On Boarding To Bitcoin Cash In The Age Of Free And Instant Digital (fiat) Payments

Yesterday, I read a sobering post by Jonald Fyookball on reddit, urging the Bitcoin Cash community to turn its back on the recent ‘hash war’, resist complacency and push forward with the crucial and difficult task of growing the Bitcoin Cash ecosystem. His parting words were “adoption, adoption, adoption!”

In keeping with this sentiment, I want to discuss how Bitcoin Cash can and must learn from competitors beyond the crypto-currency space, and how the Bitcoin Cash community might refocus its attention towards adoption by producing resources for on-boarding new users and merchants. By my estimations there is still some (very) low-hanging fruit to be picked in this area, but doing so will require revising our approach to promoting Bitcoin Cash online.

We need to learn from the new fiat competitors in digital payments, and begin to market Bitcoin Cash as a payment and commerce solution. In particular, we should consider tailoring the most prominent community platforms like bitcoincash.org to provide the necessary materials for assisting prospective users and merchants to begin using and accepting Bitcoin Cash.

TLDR: The public face of Bitcoin Cash requires a radical makeover.

The problem: on-boarding the world to Bitcoin Cash

It’s been an exciting year for Bitcoin Cash. Sixteen months on from the split with Bitcoin BTC, Bitcoin Cash is listed on almost all exchanges, is one of the most highly adopted cryptocurrencies by merchants, and has full support with payment processors. Moreover, with protocol changes enabling new use-cases, Bitcoin Cash has experienced an explosion of activity around tokens and non-money uses for the Bitcoin Cash blockchain. However, the road to world adoption of Bitcoin as cash essentially remains the same: on-boarding users and merchants.

I’ve been contemplating this problem quite a bit lately: how are we going to on-board the world to Bitcoin Cash? Sometimes it seems insurmountable. By this point, we can probably expect that most individuals who are going to be interested in the monetary revolution implied by the success of Bitcoin are already involved. And for those left, Bitcoin Cash seems to be solving fewer problems with every passing year. The traditional fiat banking system is catching up with crypto currencies, and the window of opportunity is closing.

The empire has struck back

Hence, we’re beginning to realise that Bitcoin Cash is not just competing with other cryptocurrencies, but also with a whole raft of new payment services built on top of the traditional fiat currency system. Paypal has been a longtime competitor, but their Venmo app is growing in popularity in the US. Transfer Wise delivers simple and (fairly) cheap cross-border transfers (can we get them to restart fiat transfers to exchanges?) and in the UK and Europe companies like Monzo and Revolut are offering digital alternatives to traditional banks. In many cases, these alternatives to the old banking network have not only caught up to Bitcoin in terms of ease, speed and cost of digital payments, they’ve also clearly surpassed Bitcoin in user experience.

It was precisely this issue that Rick Falkvinge recently raised when he warned that Bitcoin’s window of opportunity is closing:

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency still have a window of opportunity, but it is closing because banks are waking up to the threat and they are adapting, and they are adapting very very quickly. In the Nordic markets, banking on mobile is instant and free, even across banks. … This beats Bitcoin. This is better than Bitcoin. This is a real threat to future Bitcoin dominance.

We need to come to terms with the fact that the vast majority of the users and merchants that we want to on-board to Bitcoin Cash have little interest in the politics of sound money, or the values associated with libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism. Many won’t understand the cryptography involved, or be drawn by curiosity for the genius of the proof-of-work blockchain. They won’t care about the freedom implied by holding their own keys, and if exchanges and payment processors like Coinbase continue to garner trust, many will probably prefer the simplicity of keeping their cryptocurrency in custodial wallets.

For these people, not only do the new fiat-currency solutions to digital payments feel safer and more familiar than cryptocurrency, they are useful for solving real problems in their daily lives, not to mention the fact that they slot seamlessly into the fiat economy. For example, at no charge Revolut offers its customers currency conversion at the interbank exchange rate, as well as UK and EU bank accounts, with US and Australian accounts promised soon. All of this is provided through a snappy smartphone app, complete with analytics, physical and virtual debit cards, and even custodial holding of cryptocurrencies (without an option to withdraw). The hard truth is that free, near instant transactions, even across boarders, is fast becoming a reality within the fiat system. These use-cases alone will no longer give cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Cash a leg up on fiat.

Competing with commercial payment services

Of course, Bitcoin Cash has revolutionary aspirations that these payment systems cannot and will never intend to fulfil. But whilst this vision is (ostensibly) a strong motivation for early adopters, it is doubtful that it is shared by many who remain outside of the cryptocurrency world.

So what is to be learnt from this troublesome situation? The answer is simple: if Bitcoin Cash is going to bring sound money to the world, then it must be a payment system that is at least as simple, flashy and easy to use as any of these fiat competitors. Moreover, getting started with Bitcoin Cash needs to be as simple, and worry and trouble free as signing up for an account with Revolut or Monzo. Acquiring crypto needs to be as quick as a debit card payment. And for merchants, accepting crypto needs to be as straightforward as updating a point of sale (POS) terminal.

In my next article, I will discuss why widespread adoption of payment processors that allow merchants to accept crypto payments whilst receiving fiat is crucial for bootstrapping the Bitcoin Cash economy. But for now I want to raise a more obvious problem. Namely, the lack of accessible resources for prospective users and merchants.

Marketing an “electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust”

Let’s take a moment to indulge a plausible hypothetical scenario:

I am the owner and operator of a small cafe, and earlier today one of my regular customers asked if I had heard of Bitcoin Cash. I responded that I’d heard of Bitcoin and the dramatic rise and market crash, but I’d never been interested enough to learn anything more about it. He said that Bitcoin Cash is the “cash” version of Bitcoin, and that it promises an exciting future of money where any sized payment can be sent securely anywhere in the world instantly and virtually for free. Furthermore, because the total supply of Bitcoin Cash is fixed, it prevents the manipulation that currently reduces the purchasing power of money by about 3% per year. Lastly, he said Bitcoin Cash was easy to accept, and suggested that I consider doing so.

But I’ve just tried googling “Bitcoin Cash” to find out how I can accept it, and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Most of the results are about markets and investing, or news articles on the same. One result is >bitcoincash.org, which promises information and delivers a flashy video that reiterates much of what my customer told me. But amidst all of the “history”, the talk of “development”, “nodes”, “wallets”, “services” and “exchanges”, I’m at a loss as to where I, as a merchant, ought to begin. So I close the tabs and decide to watch netflix instead.

Unless our cafe owner is intrigued enough to spend many hours wrapping his head around Bitcoin Cash, researching how wallets work, researching POS solutions, and trying to find out which of the myriad of options the Bitcoin Cash community recommends, it’s unlikely that his interest is going to survive this first encounter.

If we want to win over merchants like our cafe owner, the Bitcoin Cash community needs to present clear, user-friendly resources for getting started with Bitcoin Cash. Because this resource needs to be easily found by newcomers, there are really only two options: bitcoin.com and bitcoincash.org. As bitcoin.com remains a commercial entity and maintains support for Bitcoin BTC, I suspect that the community-run bitcoincash.org is the better choice.

Resources for on-boarding

What kind of resources am I suggesting? I expect the following to be necessary:

  • A quick introduction to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and a short non-confrontation explanation for the Bitcoin Cash fork.
  • Followed by immediate direction to resources tailored for prospective users and merchants.
  • Users and merchants should be introduced to the concept of a wallet, before being presented with the most widely-used, reliable and trusted SPV wallets available for mobile devices. This would also involve explaining how best to protect the security of wallets. A more extensive list of mobile, desktop and browser based Bitcoin Cash wallets can be attached for those interested.
  • Users are then directed to a page explaining how to acquire Bitcoin Cash, with links to faucets for experimenting with their new wallet, services that allow debit and credit card purchase of Bitcoin Cash, and exchanges that accept fiat deposits organised by location.
  • Merchants are direct to a page explaining the options for accepting Bitcoin Cash, with a list of POS solutions and payment processors. Special attention should be payed to explaining that options exist for merchants to accept Bitcoin Cash whilst receiving these payments in their fiat currency of choice.
  • Information about full node implementations, current protocol development, and a full list of projects, services, and wallets should be segregated. This information only confuses prospective users, whilst specialists can afford some menu diving to access this information.

I expect that for a number of reasons some may be uncomfortable with the approach I’ve outlined. First, it would amount to a fairly radical change of focus away from providing an overview of the open-source, permissionless character of the Bitcoin Cash project, in favour of a greater focus on helping newcomers get started with Bitcoin Cash. The perceived marginalisation of the open-source aspect of the project might disappoint some. Second, such a pivot would require bitcoincash.org to partly suspend its unbiased representation of Bitcoin Cash wallets, exchanges and services. The simple fact is that there are simply too many options, and only a few are actually suitable for on-boarding newcomers. If we are to do this in a simple and effective manner, then we will need to introduce newcomers to the best options available. How the Bitcoin Cash community will decide on which options to promote is a difficult question, and I have no solutions to propose here.

Nonetheless, if Bitcoin Cash is to compete effectively with other digital payment solutions then the community needs to improve the ease of adoption by providing the resources necessary for quick on-boarding. The public face of Bitcoin Cash can no longer risk appearing as an amateur project run by enthusiasts. If we are going to compete with Paypal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Transferwise, Revolut and Monzo, not to mention other cryptocurrencies, then Bitcoin Cash needs to self-consciously market itself as a payment solution for everyday problems. The proposed facelift for bitcoincash.org and the on-boarding resources should take inspiration from the websites for these services.

Coda: from hash-war to reset

To wrap this up, I want to briefly say a few things about cultivating a more productive attitude focused on facilitating the adoption of Bitcoin Cash. In the post mentioned at the beginning of this article, Jonald said something that made a strong impression on me:

I will still correct misinformation when I see it, but that isn’t going to be my main focus. The time is now for building, for focus, for getting users and merchants. Ideas and social media matter… But if you want to be an influencer, take it to the next level. Rather than waste time arguing in a chatroom, write some articles or make some videos.

Whether it’s been against the relentless “Bcash” drones, or the months-long astroturfing campaign on r/btc, too many of us have spent hundreds of hours arguing with (all-too-often insincere) opponents about blocksize limits, the lightning network, SPV wallet security, tokens, CTOR and CDSV etc etc. But Jonald is right, it’s time for these games to take a back seat. There’s important work to be done, even for those of us with limited technical chops.

In line with this approach, I intend to spend less time battling trolls and more time looking for ways to positively contribute to this community. Starting now I will be repurposing my troll-battling hours to write articles, with the next addition considering a topic on which I’ve been ruminating for a while now: the crucial role of payment processors for bootstrapping the Bitcoin Cash economy.

The enormous task that stands before us is nothing less that on-boarding the world to Bitcoin Cash. In addition to the continued development of the protocol and the growth of the ecosystem, this is going to require an excess of enthusiasm, the creation of new resources, and thinking new ideas. Let’s treat this hash-war as a reset, and move forward together with a new vitality.

Source : https://medium.com/@catatonicadenosine/on-boarding-to-bitcoin-cash-in-the-age-of-free-and-instant-digital-fiat-payments-62f8f070a765

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