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Planet Money Episode 891: Who Won The Bet Over Bitcoin?

I don't know if anyone here listens to "Planet Money", a pop economics podcast by NPR. Their most recent episode was about widespread adoption of Bitcoin.
Specifically, it was about a bet between Ben Horowitz, a venture capitalist who believed that Bitcoin was on its way to becoming a widespread payment platform, and Felix Salmon, a finance journalist who thought it was going to go to zero. They made a bet 5 years ago, whether or not 10% of Americans would be using Bitcoin at least once a month, and they finally got the results today:
GOLDSTEIN: As promised, we went out and got Ipsos, a real polling firm, to ask 900-and-some Americans - a representative sample of Americans this question. Have you purchased anything using bitcoin as your payment in the last month? The percentage of Americans who said, yes, is three - three.
HOROWITZ: All right.
GOLDSTEIN: Now, they did ask those people - the people who said they had, they said, at what merchant did you make the purchase? And I have some of those answers. And it suggests that the 3 percent is a little high.
GOLDSTEIN: If you go down this list, somebody said Gaia Ethnobotanical, which I looked up - in fact, does accept bitcoin. Subway - I think some Subways accept bitcoin. But there's also a bunch that say - this one says Litecoin. A few say Coinbase, which is a bitcoin cryptocurrency exchange. So these people are using bitcoin to buy other cryptocurrency.
Horowitz ended up admitting to something that a lot of people on this sub have been saying for a while as well:
KESTENBAUM: That's what Ben thought would happen with bitcoin. He thought the code that powers bitcoin would just get better and better and, very quickly, it would obviously be this safer, faster, more private, cheaper way for people to buy stuff online. That did not happen.
GOLDSTEIN: No. Bitcoins just became so valuable that the people who worked on the system didn't want to make it any better. They just wanted to lock everything down and keep it the way it was.
HOROWITZ: I think that what happened with bitcoin is that there is kind of one very, very strong need among the kind of investors/miners, which is that the code and the meaning of the code would not change.
And Salmon, the guy who bet against Bitcoin, hits on the real paradox of Bitcoin:
SALMON: I - honestly, I was looking back. I mean, there were two things which I expected would happen which didn't happen. One is I expected the price would probably go to zero, and it didn't. It went way up and to the right.
And the other is that I expected that there would actually be use cases over the following five years that, even if people weren't using it to buy stuff in stores, and that was my side of the bet, I imagined it would be used for remittances, or, somewhere along the line, it would have evolved. Especially if it had grown to be worth thousands of dollars per bitcoin, then it would be used for something.
GOLDSTEIN: So it's more valuable and less useful than you thought.
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Orchestrated by NPR’s Planet Money podcast, venture capitalist Ben Horowitz (bullish on Bitcoin) and financial journalist Felix Salmon (bearish) are squaring off on the following: "In January ... Many have mentioned speculative bubbles in connection with Bitcoin, and Reuters journalist Felix Salmon correctly predicted the bursting of one such Bitcoin bubble in April 2013. [64] Noted individuals who have named Bitcoin a bubble include Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan ; a core developer of the Bitcoin protocol, Mike Hearn ... Until the Mt. Gox crash, keeping bitcoins made more sense than buying stuff with them. Now things are less clear cut, including the wager broadcast earlier this year on America's National Public Radio between Felix Salmon, a finance blogger at Reuters, and Ben Horowitz, a venture capitalist who has backed Airbnb, Facebook and Twitter among others. As Felix Salmon explained in his deep-dive last week, botnets are the logical outcome of the Bitcoin system: The way that the money supply grows, in the bitcoin system, is by people harnessing the ... A Bitcoin address, or simply address, is an identifier of 27-34 alphanumeric characters, beginning with the number 1 or 3 that represents a possible destination for a Bitcoin payment. Addresses can be generated at no cost by any user of Bitcoin.

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