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Bitcoin’s Symbol, Currency Code and Denomination Is A Pressing Issue Amid Mass Adoption

Bitcoin, due to its open source nature, has been a project guided by the community. Bitcoin’s symbol, denomination, and currency code are becoming increasingly debated issues as the currency gains in value and adoption.

As any marketer knows, it is important to stick with a brand. Jumping from brand to brand will hinder your business from getting any real following. At the same time, it is important your brand speaks to the consumer’s interest and is understandable. This is no different for an open source currency such as bitcoin. Many bitcoiners, including members of the Bitcoin Foundation, are focusing on standardizing this before bitcoin experiences mass adoption.

XBT Quote 2

A member of the Bitcoin Foundation’s Financial Standards Working Group, Goldmund Lukich, posted the picture above, to the Bitcoin subreddit and caused a large discussion among the community. The post currently has 1,857 upvotes and almost 800 comments. Satoshis, Sub-Satoshis, Bits, BitDollars, and mBTC were all thrown around as candidates for how to denominate Bitcoin’s price. People are trying to find a new way to count bitcoins that isn’t difficult or confusing like the current denomination in decimals is. Other discussions focused on whether Bitcoin’s traditionally used currency code, BTC, should be replaced by XBT.

XBT, unlike BTC, is compliant with the International Organization for Standardization’s currency code guidelines, ISO 4217. ISO 4217 states nongovernmental currencies, and several things which are "similar to" currencies, have a X in front of their currency code, like XAU for gold or XAG for silver. Bitcoin’s symbol didn’t get as much attention as the other topics, but Bitcoin’s current symbol, ฿, is quite conversational and many are trying to change it to Ƀ. The reason being, ฿ is the exact same as Thailand’s symbol for their national currency, baht. The similarity could cause confusion and problems for bitcoin.

This topic is not just popular among the bitcoin community at large, the Bitcoin Foundation has made it one of their key priorities to make progress on these issues in the fourth quarter of this year and first quarter of next year. The foundation has announced the Financial Standard Working Group is working hard to get these matters settled. The group, led by chairperson Beth Moses of Virgin Galactic and former National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineer, is applying for ISO 4217 approval.

The group will be applying for bitcoin’s currency code to be XBT, despite BTC being commonly used by the community and businesses around the world. The foundation did note sites like Bloomberg,, and Oanda already use XBT for bitcoin’s currency code.

“The first task of the Financial Standards Working Group will be to apply for ISO 4217 approval for a Bitcoin currency code. Obtaining an internationally recognized currency code for Bitcoin will enable more fluid international transactions and currency conversion.”

The group is also working on bitcoin’s unicode symbol. They have not expressed which symbol they wish bitcoin to be represented by but it is clear it won’t be the traditionally used  ฿, in order to avoid confusion with Thailand’s baht. Many members of the Financial Standards Working Group have unofficially put their support behind Ƀ. This is still left undecided and it seems to be less of a priority for the foundation compared to finalizing bitcoin’s currency code. The foundation did say they will deploy some sort of community consensus on the decision but has not shared what that would be.

Part of the groups duties is to standardize the denominations used to count Bitcoin. The group has not announced any details on the matter but they should be coming to a conclusion by the end of next year’s first quarter, as with the rest of the issues at hand.

“We need to switch to bits… That also would have psychological effect to the price!”
— – redditor,  torya

As with most discussions surrounding bitcoin, the discussion of the Bit image thread was heavily focused on bitcoin’s price. Bitcoin’s symbol got almost no discussion, while the currency code did get a decent amount, but neither of them came close to the attention Bitcoin’s denomination got.

Bitcoiners are trying to make sure bitcoin is understandable and easily countable. Before there was no problem with counting bitcoin for transactions. The currency was so cheap, a cup of coffee cost 10 bitcoins. It isn’t the case any more. Due to bitcoin’s increasing prices, a cup of coffee costs about 0.00347 in bitcoin, at today’s prices. Many bitcoiners have regarded counting in decimals as awkward and difficult for the average person to use in daily commerce. The idea of the average person using Bitcoin in everyday commerce is one of the dreams shared by many bitcoiners.

XBT quote 4 is also making a strong push for bitcoin’s unicode.

This debate is solely focused on the advancement of bitcoin as a currency. As more and more people are transacting in bitcoin, the importance of making bitcoin recognizable and easily countable is greater than ever before. For bitcoin to solidify its position of a currency, goods and services must be denominated in it, and not in USD, as is currently the case. That is why many see these issues as very important to bitcoin’s future.

The thread discussion bounced from idea to idea, but what was clear was counting Bitcoin in decimals is out. Everybody seems to agree on the assumption and was looking for new ways to denominate the currency. Using various versions of the Satoshi unit, which is  1/100,000,000 of a bitcoin, seems to have fallen out of favor, but has been very popular in the past. Many people think the Japanese name is confusing and doesn’t easily represent its denomination to the average person with no knowledge of bitcoin. The proposed Bits system and another system, based on the on the power of ten like the metric system, were discussed and favored the most.

Bitcoin’s denomination is considered not just important but pressing, by the Bitcoin community. They see it having a very important role in the mass adoption of Bitcoin. Besides the merchants added by services like Bitpay everyday, big merchants such as Dell, Expedia, and Overstock are driving mainstream bitcoin adoption with an increasing amount of their sales in bitcoin.

This adoption by big, mainstream companies is a sign to many that the mass adoption of bitcoin is underway and thus it is more important than ever to make the currency useable for the average person.

"Sir, your coffee will be 0.000347 bitcoins."

Sophie is an artist whose secret passion is finance, economics, and technology. Shh! Don’t tell the artists she works with, they hate that kind of stuff. She loves keeping up with the ever expanding and evolving world of crypto-currency. When she isn’t painting, she can be found trying to understand the complex inner workings of markets. Another complex system she is fascinated by, are ecosystems. She often observes them on her daily hikes through nature.


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