2018 has been a major year in the relatively untested but burgeoning world of cryptocurrencies. They have been slowly creeping up on the digital world for a few years now, but only recently have they taken centre stage. For those not entirely in the know, cryptocurrency is an intimidating-sounding word that doesn’t really describe anything intimidating at all. It refers to digital currencies, encrypted end-to-end and utilising decentralised control, as opposed to the well established banking system used around the world for physical monies. Even though it remains largely obscure, it’s prominence is on the increase. In 2018, you’d be hard pushed to find a major company, bank, or tech start-up which hasn’t investigated the pros and cons of cryptocurrency. But what does the rise of this new financial system mean for app developers?
To see how cryptocurrency relates to apps, firstly we have to take a look at what exactly it is, and where it’s at in 2018. When most people think of cryptocurrency, they think of Bitcoin. Although this isn’t the only cryptocurrency on the market, it’s certainly the most well-known, and could be considered the standard-bearer for all that came (and will continue to come) after it. It was introduced to the global market in 2008 by the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto, who still remains an unknown quantity in the whole narrative of Bitcoin. Regardless of who he or she (or they) actually is (or are), they managed to pull off something which had eluded technical pioneers since the ’90s; a digital currency which wasn’t centralised by a singular entity. Essentially, it works over a peer-to-peer system, where security and transparency are achieved via a communal record of transactions that become set in stone once confirmed. This is known as a blockchain, with cryptocurrencies also sometimes described as blockchain currencies.
Right off the bat you can see why this is attractive to a lot of forward-thinkers within the tech industry. It was initially thought that blockchain currencies would be a niche market with niche uses, but as the concept took hold, people began to see how it could be utilised in almost every industry around. As we make our way towards digital dominance in most sectors, it certainly makes sense that these advances should be accompanied by an equally robust and equally progressive currency system. Cryptocurrency is proving to be just the right fit for this. And while digital evolution is popular everywhere, from Netflix to Spotify, at the forefront of the digital market are apps.
The app industry, spread out across both iPhone and Android, is gargantuan, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon either. It’s currently worth tens of billions of dollars; in fact, it’s worth so much that no one really knows the exact figures. But suffice to say, it’s a lot. They cover every single industry out there, from gaming to self-improvement, music to books. As smartphones become an increasing presence in our lives, the app industry will continue to flourish, and continue to add zeroes to its worth.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are valuable to app developers for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s incredibly easy to open up a Bitcoin account. While you can hang around in banks for interminable hours trying to set up an account, when it comes to Bitcoin, it’s a matter of minutes. So easy, in fact, that a lot of people have already taken pre-emptive measures and downloaded themselves a wallet. These digital wallets are apps themselves, and store Bitcoins for use in a variety of digital markets. There was a lot of furore about cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin in particular during the second half of 2017. So it was not at all surprising that by the end of last year, a digital wallet known called Coinbase stormed to the top of the app charts, holding the number one spot in December 2017.
This is great news for app developers, for two reasons. Number one, it proves that app users are accepting of cryptocurrency and becoming au fait with its uses and mechanics. And number two, it means that users and potential customers are associating apps and app development in general with cryptocurrencies, which can only mean a quicker acclimatisation as the industry seeks to unite the two. In fact, Bitcoin-based apps are proving to be staggeringly popular as we moved from 2017 to 2018, and not it’s just wallets – apps that track the value of the various cryptocurrencies have also seen a huge spike in popularity in the App Store and Google Play.
That’s not the end of the good news for app developers. Cryptocurrencies are entirely digital, so there’s no middleman needed for any payments; they’re instantaneous. The fees for such transactions are also far lower than traditional methods, which is especially appealing for apps that plan on dealing in large numbers of micro-transactions (which is a path that many apps have been heading down for the past couple of years). However, the U.S. is pretty strict when it comes to payment schemes, so it’s unlikely that these changes will be able to be utilised in America for a while, the much the same way that you shouldn’t expect to see Bitcoin trading rates feature prominently on Wall Street for some time to come.
But on the flip side, that does make emerging markets attractive for app developers. Two key elements of these markets are that most people access the internet solely or primarily through their smartphone, and also that they might not be a member of traditional financial institutions. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are looking to make a huge impact in these markets, which include Vietnam and Argentina. All in all, the future looks very promising for apps and cryptocurrencies. While the situation is still a little unstable as it stands, and no major changes are likely to be implemented in the near future, all signs point to an ultimate, clean integration of app technology and cryptocurrency.