Buying and selling using whole bitcoins as the preferred unit of currency might have made sense back when a single bitcoin was valued at just $10 to $20 USD.
These days, though, when bitcoins trade for well over $100 apiece, a smaller unit could prove more user-friendly for commerce, many Bitcoiners say.
While we’re probably not yet ready for the satoshi — 1/100,000,000th of a bitcoin — conducting transactions in mBTC, or 1/1,000th of a bitcoin, seems easier somehow.
For example, how would you rather see a cup of coffee priced at the “Bitcoin Cafe” … as 0.01 BTC, or as 10 mBTC?
For many of us, it just seems to make more sense psychologically to transact in 10 of something than in 1/100ths of something.
That’s why some people in the Bitcoin community are advocating a change to the mBTC as the unit of choice in their economy.
Jeff Coleman – AKA eMansipater – has lead the movement.
Posting on reddit’s Bitcoin subreddit, user DanielTaylor wrote June 2 (Sunday) as “mBTC day” … a “proposed voluntary day to change to mBTC in speech, websites and applications.” Many others immediately embraced the idea.
“Moving to mBTC is one of the most important non-technical changes that Bitcoin could make in my opinion,” wrote redditor aminok.
The idea has also won support from more than half of those responding to a Bitcoin Forum poll suggesting the mBTC as the standard denomination. In response to the question, “Should we start using mBTC as the standard denomination?”, 53.1 percent said “Yes” as of the morning of June 2. Another 19.9 percent chose “After the price is at $1,000, dollar parity for the mBTC,” 7.4 percent said “After the price is somewhat higher, $250+” and 7.1 percent responded, “In a few months if the price grows or remains stable.”
Another 11.4 percent split their answers among, “No. Maybe much later.” “No. Never.” and “I’m not sure.” And 1.2 percent supported an option added to the poll later: “Switch to XBT.” (An XBT is 100 satoshi, or 1,000,000th of a bitcoin.)
Bitcoin Forum member Razick, who posted the poll, said in an email to CoinDesk that support for a switch to the mBTC “seems to be across the board in general,” though he noted the poll itself did not request additional elaboration from respondents.
“Overall it is very positive with the vast majority supporting a change in the somewhat near future either to mBTC or XBT (ISO compliant designation for uBTC),” Razick said. “At this time, my poll indicates that over 60% support a switch either immediately or over the next few months.”
Of those who prefer to keep the bitcoin as the main unit of currency for now, Razick added, “I believe the primary motive is to avoid confusion or affect the exchange rate. Some individuals prefer an organic change driven by Bitcoin users naturally beginning to use mBTC without encouragement from retailers and software developers.”
Like many others posting on the forum, reddit and elsewhere, Razick see a shift to mBTC as a way to help promote Bitcoin’s adoption by more users.
“The goal of changing in the near term is to make prices and exchange rates more attractive to newcomers in order to help accelerate growth,” he said. “Bitcoin’s high exchange rate is a psychological barrier to market entry that is holding Bitcoin adoption back. It is also somewhat inconvenient to deal with prices such as 0.01435 BTC when making a purchase; wouldn’t 14.35 mBTC be more attractive? Lastly, laymen have a hard time understanding Bitcoin’s 21 million unit limit. They think of it as a barrier to widespread Bitcoin use since it’s not immediately obvious just how divisible Bitcoin is. Using mBTC it immediately becomes clear that there are at least 21 billion units. Problem solved.”