Interest in cryptocurrencies is dwindling. And this time, the sign isn’t lower trading values or a bear market—But the search data from Google. To the uninitiated, anyone can look up the search data for any term or topic using the Google Trends tool, and it shows that the search term “cryptocurrency” is at a lower level than it was in September 2018.
What does it mean? And how should you act ahead? We’re going to unpack a lot in this digression so tighten your seat belts as we unearth the implications of the dying interest in a once-revolutionary concept.
What is it All About?
Google searches are a good tell of what’s trending right now. The search volume is as low as it was 5 years ago typically means the end of interest in a topic. Is that what’s happening with cryptocurrencies?
To begin, we’d be remiss not to note the many advancements made in the blockchain and decentralized finance segments. Today, we have remarkably more guidance about crypto than ever. Many websites teach beginners about cryptocurrencies and they explain everything in noncomplicated terms. There’s more awareness and new Bitcoin ATMs are opening all the time, giving people an alternative asset to transact in, not just hold.
But the popularity is certainly dwindling down to a halt.
The leading reasons are retail and institutional investors simply losing interest in the sector. The collapse of FTX and Terra has certainly played a role in this and 2022 was the year with hackers stealing as much as $3.8 billion (the highest ever).
Quite interesting, the interest in decentralized finance (DeFi) spiked in 2023 mainly because of traditional US banks (centralized finance) failing.
Of Booms, Bubbles, and Crashes
There have been three crypto booms in the past—Once in 2011, the second in 2013, and the third in 2017. The 2017 boom led to a crash in 2018 but the larger cryptocurrency ecosystem recovered really well and came out stronger.
Since February 2019, Bitcoin, for example, has recovered really well. This chart from CoinMarketCap summarizes it pretty well:
But post-crash recovery aside, we have to take a step back and look at the larger picture. The value of major cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum is not a sign of a decline in popularity. As these resources become scarcer and large holders inflate their wallets more during crashes and price dips, the value is likely to increase over the long run.
People investing in major cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation, rising debts, geopolitical volatility, or bad forex ratios compound this effect and help these cryptocurrencies grow continually.
That being said, booms and crashes are an interesting point that is instrumental to the rise and fall in the popularity of cryptocurrencies in general.
A boom leads to a newfound interest in the term. More and more people are reading up on what cryptocurrencies are and watching videos on how they work or how to make money with their help.
The last boom happened way before September 2018 (which is the beginning of the 5-year period that we’re comparing). Both the interest in these digital coins and their values started increasing by November 2020. April-May 2021 was an especially good period where things nearly peaked.
All of this was led by what experts call a “bubble.” A bubble is different from a boom. Whereas a boom is followed by a crash, a bubble simply bursts and can lead to more wealth erosion.
The 2020-2022 bubble was mainly led by ICOs or initial coin offerings. Much like how companies offer a public sale of their stock, these coin projects were offering an entry into the internal workings of their cryptocurrency for cheap (and sometimes, even for free).
The problem was that you can’t have hundreds of amazing projects. With new ICOs and cryptocurrency projects being imagined and sent to production almost every day during the peak months of this bubble, it was bound to burst at some point.
Wired noted it as early as 2017 that the ICO bubble would soon burst. They called it a good thing, however.
With every project vying to be the next big cryptocurrency that can promise gains not just in 100-200% but even 1000%, people were madly investing in any project they deemed half-decent. The majority of these buyers and investors during the bubble were not technologically savvy and didn’t do their due diligence in learning about the team behind a project, reading its whitepaper, or just analyzing the practicality of whatever the idea was.
In fact, the lack of research when trading in cryptocurrencies is still the biggest mistake that can haunt you forever!
Nevertheless, there were other factors as well. For example, Coinbase went public on the NASDAQ with a 31% growth in their share price on the first day, Bitcoin and Ethereum reached all-time high values, and the meme cryptocurrency Dogecoin saw an upswing of a whopping 20,000%!
All this led people to believe that getting in early on crypto projects was a shortcut to making more money when these coins turn a profit.
This, however, was a fool’s hope. The vast majority of these new coins and projects were shallow with no real applicability. The teams behind the new cryptocurrencies were shaky at best.
As one would expect, they started failing one after the other. Add to that the denouncement of cryptocurrencies by the likes of Elon Musk (Tesla stopped accepting BTC payments) and the People’s Bank of China (they reinforced their stance that digital currencies cannot be used for payments) and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.
Cryptocurrency values started dropping and even the biggest coins lost anywhere from 30-40%. This created widespread panic and people started to sell more, compounding the effect further. It wasn’t all doom, however (most notably, Bitcoin became El Salvador’s legal tender).
Booms and crashes lead to spikes and declines in the interest surrounding the cryptocurrency sector. And that’s what has happened this time but the magnitude is significantly higher as the effect isn’t just about people losing interest—But large investors too, who are finding it increasingly riskier to navigate these waters.