Cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, and Blockchain

Cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, and Blockchain

2016 has seen more businesses (both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar) start accepting cryptocurrencies, in particular, Bitcoin. According to Coinmap, a crowdsourced website that tracks businesses that accept Bitcoin as a method of payment, there has been more than a 12% increase in such businesses in the first 9 months of 2016. While the revenues from Bitcoin are still a fraction of overall revenue (in 2014, Overstock.com, Inc. reported approximately $3M in Bitcoin sales compared to $1.5B overall revenue), the expectations for wider adoption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have never been higher. For example, Rand Merchant Bank research found that cryptocurrencies could make up to 40% of banks’ revenue if it becomes a global standard, Overstock.com, Inc. invested in Medici, a division launched in 2014 to explore potential applications for blockchain technology, Microsoft Corporation is offering Blockchain-as-a-Service (BAAS) as part of its Azure cloud platform, and McKinsey&Company’s research claims, “…blockchains, the technology underpinning the cryptocurrency, have the potential to revolutionize the world economy.”

 

But what is a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and blockchain? What is the big deal? To start with, cryptocurrency is a type of currency, though it exists only digitally. Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency, which has been (so far) the most widely adopted. Blockchain, on the other hand, is a technology (really a decentralized set of records) that allows businesses and individuals to make almost instantaneous transactions using a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. It is also secured from tampering and revision because it is a public ledger that is continuously verified by all users in a decentralized manner. Think about buying lemonade for $1, but instead of giving a dollar bill, recording this transaction in a big distributed database, and waiting for a little while where all the other users say ‘this transaction is good’. Imagine having this set of records for every US dollar minted and spent from the beginning. While it seems impossible using a real currency, in a digital world, Blockchain made this a reality. Businesses love the potential of cryptocurrencies because cryptocurrencies eliminate the need for a third party (e.g., credit card companies) for transaction verification, reduce the risk of fraud, and allow each purchase to be part of the revenue almost immediately (in a couple of minutes).  Hence, more and more businesses are hoping to gain from this potential.

 

We performed an analysis in the Twittersphere to observe who is ahead of the competition in the cryptocurrency race, who is most influential, and whose messages are getting across. As a start, 5 companies were chosen, that are already ahead in cryptocurrency adoption: Microsoft Corporation, Overstock.com, Inc., Expedia, Inc., Dell Inc., and TigerDirect.

 

Analysis of the most shared URLs revealed that Overstock’s links are the most shared, followed by Microsoft, TigerDirect, and DELL. It was also seen that the Overstock CEO’s interviews and Microsoft’s Project Bletchley (a cryptocurrency project) are among the most shared URLs. Unfortunately, Expedia’s links are not among the most shared links, i.e. not in the top 50. Note that the most shared URLs were aggregated and grouped using Scraawl’s link expander service. Otherwise, it would be impossible to associate the shortened links (e.g., t.co/XYZ) contained in tweets, even though they are the same links. To see how this feature works, open a Scraawl report, go to Basic Statistics, and click on any of the Top URLs to see how these links originally appear in the tweets.

Next, an analysis of the top retweets was performed. Recall that retweets contribute to Engagement (see Scraawl blog How Digiorno got Pizza-Rolled: A David and Goliath Story for a deeper analysis using Social Metrics.) Observing the top 10 retweets  further reveals that the Overstock CEO’s message and Microsoft’s projects are among the most shared tweets, including an interesting tweet about DELL, which claims it filed a patent for Blockchain. It is becoming increasingly clear that Overstock, Microsoft, and DELL see the cryptocurrency and Bitcoin businesses as potentially rewarding, and their messages are clearly resonating in the social media.

As noted in the Scraawl blog Influence Discovery in Social Networks a lot of retweets and or URL shares do not necessarily mean influence. Hence, calculations of both influential users and influential hashtags were performed using Scraawl’s influence discovery algorithm. Out of the 5 companies analyzed, it was found that Microsoft (@microsoft) has been the most influential. Overstock via their CEO (@overstockceo) came as second. This is a little bit surprising because Overstock was not as influential as Microsoft, despite its URLs and tweets being shared more than those of Microsoft.

 

So far Bitcoin has been mentioned as the king of the cryptocurrencies, which is true considering its $5B USD circulation value. However, it is also seen that Ethereum (@ethereumproject) is the 7th most influential user and #ethereum is the 6th most influential hashtag. In fact, Ethereum is a new but very promising cryptocurrency, which could dethrone Bitcoin and you could see more businesses accepting Ethereum very soon. Note that Ethereum’s influence is even more impressive in this analysis because Ethereum was not even used as a search term.

As a final step, the content analysis revealed the topics and themes contained in the tweets. Scraawl’s topic modeling algorithm was used to find topics. Recall that Scraawl Topic Modeling uses a probabilistic model to discover patterns of word use within and across tweets. As seen in the topic modeling output, the first topic is about blockchain, bitcoin, and Microsoft, the second one is about bitcoin but not necessarily in English, the third one is about blockchain and Overstock, and the fourth topic’s narrative is dominated by hashtags #cryptocurrency and #bankofamerica. The revelation of Bank of America’s hashtag is somewhat surprising because Bank of America was not one of the companies in the search query. With a little bit of deep diving and reading tweets (which you can do with the “Raw Tweets” functionality in Scraawl), it was found that Microsoft and Bank of America partnered, and as one Twitter user put it: “#Microsoft and #BankofAmerica Begin Making Beautiful #Blockchains Together.” A definitely interesting theme to watch in the upcoming months.

To sum up the analysis, the Overstock CEO’s message propagates well in the Twittersphere, but Microsoft and Bitcoin blogs that post about Microsoft are more influential. Microsoft’s partnership with Bank of America (@bankofamerica) dominated one of the topics, and it will be interesting to see how the partnership of a brick-and-mortar bank and a technology company to create business using a crtyptocurrency will play out. Tigerdirect (@tigerdirect) and Dell (@dell) tweets were also seen in the top 10, so their investments towards Bitcoin seem to be paying off. In addition, Ethereum is another type of cryptocurrency that has the potential to dethrone Bitcoin. It would be interesting to see what the last quarter of 2016, and the year 2017 will bring.

 

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