Big companies are groping in the cryptocurrency field

published Sunday 10 April 2022 at 11:08

Four years ago, fast food chain KFC tweeted from its Canadian account that it would allow bitcoin as payment for its buckets of chicken.

The company told AFP that the ad campaign was a joke that only lasted an hour and that it hasn’t received any cryptocurrency payments since, but online stories keep popping up. claim that KFC “accepts” bitcoin.

Other companies, such as Tesla and Dell, have offered to sell their products in bitcoin before quietly abandoning these initiatives.

Bitcoin will likely never be used for daily purchases, as it is a particularly volatile asset and each transaction is expensive, energy-intensive and takes at least half an hour to process.

“No one will ever walk into a KFC to buy a chicken burger and wait 30 minutes to pay for it,” said Andre Cronje, a South African cryptocurrency expert and developer, in an interview with AFP.

There are, however, thousands of other cryptocurrencies more stable than bitcoin and with shorter payment lead times. According to the specialized site CoinMarketCap, the total value of cryptocurrency assets exceeds 2 trillion dollars, half of which in bitcoin.

Developers like Mr. Cronje are building infrastructure to facilitate virtual currency payments. But traditional adoption is key. For their part, companies still struggle to find the ideal formula.

– “Horse race” –

Microsoft is one of the big companies that is moving cautiously in the cryptocurrency space.

The US tech giant insists that its shareholders will never be exposed to the price fluctuations of digital currencies. PayPal and Apple have made similar promises.

Microsoft has partnered with Bakkt, a service that converts its cryptocurrency assets into various products such as Xbox gift cards or adding credit to a Starbucks payment card.

Backed by Microsoft’s M12 investment fund, Bakkt went public on the New York Stock Exchange last year and has entered into a number of partnerships with companies including Mastercard, which has driven its shares to rockets.

But after announcing big losses, Bakkt saw his stock plummet, raising doubts about the viability of his model. The company, which was aiming for 9 million customers at the end of 2021, had only 1.7 million active accounts at the end of last year.

For its part, PayPal has been offering a cryptocurrency payment system in the United States and the United Kingdom since last year through which users’ cryptoassets are converted directly into dollars or pounds during their purchases.

The popularity of this service and other similar initiatives remains difficult to establish. None of the companies contacted responded to the AFP’s requests. Market watchers say it is still too early to say whether these forays into the cryptocurrency space will pay off.

“My position is not to give in to the excitement and watch the horse race,” said John Freeman, a research analyst for CFRA.

– Economies –

The limits to the mass adoption of cryptocurrency payments for everyday consumer products are considerable, if not insurmountable.

Cronje, who uses services like BitPay and BitRefill to spend his cryptocurrency wallet on Amazon, Uber and elsewhere, acknowledges that people less savvy than him “would go broke very quickly” if they relied on mobile technology on a daily basis. cryptocurrency exchanges.

The developer foresees a future where credit cards will continue to be used but many bank transactions, which currently require intermediaries, will be automated on the blockchain.

“It’s a technology that will save them 20% to 25% on overheads and costs,” says Cronje. “The question is not if it will happen, but when.” Outside of the financial sector, companies may continue to facilitate the use of cryptocurrencies even if the benefits are not obvious.

The Pavilions hotel chain, which has been collaborating with a cryptocurrency payment service since last year, says, for example, that it hasn’t found major differences among its customers.

“Nobody seems to like spending their bitcoins, even on vacation!” Said a Pavilions spokesperson in an email sent to AFP. “It shows that people see bitcoin more as an investment tool than a means of payment.”

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