While there’s no end of technical and price information available on Bitcoin (BTC), the vital human element often gets overlooked: who uses Bitcoin? This is a very important question because, despite all the technical complexities, the success of the cryptocurrency ultimately depends on human beings.
For Bitcoin to have any purpose at all, it requires humans. People need to know about it, want it, need it, buy and sell it, value it as money, use it for trade, develop, adapt, think about, and talk about Bitcoin…
While Bitcoin may eventually become the currency of choice for AIs and machine-to-machine payments, for now it only exist because people want or need it to exist. That said, there’s remarkably little information available on who all these people who keep Bitcoin going really are. Just who uses Bitcoin?
There are a few ways to tackle this question, in order to provide some insights into Bitcoin’s user base.
Who Uses Bitcoin by Geographic Location
The below “Bitnodes” map shows the global locations of all reachable Bitcoin full nodes over the last 24 hours. A full node is a Bitcoin wallet which relays transactions and stores a complete copy of the Bitcoin blockchain, which it shares and synchronizes with connected peers.
The map shows that Bitcoin full nodes are concentrated primarily in the United States and then Europe, with East Asia being the next densest region. As miners require full nodes, China’s representation may seem surprisingly low. However, the numbers are more reasonable in the light of two considerations:
the high number of Bitcoin businesses, coders, and hobbyists in the West, all of whom want or need to run a full node, &
the fact that large-scale mining operations, with hundreds or even thousands of ASIC mining devices, can be run off a single full node.
This full node map certainly doesn’t show a full or accurate picture of just who uses Bitcoin however. There are less than 10,000 full nodes displayed, while it’s estimated that there are millions of Bitcoin users.
A more accurate way to measure global interest was proposed in the study, Analysis of the Bitcoin blockchain, which used geo-location of IP addresses seen within the Bitcoin network between late 2012 and mid-2014. In addition to North American and European interest, this method also revealed many connections from Russia and China.
Who Uses Bitcoin by the Numbers
Arriving at a reasonable estimate for the number of Bitcoin users is no easy matter. While the blockchain offers a complete and transparent ledger showing the transaction history of all Bitcoin addresses, it does not associate them real identities. In other words, while we know how many addresses there are, we don’t know how many addresses are owned by a user. Furthermore, there’s no theoretical limit to how many addresses can be owned by a single user.
Figures reported by Bitcoin businesses, particularly exchanges, give us some indication of the lower limit of users. For example, Coinmama has served over 1.6 million people around the world since our establishment in 2013. Another major US-based exchange which operates in several countries claims to have over 30 million customers.
Another method to estimate user numbers is to conduct a survey. An early 2018 study in the United States concluded that about 5% of Americans use Bitcoin, a surprisingly high figure given America’s total population of about 329 million people, which would suggest that there are about 16.5 million Bitcoiners in the US alone. Unfortunately the survey had a small sample size of less than 6,000 people and so must be taken with more than a grain of salt.
A second major survey, conducted in April of 2019, suggested that 11% of Americans own Bitcoin. That would amount to over 33 million users in the US alone. However, this survey was comprised of an even smaller sample size of just over 2,000 respondents. Data from this second survey suggests that Bitcoin awareness is spreading rapidly in America, with 89% of those surveyed being aware of its existence. The survey also revealed that younger people, between 18 and 34 years of age, are the most likely to have a favorable opinion of Bitcoin. This demographic is also the most likely to buy Bitcoin and to hold it.
A recent investigation from CoVenture Research used blockchain analysis and estimated exchange user counts to arrive at a total of 13.2 million Bitcoin users. However, this research did not consider anyone holding a Bitcoin balance below about $7 to be a user, which likely eliminates many millions of people. The study is a year old and the user base has almost certainly grown since then, particularly given Bitcoin’s price recovery in 2019, so 15 million seems like a reasonable guess at a more current number.
Who Uses Bitcoin by Google Analytics Data
According to the Coin.Dance site, which tracks various Bitcoin-related metrics, the interests of Bitcoin community member can be tracked from Google Analytics data. Such data reveals each a user’s presence and activity across a range of websites, which then reveals the types of information which interest them.
The most popular interest categories, in order of most to least popular, are:
finance and investment,
real estate, &
CoinDance also provides some data on community affinities, which includes categories like “avid investor,” “technophile,” and “shutterbug.” Presumably this measures access of websites which don’t fit into more “serious” interest categories, such as news, image, and movie sites.
Who Uses Bitcoin by Demographic Data
Research by the now-defunct website, Bitcoinx.io, revealed the following findings:
86.9% of Bitcoin users are male.
39.8% of Bitcoiners were from Europe, with 35.8% from the Americas, and 18.2% from Asia.
38.2% of Bitcoin users aged 25 – 34, the largest age category, followed by 25.5% aged 35 -44, and 15.3% aged 18 – 24.
60.4% of Bitcoin users were using the Chrome browser.
This data was based on people accessing the Bitcoinx.io website, so is likely to be strongly biased towards English speakers.
However, these findings tally well with a 2015 survey by crypto news site, Coindesk, entitled “Who Really Uses Bitcoin?” Unfortunately the full results of the poll are no longer available online except in summary. Once again, Coindesk is an English language site which skews the results towards North America and Europe.
Coindesk’s survey revealed the following data points:
65.8% of respondents reported their race as “White,” with the next biggest group identifying as “Asian.”
23.9% of respondents reported their annual income as between $50,000 to $99,999. About 42% of respondents earned less than this, with about 22% earning more, and the remainder choosing not to disclose their income.
Based on the above findings, the average Bitcoiner is a millennial, white American or European man with an interest in finance and tech and a relatively good job. Of course, this picture is based on incomplete data which quite probably underestimates Bitcoin’s popularity among Asian users. With Google banned in China, there’s no way to measure Bitcoin interest there by Google search volume or analytics data. Nevertheless, it seems safe to conclude that the average Bitcoin user is a professional man, in his 20s or 30s, with an interest in finance and technology.