10 Bitcoin Industry Sectors Providing Killer Apps

Luke Parker , 28 May 2015 - BitcoinAdoptionList

The Bitcoin faithful have long been in search of Bitcoin's “killer app," which can be defined as a use for bitcoin that cannot fail to drive adoption of the digital currency. With so many interesting and disruptive projects in the Bitcoin industry this list is restricted to applications that make use of bitcoin as a currency. Applications such as security exchanges, timestamping, Digital Rights Management, provably fair voting and asset tracking have been intentionally left out.

If the public can earn their first bitcoin from a service, it has the potential to drive mainstream adoption. Applications such as gray markets, paywall expediters and prediction markets have also been excluded, as they require the public to obtain bitcoins before they can use these application.

In much the same way the web browser could be considered the killer app of the internet, enabling large parts of the world to get online for the first time 20 years ago, most bitcoiners believe that use cases like those ones on the list below could do the same for bitcoin, allowing it to spread as fast and as far as the internet has.

Examples: Storj, Maidsafe

Not to be confused with decentralized internet access, decentralized file and website hosting promises to be a better way to store your online life and give you more control, privacy, and pricing fairness than is possible elsewhere. There are already a few startups providing ways to store data of all kinds in a decentralized way.

The compelling part of this example is that people who host this encrypted data, or even just tiny slices of it on their home computers, can get paid for their storage space and bandwidth, directly from the user storing it.

When we should see it working:

Perhaps the soonest will be Storj, which is in beta testing now. Currently using an altcoin instead of bitcoin, the company states that as Bitcoin grows to accommodate a larger number of transactions, they'll switch to to the premier digital currency.

There are some concerns that ‘dark’ websites and illegal content stored on these networks will entice law enforcement to target project developers. This area of Bitcoin development may well benefit from an anonymous attempt to create such a project.

Examples: Spells of Genesis, Bitquest

World of Warcraft's gold, Eve's ISK, and SecondLife's Lindens are all virtual currencies with no upper limit on how many can be printed. All of these digital currency alternatives present the economic problems one might expect from having a few people, or just one person, in charge of issuing all the currency they'd like within that world. Clearly a game where your character earns bitcoins would make for a very compelling experience.

To power a Bitcoin marketplace within a videogame economy, the funds will most likely be provided by advertisers. Players are less inclined to adopt a game if they have to pay as much as they earn, or have a chance of earning less, and software developers are trying to make money, not spend it. In-game advertisements could give advertisers plenty of reason to supply an ongoing stream of bitcoin into popular video games.

When we should see it working:

The problem with videogame economies driven by Bitcoin is a business hurdle that demands a new revenue model. Developers have often supplied their own bitcoins, and they can quickly run out of funding. Hopefully interested developers are in talks with sponsors and advertisers.

Example: ChangeTip

Bitcoin's ability to send micropayments effortlessly has resulted in a new revenue model, that is growing fast for the younger crowd. This rapid growth has mostly been driven by the hard work of ChangeTip. The increasingly popular tipping tool is already functional across 12 social networks, including Facebook, YouTube and Disqus. This technology appears to be appealing more to millennials, who are more comfortable with the internet and enjoy giving their fellow community members fifty cents for a thoughtful or funny comment.

When we should see it working:

It's fully working and growing in popularity now, with integration constantly growing, but a range of the most popular sites such as Instagram, Steam, Wikipedia, and Snapchat are still missing. Mass usage of social tipping will likely occur from a network effect of people seeing it across all of the websites that they frequent, so ChangeTip is working to add them as soon as possible.

Examples: BitMesh, MegaNet

Paying in real time and on-the-fly for internet access is one of the strongest arguments for a purely digital currency, but there are still technological hurdles. Imagine a setting on your phone or iPad that lets you set how much you're willing to pay for internet access, and wherever you go it automatically finds and pays for a connection that agrees to your price, without paying for a single wasted minute.

BitMesh is working hard on the other side of this solution, letting others pay you in bitcoin for connecting to your internet access. Although it's still in production they claim to have a fully working prototype server running on a cheap Raspberry Pi computer. Given time, this model of internet access could even do away with the modern Internet Service Provider, if enough people are part of the mesh network.

When we should see it working:

The biggest problem with this system is the limited range of domestic WiFi connections. With ranges in the hundreds of meters there would be a lot of downtime between connections outside of urban areas, but not for long. The Femtocell internet access point is coming later this year from many different manufacturers, with ranges and speeds that make Wifi seem like two cans on the ends of a string. Hopefully by the end of this year we'll see small femtocell devices that will let you wander around your entire neighborhood without losing your home connection.

Even the best-funded business in bitcoin today, 21 Inc., is rumored to be working on a Femtocell paid mesh network produced by Qualcomm. If so, they could have it ready by Christmas.

Examples: OpenBazaar, BitWasp

Not all decentralized marketplaces will be useful for selling drugs and fake IDs. The decentralized architecture of BitTorrent, and now OpenBazaar, makes a lot of sense for selling almost anything, from real estate down to items that cost a fraction of a penny. Imagine Amazon.com with no fees of any kind, no local censorship rules or cross-border payment restrictions. This can be achieved by a decentralized marketplace design.

To stay decentralized bitcoin payments will be required to use them. The BitTorrent client Frostwire demonstrated that it can send bitcoin donations to the original file sharer while keeping them anonymous. There is every reason to expect a BitTorrent based marketplace in the future, where you can sell any data for bitcoin, with instant download and perhaps even a pretty Netflix-like interface.

When we should see it working:

OpenBazaar is the frontrunner and is in Beta now. It is being actively developed, but it's user interface needs some polishing.

Examples: BTCJam, BitFinex, P2P Lending, Institutional investing, too many to count.

Investments in the bitcoin space come in all shapes and sizes, from angel investing in start-ups down to buying 'bitstocks' on unlicensed exchanges. Some of the larger bitcoin exchanges like BitFinex offer interesting investment tools like margin trading and options, and Wall Street has a few institutional products to sell. Barry Silbert's Bitcoin Investment Trust is centered around bitcoin, as is the upcoming Winklevoss ETF.

The appeal isn't the same for all investors. Some are there to make a quick buck in a low-regulation environment, while others believe the price of bitcoin is still very low and feel there are higher than usual gains to be had. Still others simply don't have access to investments where they live. With bitcoin there are platforms where absolutely anyone can make investments, such as BTCJam.

When we should see it working:

This sector has certainly caught the attention of Wall Street. Depending on the state of their other investments such as the Dow Jones, which has made record highs numerous times this year, interest could rapidly shift to bitcoin investments. A substantial move to investment and lending with bitcoin could cause millions, or even billions, of dollars worth of institutional money to flood the market. The resulting price increase, and media circus, would certainly bring bitcoin to the attention of the remaining professional investing world.

Example: Streamium

Many real-time streaming applications have popped up lately, such as Meerkat and Periscope, and it's becoming clear that internet users have an appetite for custom video content and will even pay for it. This is especially true for tasks like business coaching, language lessons, and of course pornography. Online payments via the legacy financial system are limited and insecure. Bitcoin, with the new-found ability to stream payment in lockstep with content, could be a perfect fit.

Now you can start a streaming session and send any amount of bitcoin to the stream's provider, each and every second. This makes bitcoin a very efficient payment method, with no middlemen able to hinder a transaction.  

When we should see it working:

Streamium works great today, but was completed just last week so it's too early to see any growth metrics. If the live cam industry adopts this technology we could be looking at strong growth, with other industries following closely behind them. The Paparazzi could also pick up this platform and make it an overnight success, selling their streams to the highest bidders.

Examples: Leetcoin, Gambit

With a slogan like “Kill your friends and take their money,” who could resist a free service that allows you to make wagers on popular video games like Counterstrike, League of Legends, and Minecraft. Leetcoin does to these modern, multiplayer action games what Gambit does for online board games. They let people put some bitcoin into a 'pot,' play a game with anyone online, and the winner takes the bitcoin home instantly.

This application is particularly well suited for millennials, who have a higher exposure to bitcoin already. With the recent ChangeTip integration of Twitch, the most popular platform for gamers to share their in-game feeds, this sector is starting to round out well. Now gamers everywhere can see bitcoin being used.

When we should see it working:

Although Leetcoin is doing a terrific job growing the market, practically by themselves, it could take years if nothing else changes. However, all it would take is one large game company like Sony, Steam, or Nintendo to integrate Leetcoin or a similar protocol into their platform and videogame prizefighting could be an overnight sensation.

Examples: Taringa! Creators, Film Annex, BitStars, Bitlanders

Giving people opportunities to earn money online, that pays in bitcoin, is an extremely powerful tool for bitcoin adoption. From posting selfies to writing reviews or articles, to creating full movies, just about any type of social networking or content creation gig on the internet has someone willing to pay for it.

This approach is especially powerful in countries that have little access to banking services. In the USA or Europe, it may not empower many people to write a review for 1,000 bits, but in Afghanistan or the Philippines a whole new economy is just itching to be born.

When we should see it working:

Taringa! is currently in public beta testing. Soon 27 million Spanish-speaking users will be eligible to receive free bits on a daily basis, with the opportunity to earn more for posting content. We could very well be looking at a Spanish-language tidal wave of bitcoin adoption in the near future.

Examples: Abra, Rebittance, BitPesa

International remittances are the ultimate low-hanging fruit for Bitcoin. Several companies have started offering rebittance, remittance with bitcoin at the core of their service, each targeting a specific country.

BitPesa was among the first to offer a remittance-to-cellphone service, and lately they've spread to a second country. Abra recently launched with a way to make rebittance look exactly like a typical remittance service, with no mention of bitcoin. Perhaps the most promising news is that Satoshi Citadel Industries in the Philippines has launched a full rebittance service matching engine at Rebittance.org. It allows users to send rebittances anywhere, by helping you find the local rebittance provider in the target country.

When we should see it working:

Everything is coming into place now for rebittances. Look for the Philippines, Mexico, and Hong Kong to lead the charge, but Africa, India, and Indonesia aren't far behind.