In the Bitcoin press there is often talk of what Bitcoin’s ‘killer app’ will be. Many look back to the Internet and can see that there were a few developments that marked points when people really started to notice and to use it: email and html browsers to name a few. For me, Bitcoin is its own killer app � it’s just that people haven’t realized it yet.
Fifty years ago people used cash on an everyday basis. If they didn’t use cash, then they used checks, which felt like cash since they were essentially orders to the bank to move money from one account to another. On somewhat rarer occasions people used credit cards, an act that felt a little dicey since credit cards felt like instant loans and, at least in my family, people didn’t like to be in debt. Cash on the barrelhead was always preferable.
Now, though, carrying cash has become more of an exception than a rule. We carry a myriad set of credit and debit cards, and with service like overdraft protection, the distinction between the two can seem a little vague. We have become so used to using virtual currency in the form of cards and online banking that the cash in our pocket may even seem a little less ‘real’; it’s simply an extension of the digital account that is our ‘real’ money.
What’s happened is that in the old days, whether true or not, people felt they were in control of their finances. They kept their money in the bank partly because it was safer, but also because the banks paid them a small, but significant, interest rate for the privilege. If people didn’t like the bank, they had the option of taking all their money out and keeping it themselves. Now, because cash is no longer king, it’s necessary to have a bank account to get by, the interest paid on accounts has fallen to a miniscule amount, and the fees and penalties levied take a real toll.
Bitcoin has been created to take the banks and the card companies out of the equation � to put people back in control of their own finances. Now they can themselves keep, send, and spend their money freely. They still may opt to keep their money in banks � but they will no longer be obliged to. When Bitcoin adoption begins to pick up speed and the banks begin to realize their situation, you can expect that the fees they charge will drop and the interest rates they pay will increase. The profit margins of banks will fall tremendously, but the services they provide the communities they service will increase just as tremendously.
Before that can happen, though, people do need to realize how poorly they are treated by the banks and card companies and they need to realize how much Bitcoin can help them. The best way to do that is to get some bitcoins in their hands � make it easy, make normal, make it fun. When that happens, there will be no stopping the adoption curve.
bitbank in Japan is developing a system to do just that: bitcoinGET. Basically, they are leveraging the power of rewards programs to get them using Bitcoin. Users of bitcoinGET can complete more than 700 different tasks on the site, ranging from installing apps to using services, and get awarded points. Unlike other similar awards programs, users can cash out starting from the very first point earned, sweeping their bitcoins into a bitbank wallet. From there they can learn how to spend their bitcoins or they can link their bank accounts and convert their digital currency for yen.
bitcoinGET has just had it’s official launch on November 25, 2014, so I contacted Emily Liu, Manager | International Communications & PR, of bitbank to ask a few questions about this service and Bitcoin in Japan.
I can understand the difficulties with Bitcoin adoption in Japan � even with the rise in the consumption tax, the falling economy, etc., it just seems like people don’t pay much attention to economics or money. How are you going to advertise bitcoinGET? What do you think it will take for Bitcoin to go viral?�
Actually people in Japan do care about the economics and money; they are just not as aggressive when it comes to expressing it. bicoinGET is the very first service where users can receive and collect points to exchange for Bitcoins; it deploys an advertising method called the “Reward Service” which is very popular in Japan. Users can basically collect free money just by, for example, downloading an app on their smartphones.
Bitcoin still holds quite a negative image in Japan due to the MtGox incident, and we hope to mainstream Bitcoin by providing services for people to understand and start accepting Bitcoin. We believe there are a lot of people out there who are curious about Bitcoin but can’t get themselves to start buying or using Bitcoins, and bitcoinGET is a great service for them to start trying out Bitcoin. �
By using Bitcoin as a rewards program, and by allowing people to withdraw if they have even 1 point, you’re hoping to encourage people to sign up for a wallet and to try Bitcoin out. What other services will people be able to use once they start using your service?�
When people sign up for a bitbank Wallet account, not only can they start managing, buying, receiving and sending bitcoin, they can also shop online on EC sites that uses our online payment service (bitbank Pay), pay at restaurants with our restaurant register, and obviously fully enjoy our newest service bitcoinGET.�
Are there a lot of opportunities to use Bitcoin in Japan? What do people do with their bitcoins once they get them?
The opportunity to use Bitcoin is still very limited in Japan, but it is growing and expanding. Currently, people in Japan are looking at Bitcoin more as a chance to earn money through the buy and sell on exchange platforms and as investments for the future; to be ready for the future, to get a head start.