Bitcoin’s Biggest Question Isn’t Ease of Use, It’s ‘Why Use it?’

man scratching head

When asked why bitcoin hasn’t taken off as an electronic, online cash, it’s become conventional wisdom to blame ease of use as the predominant issue. When compared to other payment methods, most say, digital currency simply isn’t as user-friendly.

This is true to an extent. As a payment method, bitcoin could be more user-friendly, and the industry should work to improve basic features of major services. It should be easier for everyday consumers to send the desired amounts without overspending and for default wallet features to be more intuitive.

But, to say that this is the biggest issue the industry faces is inaccurate. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how easy something is to use if no one understands why they would use it at all.

On this paradox, I recently participated in a panel hosted by ZapChain (a bitcoin social network) focused broadly on “branding bitcoin” in the media. The goal of the talk was for myself, my former colleague Daniel Cawrey, Inc‘s Ben Parr and The Wall Street Journal‘s Paul Vigna to discuss the gap between the media’s interest in the technology and consumer adoption.

One user asked how bitcoin can be easier for the less tech-savvy, and I rifled off an answer. Bitcoin, I said, has a “segway problem”, a comparison that has been made, but perhaps not with the intent for this analogy to be constructive.

What’s important to note is that the segway is and was broadly understood to be faster and easier than walking, and was much-hyped for it in the media.

A 2001 Salon article should be read by the industry with particular caution, as it gushes about how many leading minds, include Apple’s Steve Jobs believed the segway

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