Many in the cryptocurrency community have spent years predicting that digital currencies will someday take the place of fiat currencies. But mainstream economists tend to view cryptocurrencies with more than a bit of disdain. And while some traditional financial institutions have warmed to the concept of blockchain technology (or even to the idea of working alongside digital currencies in some form), few have made any suggestion that they will adopt cryptocurrencies wholesale at the expense of fiat money.
While cryptocurrencies have yet to fully take over in the real world in a way that enthusiasts have predicted, there are nonetheless some signs that various currencies are making it in the traditional business space, even if only to a small extent.
Of course, if one or more digital currencies does end up "making it" in the real world in this way, it's likely that investors in the cryptocurrency will see great rewards for their early adoption. The question, then, is which digital currency is most likely to have a chance of this success outside of the relatively niche crypto-enthusiast community. Below, we'll explore some of the possibilities.
For many, the original major cryptocurrency, bitcoin is the one that remains most likely to see mainstream adoption on a large scale. While there is no single authoritative list of companies around the world that accept digital currencies like bitcoin, Coin Telegraph suggests that 54 major companies currently accept one or more digital currencies. Of those, just two don't accept bitcoin. In this way, bitcoin has outpaced all other digital currencies currently on offer, and in this way it is the most usable digital currency in the mainstream business world at this point, at least when it comes to payments.
Altcoins, or digital currency alternatives to bitcoin, tend to see lower levels of acceptance among major companies. Coin Telegraph suggests that, compared with 52 major companies accepting bitcoin as of this time, only 25 accept litecoin, 13 accept ethereum, 14 accept bitcoin cash, 15 accept dogecoin and 12 accept monero.
It's important to keep in mind, though, that a list of 54 companies is far from exhaustive. For this reason, it's helpful to look to other resources to get a glimpse of where things stand. UseBitcoin is a directory with entries for more than 5,000 businesses and retailers; nearly all of them accept bitcoin, but the large majority don't accept other digital currencies.
Coinmap suggests that 136 businesses in New York City currently accept bitcoin payments. Some of these work exclusively with bitcoin, even going so far as to house their own bitcoin ATMs.
Bach Nguyen, community manager at SatoshiLabs, the Prague-based company that runs the Coinmap database, explains that more and more businesses are accepting digital currencies other than bitcoin. In the Czech Republic, Nguyen says, "we have been witnessing wider acceptance of cryptocurrencies. Places that have accepted bitcoin [in the past] started accepting litecoin or ethereum. There are even ATMs which offer bitcoin cash. Though, bitcoin is still dominant."
In the end, it's difficult to assess which cryptocurrency may be able to break into the mainstream business space most decisively. Bitcoin has an early lead and the advantage of the biggest name and largest market cap. However, altcoins continue to grow in popularity relative to bitcoin. For the time being, no cryptocurrency has effectively overtaken fiat in any part of the world. Will one of the existing coins or tokens be the first to do so? Or will it be up to a new entry into the growing cryptocurrency space to earn that distinction?