Buoyed by seismic political and financial events, the Bitcoin digital currency is picking up momentum in both its value and its adoption. Blockchain, a U.K. company that offers Bitcoin services, last week celebrated having issued 10 million wallets since its founding in 2011. That’s a doubling in wallets outstanding in one year, after it took more than four years to issue the first 5 million. As of Sunday, the number already stood at nearly 10.2 million.
In a blog post, the company attributed at least part of its recent momentum to consumers seeking a “safe haven” in the face of events such as the devaluation of the Chinese yuan, last summer’s Brexit vote in the U.K., and this month’s presidential vote in the United States, which resulted in the unexpected election of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
More than that, consumers are waking up to the cryptocurrency’s advantages against current payment systems, Blockchain officials say. “I believe geopolitical risk is only one factor impacting Bitcoin adoption,” Liana Douillet Guzman, vice president of marketing and communications at Blockchain, tells Digital Transactions News in an email message. “The current financial system is outdated. It relies on back-end technology that was largely built decades ago and simple transactions that should take seconds or minutes take days and weeks and are costly.”
Blockchain claims its Bitcoin wallet is the most widely adopted globally. “We see roughly 50% of transactions across the ecosystem happen on our platform,” Douillet Guzman says.
The acceleration in adoption comes as Bitcoin’s value has risen sharply. Only a year ago, the currency was trading in the low $200s. Since then, it has climbed in fits and starts to well past $700. Its value as of late Sunday was $728, up almost 69% since the first of the year.
Still, some skeptics have long claimed that while consumers may sign up for a Bitcoin wallet, they don’t necessarily use it. Opportunities are still relatively scarce compared to the number of merchants accepting cards and cash, though some major online merchants like overstock.com are enthusiastic acceptors. Looking at Blockchain’s own figures, its platform was handling 0.028 transactions per wallet per day last Tuesday, the day the company went past 10 million wallets. A year earlier, on half as many wallets, the daily rate was 0.026 transactions per wallet.
Douillet Guzman argues the company can substantiate the proposition that usage is growing. “Those numbers have been growing steadily,” she says. “Unfortunately, it’s our policy not to release those figures.”
At any rate, the numbers are clear that wallet adoption is growing rapidly, at least for Blockchain. So much so that it appears the next doubling could well occur in less than a year. Although Digital Transactions News invited her to make a projection, Douillet Guzman declined.