Consider cryptocurrency as a precocious child of school age. There’s a great deal of perceptible potential that many can acknowledge — but the child needs nurturing, encouragement, and an opportunity to flourish in an increasingly competitive environment. The child is young and fledgling, but with the right support system and education, the growth potential is boundless. 

Cryptocurrencies have risen to prominence since the ICO boom of 2017 as the reality of a digitized financial future has slipped further into focus. Given that crypto was once condemned as little more than an alternative currency for criminal activity, there are now a plethora of meaningful projects in the space that are aiming to introduce digital finance to the mainstream world and educate the public on the possibilities beyond fiat currency. 

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When assessing the significance of recent news in the crypto space, El Salvador becoming the first country to introduce Bitcoin as legal tender was a pivotal moment and the initiative may be encouraging other nations to follow suit. 

But while El Savador is the first country to overtly support crypto, the space has already seen an influx of adoption from institutional players and global brands. The digital finance skeptics reject the industry proclaiming there aren’t nearly enough mainstream use cases for coins and tokens to have any real world value. Yet, the truth is there is plenty of conventional adoption from traditional enterprises and we need to educate the people on what these are and how they are making a difference. 

Mainstream adoption is already here

The contrast between the palpable optimism of those in the crypto space and the crushing pessimism of the skeptics needs narrowing, and the way to get there is by educating the digital finance cynics that mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies is already here. We may not be at the stage where crypto can be used to purchase your weekly grocery shopping, but there are plenty of existing examples of how digital currencies can enhance our personal finances.

The crypto space has responded in kind by beginning to offer more traditional financial applications. These include debit cards, which allow you to earn digital currencies while you spend or cashback apps that reward you with coins and tokens when you shop with your favorite retailers. These applications are some of the easiest entry points into the digital finance space and require no extensive knowledge of coins, tokens, or how to navigate a complex user-interface.

Financial behemoths Mastercard and Paypal have already pledged their interest in integrating cryptocurrencies as part of their business offerings; institutional asset managers JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are also boarding the digital finance train by offering crypto-related stock baskets and funds. 

Besides the finance industry, tech retailers like Apple and Samsung are also preparing to introduce cryptocurrency compatibility into their respective software payment features. On the consumer-facing side, we’ve also seen luxury fashion brands like Gucci sell NFT sneakers and the NBA capitalize on the hype with the successful launch of NBA Top Shot collectibles. Even endorsements from A-list celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Snoop Dogg are helping crypto secure the visibility it needs to sustain increased mainstream adoption. 

With such big names flirting with cryptocurrencies, there is a real likelihood that digital finance will soon become a sustainable and practical commodity of our everyday lives. These global conglomerates are providing a stable foundation for the industry to flourish and demonstrate how the world of digital finance isn’t just for developers and tech fanatics.

The future of mainstream adoption

Digital currencies are still very much in their infancy and while it’s an exciting time to be involved in the space, any predictions on the future of crypto are pure speculation at the moment. In an industry which is so turbulent and unpredictable at present, it’s crucial that we continue to improve the existing offerings of coins and tokens that are available and functional in everyday situations and steer the narrative away from the tirade of vitriol that condemns crypto as unreliable. 

Ultimately, the end goal here is for cryptocurrencies to actualize their potential as a viable alternative to fiat money. But we need to stop the direct comparison between the two because let’s remember that fiat currency has been in circulation since the seventh century, whereas Bitcoin — the very first cryptocurrency — is not yet 13-years-old. There is no reasonable correlation between the two and we need to educate ourselves to stop expecting the same features from cryptocurrencies that we have become accustomed to with fiat money.

That being said, increased mainstream adoption of digital finance will see coins and tokens being used in similar ways that we use fiat money today. It will become easier to convert fiat into cryptocurrencies, high street banks may offer their own digital asset custody services and more businesses will start accepting digital currencies as a form of payment. The possibilities of this becoming a reality is exciting, which is why we must continue to champion and demonstrate crypto’s place in the mainstream as much as possible.

Does crypto have an image problem? 

Despite all of the institutional progress we’ve seen in the past year, many crypto agnostics still see the space as a niche and intricate industry with no clear entry point. There is a perpetual endeavor for those in the space to educate individuals new to crypto and explain the complex details in easily digestible ways, but this needs to be happening on a far larger scale for the industry to gain any real traction towards widespread mainstream adoption.

In order to rid itself of the perception that it’s an industry for a select few, digital currencies can start by shifting away from overly technical messaging and interfaces — a key deterrent for many individuals who are curious about crypto but with limited knowledge of the space. We need easy to use platforms, simply explained protocols and viable entry points, and once this becomes the status quo, crypto can truly be for the masses and incorporated into everyday life.

What next?  

Perceptions need to change of what mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies looks like. We are still a long way from digital finance becoming an integral part of our everyday lives in the same way that the loose change in our jeans is used to buy our morning coffee. But the tenure of digital finance in the media spotlight — both good and bad press — is helping tease the interest of the general public who are now discussing crypto more than ever. 

So what next? The crypto industry must champion mainstream use cases as institutional and commercial adoption will be the key to crypto’s long term success, especially in the face of possible bear markets. Patience is a virtue here — crypto will not replace fiat overnight, but the more education there is and the more those in the space build on the existing mainstream use cases, then the sooner it will be that digital currencies can show the world what they’re truly capable of.