This year, Japan’s government recognized the digital currency as a legal form of payment, spurring a flurry of activity in new exchanges. Major retailers also began accepting bitcoin for purchases.
In the U.S., high-profile companies like Overstock.com began accepting bitcoin in 2014 amid another price slump. But now, developers see greater potential than just payments for bitcoin’s blockchain technology. Companies are using blockchain to connect cloud services, monetize all kinds of human interactions and give refugees access to a secure identity.
The new projects have increased interest in bitcoin around the world, rather than simply being a speculative asset dominated by Chinese traders.
“I don’t think it’s over-exuberance. I think it’s the market starting to properly discount some of the utility that these assets have,” said Benjamin Roberts, co-founder and CEO of Citizen Hex, an ethereum-focused start-up backed by three Canadian venture funds.
“Of course there was a big [bitcoin] bubble in 2013. At that time, there was a lot of exuberance around what was possible,” Roberts said. “But a lot of the utility, those possibilities, hadn’t been realized yet. Today, across cryptocurrencies as a whole, you’re starting to see some of those preliminary use cases emerge.”
To be sure, new technology almost always takes longer than expected to gain traction, and if bitcoin sees some rockiness after the latest surge it could take some time to recover. The Nasdaq composite crashed more than 80 percent in the tech bubble and did not top the 2000 peak until more than 15 years later.
“Right now, we are in the honeymoon phase where everyone’s just excited,” Blockstack co-founder Muneeb Ali said during a Token Summit panel. As projects fail and people lose money, he said, “out of the ashes of that the next Google and Amazon [will] emerge.”
Watch: A little cold water for bitcoin enthusiasts