According to Google’s Year in Search report, Bitcoin was one of the most-searched news terms of 2017, second only to Hurricane Irma. With over 90 percent market share in the search engine space, Google’s search report is not only an interesting insight into the popularity of a topic within that year but also an accurate metric of the general public’s perception of one term over the other.
In this case, bitcoin was so popular, that the cryptocurrency even beat out incidents that were highly sensationalized by the media such as the Las Vegas shooting that took place in September 2017.
It is almost an open secret at this point that bitcoin’s hurtling price has led to a surge in its popularity worldwide, which is a cyclical process. In fact, the ongoing success of digital currencies can be only be explained by the equally meteoric influx of new investors. As more and more money flows into bitcoin, the concept of supply and demand takes over, pushing its price up to astronomical amounts just to keep up with the increased adoption.
Google Trends offers yet another way for us to gauge the explosive growth of bitcoin, except, in this case, we can use it to graph its lifetime popularity, and thus, not limit our observation to the past year. Unsurprisingly, there is a huge spike in the number of Google searches for bitcoin when its price increases significantly. Also, the current popularity seems to have largely picked up since the start of 2017.
Notably, 2017 was not the first time that the price of bitcoin surpassed the $1000 milestone. It has been close to four years since it made its quick run up to around $1200. However, the collapse of Mt. Gox, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange at the time, drove bitcoin’s price down all the way to around $300.
Even though bitcoin’s rising recognition among the masses may seem like a victory for the entire digital currency ecosystem, it might actually end up tarnishing the image of cryptocurrencies in the long run. In 2009, when Satoshi Nakamoto made bitcoin publicly available to the world, he released a supporting whitepaper alongside, detailing it as a “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.”
In the eight years since its release, bitcoin has indeed been used as a currency on several occasions as is evident by the controversial Silk Road scandal from 2013 and the infamous 10,000 bitcoin pizza purchase that occurred in 2010. That said, bitcoin’s reputation to have major price swings has not set a good precedent for it to be used as a currency, especially of late. Instead, most new purchasers are looking at cryptocurrencies purely as a medium of investment.
Whether or not bitcoin is an asset class though, it was always meant to be used as a currency first. But with transaction fees spiking to around $20, delays of several hours and a throughput of four transactions per second, it is no perhaps closer to being widely adopted as a currency than it was all those years ago. Despite all these shortcomings, without bitcoin’s original motive and the backing of its core technology in its early days, it is important to note that the idea of cryptocurrencies would have probably been dead on arrival.