Bitcoin is coming up to its ninth birthday (January 2018). Crypto-mania, on the other hand, began some time around January 2017. From that date, market capitalisation of the entire universe of Crypto-currencies jumped from $14 Billion to just over $140 Billion (as of writing – October 2, 2017).
That’s a ten-fold increase. 2017, then, was the year of the Crypto Big Bang. What these numbers don’t tell us, however, is how many users are out there now actively involved in the Crypto ecosystem.
“Scientific Wild Ass Guess”
This is not a question that can be answered – at least not directly and certainly not as an estimate with any great certainty. But we can propose a method to arrive at a ball park figure which is what we’ll do below. We’ll make some assumptions along the way and show you how we derive at a number which we’ll throw out there right now: 5 million (or just over).
Bear in mind that we cannot count users based on the number of addresses because with Bitcoin, for example, one user can (and should) have multiple addresses. Nor can we can go by the number of wallets out there – because, again, plenty of people out have more than one wallet. I myself have around a dozen and I think that is not uncommon.
So how do we explain that figure of 5 million? Simple. We begin by making two assumptions:
- Everyone who dabbles in Crypto is more or less dabbling to some degree in Bitcoin on a regular-ish basis
- The distribution of Bitcoin wallets follows the Pareto principal
According to the first assumption, that means to count the number of active Crypto users out there, we could simply count the number of regular Bitcoin users out there . Granted, this is somewhat risqué as an assumption but, at the same time, I personally know no-one who engages in Crypto trading who doesn’t occasionally find themselves flitting in and out of Bitcoin. In part, this is because on many exchanges you can only purchase alternative crypto coin through Bitcoin.
If assumption one holds well enough, we will now proceed from assumption two, and thus go looking for the number of Bitcoin wallets in existence which – according to blockchain.info – currently stands at 17 million.
We will now apply assumption two where we will invoke the Pareto principal. This is a well-known observation within the social sciences which states that many human phenomena demonstrate an 80% v 20% conduct – e.g. businesses often find that 80% of their sales come from 20% of their client base, 80% of a software’s issues arise from 20% of its bugs, 80% of all wealth is held by roughly 20% of the population and so on.
We will apply this principal to wallet distribution ownership. We will start from the idea that, in a wallet-egalitarian world, our 17 million Bitcoin wallets would translate to 17 million Bitcoin users (past or present) . However, in a Pareto world, 80% of these wallets belong to 20% of our 17 million baseline of prospective users. That makes for 3.4 million multi-wallet holders. And because they are multi-wallet holders, we’ll classify them as active participants in the Crypto ecosystem.
The other 20% of wallets (there are 3.4 million remaining now) belong to the remaining 13.6 million of our prospective wallet user base. But we know that these 3.4 million wallets cannot be shared among our 13.6 million remaining prospective users (well they could in theory, but we can safely assume from personal experience that this is not the case in practice – rarely is any given wallet regularly managed by two or more people).
So the question now is: to our Pareto population of 3.4 million active multi-wallet users, how many of the remaining 13.6 million prospective users also have a wallet? Well, we know that if we distributed each of the 3.4 millon remaining wallets to one person only, that would endow us with another 3.4 million wallet possessors.
We now have a lower limit of 3.4 million active users with a theoretical upper limit of 6.8 million. The real answer, naturally, will lie somewhere between the two – and if we plonk down the middle, that puts us somewhere in the region of just over 5 million.
That said, the total number of people who have some kind of hands-on experience with Bitcoin (who, for example, have dabbled once or twice simply out of experimental curiosity) will likely take us to a far higher figure – but I won’t speculate on what that might be.
There is a methodology here but it remains speculative – but that number, 5 million, does seem to crop up on the back of other estimation methodologies which have tried to uncover an answer to the same question.