I just got into an interesting Twitter conversation with Marc Andreessen, who wrote a New York Times essay on why Bitcoin is so important to the future of the Internet, because I disagreed on one point he made there:
Critics of Bitcoin point to limited usage by ordinary consumers and merchants, but that same criticism was leveled against PCs and the Internet at the same stage. Every day, more and more consumers and merchants are buying, using and selling Bitcoin, all around the world. The overall numbers are still small, but they are growing quickly.
But this is provably wrong, as I pointed out to Andreessen on Twitter: This chart of Bitcoin transactions is not only not growing, it's currently smaller than it was last year. Andreessen's reply to my point (captured above):
"I have broader definition of adoption, including new merchants, new developers, new entrepreneurs, etc."
And he is right that Bitcoin is starting to gain more and more of those things. But as I replied (and explained in detail here), this argument was also made by many Second Life boosters during SL's hype wave, when critics began pointing out SL's low user numbers. Because while Second Life usage was relatively small in contrast to the "It's the next generation of the Internet" rhetoric driving the hype, Second Life at that time also had new merchants, new developers, new entrepreneurs, etc.
Here's just a few headlines from that period (roughly 2006-2009):
- CBS to invest in virtual designer Electric Sheep
- The State Of The Metaverse Development Industry: The Big 3 Go Broad, The Boutiques Stay Strong
- Top Second Life Entrepreneur Cashing Out US$1.7 Million Yearly; Furnishings, Events Management Among Top Earners
And you can go through the tech news from that period, and find many many more headlines along those lines. And we all know where that went -- or rather, didn't. So again, with respect to the man who did so much to launch the world wide web, I prefer to be skeptical about Bitcoin until I see real growth in actual user numbers.
Speaking of which, Andreessen also told me that criticizing Bitcoin adoption rates is "[l]ike trying to measure web adoption rates in early '93. HTTP requests not only metric then either."
That may be. But two years later, in 1995, in great part as a result of massive growth in web usage, Andreessen's company Netscape had an epic IPO. Bitcoin, by contrast, has been around for about 4 years, and still has less users than... Second Life's Linden Dollars.
Please share this post: