Coming to this discussion late. Only read the first few pages and this one, so far.
With Bitcoin being used primarily in internet gambling and involving a wasteful set-up application by a geek oligarchy (mining bitcoins) I find it rather an absurd and funky-wrong attempt to have an alternate medium of exchange. With a bit of a ponzi investment element and dubious internals. (There is no there there.) The early attendees can do good financially if they can find ways to cash out, which is the nature of ponzi. If they hold everything, they risk everything.
And thus we had the late 2013 bubble, which has now crashed. A lot of the early adopters already got out, while people who held are alongside later arrivals in building and maintaining bitcoin. It has been steadily creeping up again for a while now, demonstrating a nice slow growth that translates to lasting value instead of the get rich quick bubble mentality.
While it is true that it is used a fair amount for gambling and contraband, it isn't as anonymous as you think. Law enforcement seizing your bitcoin wallet means that they can now follow all of the transactions you made through the public record that is the blockchain. Like so, it is possible to keep your privacy without compromising law enforcement's ability to collect evidence. Even DPR of silkroad got busted pretty hard by that- they were able to positively identify his bitcoin addresses, and use his transaction history as evidence against him. Anonymous? Not really.
These days the marketplace is dominated by Forex-like strategies, and many people who got into daytrading through bitcoin are actually moving back towards Forex using their bitcoin profits as starting investment. Though it remains unregulated and you can easily lose it all if you are careless or leave large sums of money on a vulnerable exchange, its losing its new frontier impression and settling down to be more business-like.
If you want to speculate at this point, it is a bit like day trading, with far less possibility of a sensible strategy. Except, I gather, that you can not afford to make small transactions, due to transaction fees.
The opposite as point of fact. I was not able to turn a profit attempting to daytrade normal stocks or forex, but I am reliably getting profit daytrading bitcoin. The market is actually more predictable than you would expect, and has a high enough volatility to make regular profitable movements if you are positioned to catch them.
For instance a typical trading fee is 0.02% of the total order value, deposits have no fees, and withdrawls usually involve an 0.0001 btc transaction fee to encourage miners to continue as the yield per block decreases by the planned schedule. These fees are so low that I can put $10 on the table and trade it with profit, where a single transaction of NYSE stocks will often have a $10 fee just to place the buy order.
And I am a big fan of bullion and real estate as real money and value. My view: it is hard to say that gold or silver is overvalued or undervalued. One ounce of either remains at 1 oz a year later. It is the price, volume and confidence in the fiat currencies that varies. The bullion remains the same.
If you, or a friend or relative, puts some wallpaper money into bullion, it never changes. If the price goes down, that's ok. If you lose, you win. Since, up to that time, we have not had an economic collapse and hyperinflation .. yet. Whatever little stash of green is around is still valuable.
You can also do leveraged trades now too if you go to the right places. Just this morning I closed some short positions that were made with 50x leverage. Such a capability is doing wonders for taking the volatility out of bitcoin by making it so traders can profit happily from smaller movements, keeping the value stable so people can actually use it as a currency.
Bitcoin's volatility is decreasing, and as it does leverage rates will continue to increase to allow traders to profit more efficiently. But its a nice feedback loop that in time will consolidate the unpredictable and fast paced market of bitcoin to behave like any other forex transaction would. It will always move a little, even normal currency forex like USD/CAD moves from time to time. But that movement can be reduced to tenths of a cent per day, allowing bitcoin to retain a value close enough to constant for people to use it as currency without fear of a market crash.
If there is a time when Bitcoin has the same amount of convertibility as decent credit card points (transferable gift cards for Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and Barnes and Noble) let me know and I will rethink the above.
A big part of the holdup is updating infrastructure to support it. For an online store this is quite easy- connect the store to a payment gateway or directly to a self-hosted bitcoin wallet (lower fees this way).
Physical stores have to purchase additional equipment to interface a bitcoin processor or wallet with their existing point of sale systems, but in theory it should be able to interact the same way a credit card terminal does with the key exception that at some point it needs to present a code for the buyer to scan and send bitcoin to.
Time is solving this issue, if bitcoin can stay clear of attracting the wrong kind of attentions it should survive long enough to see this become largely solved. It is attractive for small businesses because the per transaction fee is so tiny- at the time of this writing it works out to $0.024 for any size transaction. Compare this to the $3 or more often charged by credit providers and the difference will add up quickly.