Answer: bitcoin will officially be considered money when it is accepted as such by most of any given population. Over half of a population, whether local, national, or global level, must believe that bitcoin is considered a “store of value” and therefore the same thing as currency, or money.

Without going into the technical babble, “money” is a currency that is usually backed by a federal government that holds direct control over the printing, distribution, and policy of the currency. With bitcoin, however, most of these rules are coded directly into distributed, open-source software packages, and run on a computer independently of anyone’s direct control. If enough computers run the same version of this networked software at the same time, a feature built into the bitcoin software makes it impossible for any one individual or actor to manipulate the network, otherwise known as “manipulating the blockchain.”

Now that we’ve reviewed the major differences between traditional money and bitcoin, is bitcoin money? Always being the curious type, I’ve oft wondered what other people thought about bitcoin, or, if they had even heard of it at all. Over the past few years, the diverse types of answers I collected roughly fell into these five distinct categories:

  1. Never heard of it (25%).
  2. I’ve heard of it, but have no idea what it is (25%).
  3. I’ve seen it in the news or read about it, and have friends that dabble in it, but I don’t personally understand (or trust) it (40%).
  4. I’m an active bitcoin/cryptocurrency trader and/or enthusiast and have a pretty good understanding of the concept of the blockchain (8%).
  5. I’ve designed and/or developed my own cryptocurrency-related projects, or am an active member of a development team (2%).

Though these figures are non-scientific, I tried to ask as several types of people, from around the planet, from all walks of life, what they thought about bitcoin (if they had indeed heard of it). The above estimations place the average percentage of people willing to call bitcoin money at about 10%, maybe up to 20% if there are some line-strattling converters from group #3.

According to Google, search term popularity for the word “bitcoin” is at an all-time high. If interest goes up by 50% every year (as it did from December 2016 to December 2017), that means the entire world (or everybody with access to Google anyway), will have heard about bitcoin before the end of 2022. We can’t be sure if they’ll accept the idea of bitcoin as money or not, but we do know that its growing trend of acceptance is more exponential than linear, and not likely to slow down.