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Opinion
Aaron Brown

Did Bitcoin’s El Salvador Debut Dud Doom Crypto?

Stumbles in the digital currency’s transition to legal tender may be just that – but a bigger unknown could thwart its evolution.

Bitcoin’s rollout in El Salvador wasn’t without glitches. Now comes the bigger test.

Bitcoin’s rollout in El Salvador wasn’t without glitches. Now comes the bigger test.

Photographer: Cristina Baussan/Bloomberg

Bitcoin had a rough Tuesday, slumping almost 10% on a day that should have been cause for a celebratory rally. For the first time, Bitcoin became legal tender in a sovereign nation, El Salvador.  But technical glitches around the rollout and demonstrations against crypto adoption spoiled the debut and sent other digital currencies lower in sympathy.

The problems were the kind that can crop up with any mass rollout — especially by a government — and the immediate disruptions may turn out to be minor and short-lived. Yet they point to a greater unknown that may be far more significant in shaping Bitcoin’s evolution: Will people actually adopt it?  

I’m reminded of the mid-1990s, when one of the biggest questions for internet investors was how many people would be willing to buy PCs, pay access fees and learn about computers and browsers to take advantage of the worldwide web. Only with mass adoption (which of course happened) would businesses, governments and other entities build the fiber-optic cables, servers and other infrastructure that would make the internet fast, cheap and ubiquitous.