoin. It is only a matter of time before they are found out and their lie will collapse.
Bitcoin is Not a Get Rich Quick Scheme
Yes, it is true that a number of people have made some small fortunes by buying into Bitcoin when it was just pennies per bitcoin but those stores are mostly sensationalist hype and not the norm. Bitcoin as money is a very risky endeavor and should you should take extreme caution when you buy large quantities of it. This is especially true when you are buying larger quantities all at once. It is true that you can make some phenomenal returns on Bitcoin in very little time but if you are going to buy some it is best to buy what you can easily afford to lose. One strategy commonly used when purchasing highly volatile commodities is to use a dollar cost average approach in order to buy more when the price falls and buy less when it rises. This will ensure that you mitigate risk as the price fluctuates rapidly.
Bitcoin is Not a Bank
Banks are an old and centrally controlled monopoly system that are reliant on humans and heavy regulations in order to operate. There are lots of rules, regulations and policies that banks are required to abide by like collecting all sorts of personal information. With lots of those regulations comes expensive compliance which is then passed onto the banks’ customers just like you. Bitcoin on the other hand is an open-source math experiment that allows people to store and transact value without the permission of anyone else but yourself. Bitcoin is not a bank at all. In fact, it makes a number of bank functions completely obsolete like personal checking and savings accounts. As the technology behind Bitcoin progresses, it will prove to render a number of services offered by banks to also be obsolete like securities, bonds and even lending.
Bitcoin is Not “The New Papyal”
A little while ago TechCrunch released an article about how “Bitcoin is the new PayPal” or something and while one of the many functions of Bitcoin is a payment network like PayPal, it is also nothing like PayPal. Bitcoin is far superior to any centrally controlled and regulated entity for sending and receiving money. You can’t reverse Bitcoin transactions and you don’t need permission from PayPal to send or receive money. While reversing transactions does have advantages for certain transactions this opens up opportunity for lots of online fraud as business owners (small and big) can become victims of buyers claiming that they never received the product they ordered and PayPal will freeze the funds until the dispute is settled. For this reason payment mechanisms like Bitcoin offer protection for online sellers from this sort of fraud. All that being said, Bitcoin is more like the new cash or gold; not the new PayPal.
Bitcoin is Not controlled by any Central Authority
Neither banks nor governments directly control Bitcoin. They can absolutely create laws around Bitcoin and black list you from conducting business with their bank if they chose but one of the beauties of Bitcoin is that it belongs to the people of the entire world and not some elite banking cartel backed by the monopoly of legal tender laws. This lack of control is what draws a number of entrepreneurs from around the world who want to harness the power of this new technology.
Bitcoin is Not Worthless just because it’s not Tangible
To say that Bitcoin is worthless is to say that VISA and MasterCard, e.mail or the internet are worthless. Although VISA and MC only transact fiat currencies around the world, they offer tremendous value to their users because they are payment networks. They allow their users to conduct electronic transactions all over the world. Do you remember the tag line “VISA, It’s everywhere you want to be.”? Well there is some truth to that statement. VISA is used all over the world. I have personally used both visa and MasterCard in around 15 countries. I have also had my accounts frozen several times because I was spending money in “high risk” areas where credit card fraud is common so my accounts were suspended. Once in Spain I had my ATM card frozen just hours before I needed to fly back to the U.S. And the cab drivers only accept cash. It created a BIG problem on my end. But Visa and Other payment networks like it do have value because people use them and the bigger the network, the bigger the value of the network effect. The same is true of Bitcoin. As more and more people use Bitcoin the more valuable the network effect becomes.
Bitcoin is Not Anonymous
Too many people think that just because your name is not directly tied any given bitcoin address that it is therefore anonymous. That could not be further from the truth. While, there is a lot of privacy with Bitcoin, it is not at all anonymous because every bitcoin transaction ever made is public to the entire world on an immutable ledger. It would be much more accurate to say that Bitcoin is radically transparent than radically anonymous.
Bitcoin is Not Untraceable
People who think that Bitcoin is untraceable don’t understand the radical transparency of the blockchain. Because every transaction is publicly visible on the blockchain, it is probably the most traceable form of money in the world.
Bitcoin is Not “Fake Money”
As Ryan X. Charles on Twitter wrote: “Money is a form of non-programable Bitcoin that people used to use before they invented computers and cryptography” and he means that in the truest of senses. Money is made by markets; not by governments or banks and that is EXACTLY what Bitcoin is. It is a medium of exchange, a unit of account and a store of vale for a certain market of tech nerds and other free thinkers and that market gets bigger every time someone new decides to use Bitcoin. If you think you paper money is real and Bitcoin is fake, then you do not understand the principles of sound money. Fiat currencies are printed from nothing at the whim of bankers and politicians while Bitcoin is created by mathematical algorithm.
Bitcoin is Not Illegal
Bitcoin is an open-source peer-to-peer math experiment and because it is just a math experiment it is not illegal (in most places around the world) but that does not mean that you cannot do illegal things with it. You can use it to receive an illegal payment for a ransom or to purchase illicit drugs but you can do these same things with cash, credit cards or PayPal and yet all of these mechanisms are not illegal (Cash may soon become illegal in places like India and Scandinavia). As long as bitcoin is used for legal activities, it will stay legal but if the only people who adopt bitcoin are those who seek to do things that are illegal or even immoral then it will likely become illegal in a number of jurisdictions around the world.
I’m sure that I missed a number of things that Bitcoin is not but these 11 things are often the cause of lots of confusion in the Bitcoin space and I feel like they really hurt user adoption. If you would like to learn more about What Bitcoin IS and the many reasons why you should adopt and use it, then please follow us on our social media channels.
What is something that bitcoin s not? Let us know with a comment below or a tweet at @BitcoinReasons