Bitcoin was supposed to upend the banking industry. Venture capitalists poured some $850-to-$900 million into Bitcoin-related startups in 2015; the figure is set to be less than half that amount in 2016. Yet there is not much to show for that billion-dollar outlay. What happened? A large swath of fintech players may have been talking to themselves, while everyday consumers discovered that Bitcoin was too cumbersome to use regularly. That does not mean that Bitcoin will die. It—and other cryptocurrencies—will play a narrow, practical role in the global financial system. Bitcoin has proven value, for instance, in supporting worker remittance flows and facilitating commercial payments across frontier nations. Critics point to its darknet function, but that sideshow is engulfed by the enduring role of the $100 banknote.

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