Opinion

Why should Asia care about Bitcoin?

Peter from BitcoinPeter Vessenes is the founder and CEO of CoinLab and chairman of Bitcoin, a virtual currency.

Vessenes was in Singapore yesterday to talk at the Festival of Media Asia. In his presentation, he suggested that most people would rather pay using Bitcoin to get passed a paywall than give their personal information to a publisher. He also said that while people believed that micropayments would destroy advertising 20 years ago “look were we are now.” He later talked to Mumbrella Asia editor Robin Hicks about Bitcoin’s place in the media and marketing world in Asia.

You say that one of Bitcoin’s biggest selling points is that its users do not have to reveal their identity. But in markets in Asia such as China, Singapore or Myanmar, people are used to revealing their identity online. So what’s the advantage of Bitcoin in Asia?

Different people care about different things. If you look at China, it’s hard to use renminbi to buy things in others markets outside of China, so why wouldn’t Chinese people consider using Bitcoin? Though the market volatility of Bitcoin maybe a worry, you couldn’t say that gambling is anathema in China, so I’m not sure that side of things should be a deterrent.

Bitcoin has been hit by a lot of bad news lately. The Japanese government is considering regulating Bitcoin amid suspicions of money laundering. The Economist loves to describe Bitcoin as the currency of choice for drug dealers. How is all of this coverage affecting the Bitcoin brand?

There tends to be a lot of overheated rhetoric about Bitcoin. And I would say that no news is bad news in our case.

Typically, after there is a story about Bitcoin in the press – good or bad – we still see further adoption and growth marches on.

You said on stage yesterday that you would rather pay in Bitcoin than hand over your personal details to a publisher to get passed a paywall. Are you sure other people feel the same?

One of the things about the internet is that everything is always changing. But I do honestly think that, given the choice, most people would rather choose not to give their personal details to anyone.

There have been a few companies among the creative community in Asia, such as Fluid in Hong Kong, that have opened up to the idea of receiving payment from clients in Bitcoin. But some think this is just a gimmick to gain publicity. Do you think it could realistically catch up as a payment mechanism in the creativity community?

The creative community tends to be in the forefront of what is happening at the forefront of technology. If it does embrace it, it will have to work out how it will configure in the creative world, and I’m confident that it has a place in advertising and media. But the market will ultimately decide if it does or if it doesn’t.

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