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Cryptocurrencies demystified: between 2,9 and 5,9 million users worldwide (3)

Henk Vermeulen

Auteurs: David Kuiken en Linda de Vreede

In a serie of three articles, we will try to demystify the concept of cryptocurrency and explain the basic facts of the current situation. In the second blog, we gave some practical advice about investing in cryptocurrencies. In our final article, we’ll take a closer look at the users of cryptocurrencies.

Who is using cryptocurrency?

It is difficult to say with certainty who uses cryptocurrencies, what they use it for and how many users there are. Only estimates can be made. In the early years of cryptocurrencies mostly cryptography and technology enthusiasts where interested. Later, gamers and criminals started using them. Now the general public is starting to catch up with news outlets spreading information. Financial institutions are also exploring the possibilities of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Some have started their own currency or started backing existing initiatives.

Cryptocurrencies are often associated with criminal activity such as drug dealing, cybercrime and money laundering, since it can be near-impossible to track the user. But criminals only represent a small fraction of total users. Criminals did help with making cryptocurrencies more popular at the start of this year with ransomware and news about darknet raids by the FBI. As with every technology, criminals are the first to adopt. There was a time where criminals felt safe, because law enforcement hadn’t adopted the technology yet. The moment law enforcement catches up, criminals usually find other possibilities to make money. In the recent months, there have been a lot of raids on users of darknet sites like the Silk Road. Many criminals have found out that Bitcoin isn’t as anonymous as they thought.

The University of Cambridge published a benchmarking study on cryptocurrencies over 2017. They worked with 150 cryptocurrency companies to gather information. This resulted in some great insights into the users.

For instance:

  • The Asia-Pacific part of the globe has the largest share of users with 38%. Europe is in second place with 27%
  • Half of miners are situated in Asia-Pacific
  • 42% of Wallets are owned by Europeans
  • The amount of users is estimated between 2.9 million and 5.9 million worldwide

A wallet can hold multiple address which are stored in the blockchain. 0.1% of addresses own more than 60% of bitcoins, and therefore have been nicknamed ‘Whales’. It is not clear who holds these addresses. One address had more than 100k bitcoins. The other 99.9% owns the rest. Here we can see the differences between early adopters and people who joined in later.


Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand cryptocurrencies and the blockchain a little bit better. It is a broad and complex subject and just a small part is covert by this article. If you are interested in the future of cryptocurrencies and you want to know more, there are many platforms to educate yourself. We urge you, yet again, to be careful investing in the technology since it is a very volatile asset.

Read the previous blogs in our Cryptocurrencies Demystified serie here (part 1) and here (part 2).