171011 What’s Bitcoin’s Killer App?

Every new, disruptive technology that takes the fast track to wide distribution, acceptance, and use does so by finding its ‘killer app.’ The killer app gives that new technology a function that cannot be done any other way.  Bitcoin hasn’t found its ‘killer app’ yet but we might be very close.  When it does, Bitcoin will be desired by just about everyone who uses money over the Internet.  That is an enormous number of people.

The killer app for Apple II computers, back in the day, was the program that invented spreadsheets: Visicalc.  Visicalc was the forerunner of Excel.  Visicalc transformed the Apple II computer from plaything to office workhorse.  There was no other way to crunch numbers as fast or as extensively as with an Apple II and VisiCalc.

The killer app for Apple Macintosh computers was Pagemaker, a graphic design program.  Imagine a time when the standard office report was printed on a dot matrix printer on paper that was tractor fed with tear-off sprocket holes.  Along comes Apple Macintosh, with Pagemaker and the new LaserWriter printers and suddenly, dreary spreadsheets became fabulous looking documents with fonts and illustrations, drop shadows and clever graphics.  Everyone had to have a Mac.

There might be several reasons Bitcoin’s killer app hasn’t materialized yet.  People have to become familiar with Bitcoin first.  You can’t very well sell someone on a unique, game-changing use for Bitcoin before they even know what it is.  With every new technology, there is built-in inertia.  You hear: “Isn’t it the currency of thieves and money launderers?”  People do not understand Bitcoin well enough to appreciate its trustworthiness, the unique feature of Bitcoin that makes it so valuable.  When they do, when most questions regarding its safety go away, then killer apps will abound.

For example, let’s imagine an app that sends and receives Bitcoin.  If you’re thinking of a Bitcoin Wallet app, you’ve got the right idea.  These are popular for holding Bitcoin and most Bitcoin owners have a wallet of some sort or other.  One day, those same people are going to realize that the money they are sending to their trading partners abroad is being reduced by huge bank fees and exchange rates.  One day, it will occur to them that the same value could have been sent as Bitcoin without any fees.  If the amounts sent monthly average $100k, then that person stands to gain $30K per year using Bitcoin.  Killer app?