Like any good, disruptive, complex technology, Bitcoin is grossly understood by a society that sees no need for its’ existence, much less a desire to learn how to use it. There was one new technology that was vastly similar to Bitcoin in its’ infancy. Before miners were building rigs or discussing cryptography, a similar cross-section of society was tinkering with a new technology that would have massive disruptive and constructive capabilities. That technology was the Internet.
The Internet plays such an involved role in modern-day life that it is difficult to recall a time when it’s terminology was not an everyday part of the lexicon. When Al Gore first invented the Internet (I know, don’t email us), the demographic that first built systems and programs on it, discussed it, and foresaw its’ capability was the same demographic that is now tinkering with Bitcoin. They were the ones who understood what a URL was, how a modem worked, and that Netscape was, well, the ultimate wormhole.
Companies like Google and Microsoft simplified small parts of the user experience by suggesting address completion, developing a search engines, creating shortcuts, and all of the other add-ons that allow Grandma to make a completely off-topic comment on Facebook. In the same way the Internet had a learning curve, Bitcoin has wallet addresses, the blockchain, mining, exchanges, and so on. It takes simplification for the average end-user to foster mass adoption of any technology. If Grandma can just click on a Facebook shortcut, she can become a user. But most people cannot presently navigate their way through blockchain.info, generate a wallet, buy bitcoins, and back them up.
Generating a wallet address from blockchain.info requires the user to learn how to properly generate and backup a wallet address. The preferred methods are to generate a physical backup and provide mobile authentication. Grandma isn’t going to print out a QR code or link her mobile number to a wallet address to prompt authentication. But in a system like Coinbase, Grandma can simply input her email address, banking info, and mobile number. Coinbase automatically changes her wallet addresses for her without the need for concern. Coinbase has relieved the previously necessary step of learning how this all works in order to self-perform security.
Multisig is intended to facilitate versatility in Bitcoin transactions similar to the use of escrow accounts. In short, Bitcoin multisig allows for the creation of several keys to enable a transfer of coins between two wallets. The most common structure is three keys with two needed to activate a transfer. This allows for two people to enter into a contractual agreement and have a private arbiter hold the third key. A seamless platform that streamlines the ability of users to read reviews of arbiters and contact them for services is needed in the Bitcoin community.
Such a platform will further penetration into a money transfer market dominated by services like PayPal. It may also provide much more specialized arbitration services due to the ability of professionals to leverage industry experience in varying areas. A real estate attorney, for example, would be in demand and able to charge a premium because of his ability to understand the legal precedents pertaining to a transactional real estate dispute.
A common occurrence with any disruptive technology is the necessity to upgrade and convert existing methods in order to capture the profitable capabilities of a new paradigm, like the Internet or Bitcoin. As demand for adoption grows, so to does demand for simplification. It isn’t always easy to know what will be developed, but that simplifications for the sake of an easier user experience will occur. Developers of consumer based Bitcoin applications should keep simplicity in mind for the sake of adoptability. It may be too soon to introduce Grandma to Bitcoin, or expect that she can understand it, but is it possible that parents may soon wade into the world of wallets and exchanges? It will require a simplified user experience.
If we examine companies that have had recent success in the Bitcoin space, many of them have enabled simplification of the user experience. In the early days of Bitcoin, placing a buy order was an arduous, time-consuming process. Then companies like Coinbase began streamlining deposits and linking wallets with usernames. This is a trend we can expect to continue. Mass adoption will occur when money can be transferred from the swipe of a card, payments sent to email, and arbitrage services provided on a large scale in a unified user experience. So if you are developing a technology in the Bitcoin space, think simplicity, for Grandma’s sake.