Back in November 2021, the world of cryptocurrency was at its peak. The price of Bitcoin was sitting at $65,000 – the highest it has ever reached – and the cryptocurrency market overall had a capitalization of around $1.28 trillion. In the years leading up to this, there were plenty of signs that the market would grow bigger, as plenty of other altcoins also started to see success. Famous altcoins like XRP and ETH began making waves between 2012 and 2015, and as the world of cryptocurrency began to surge, there were even Bitcoin ATMs set up around key locations – to sit side by side with the traditional ATMS that had become so familiar.
But with a market founded on such volatility, there were always going to be a few snags along the way. The first was in 2018, when market saturation caused damage to investor confidence, leading to a crypto winter that lasted until late 2020. The second began after the peak in late 2021, when the Terra and Tether debacle led to a mass drop across the board, with Bitcoin falling from $65,000 to around $19,000. But although this second crypto winter seems to be coming to an end, and prices for Bitcoin and other altcoins have been seeing tremendous gains – the XRP price surged by 34% over the past month due to the positive SEC lawsuit result – it is the second crypto winter that has seemed to rock the boat.
The Symptoms of Crypto’s Second Winter
Throughout late 2022 and 2023, there have been multiple reports of “stifled” investor confidence. Even the Bitcoin ATMs mentioned before began to disappear, with over 400 BTC machines going off the grid in under two months. In London alone, the city left only ten Bitcoin ATMs. This is surely the biggest indicator that the second crypto winter has done damage. While a small development in the wider crypto-sphere, the ATMs were a signifier of the growing presence of crypto in everyday life. They were tangible. This made them significant when it came to the public consciousness absorbing crypto.
The Disappearance of London’s Bitcoin ATMS
For crypto investors who are concerned about the effect of the second crypto winter, it’s important to take salt with the typical scaremongering and ask whether the disappearance of the Bitcoin ATMs has been directly caused by the winter. Looking at London, one of the main crypto hubs, the decline in ATMs can be attributed mainly to compliance issues – something that has long hindered the concept of cryptocurrency – and the fear of enforcement action. According to experts, the FCA has been actively involved in ATM closures, stating that they could be used for illicit activity such as fraud or money laundering.
The Reason for the Disappearance
As already mentioned, the problem of regulation and compliance has been with cryptocurrency since the very first Bitcoin whitepaper in 2009. Running on a purely decentralized network, blockchain, the crypto market requires adaptations to countless existing regulations, or even the creation of entirely new ones, hence the time it has taken (and is still taking) to regulate every aspect of the industry. In this way, the disappearance of the Bitcoin ATMs might not be down to a lack of confidence or back treading after the crypto winter, but it was an inevitability that would have occurred whether the wider crypto market was flourishing or not.
The Implications of the Disappearance
It’s also acceptable to ask the question: who cares? If we’re discussing the implications of the second crypto winter and whether it has done more damage than the first, then the disappearance of the Bitcoin ATMs – though significant on a visual level – doesn’t actually come into the conversation. This is because, although safe and secure if regulated, Bitcoin ATMs are inevitably obsolete. The concept behind crypto is that it does away with the need for centralized banks, as well as physical cash in the IoT. If crypto ends up succeeding and replacing fiat currency, then cash-converting machines will become useless, and Bitcoin ATMs will die out – which is even more of an inevitability due to exchange fees and space rental, which can lead some ATMs to charge as much as 7%.
The Future of Crypto
While crypto skeptics will argue that the disappearance of ATMs is indicative of a wider issue with the crypto market, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that regulation remains an issue for cryptocurrency, and it will continue to be an issue until governments around the world come to a sensible conclusion that can effectively integrate crypto into everyday life.
While the convenience and visual appeal of Bitcoin ATMs were useful for the market as a whole – as mentioned before, the market is volatile, so visual cues like this can even be enough to spur investment – they are not the biggest casualty to befall the crypto landscape over the years. More importantly, however, it is not an indicator of a damaging second winter. Over the last few months, Bitcoin, XRP, ETH, and more altcoins have seen seismic surges, indicating that we are turning back toward a bull market, and investment is only predicted to improve. The ATMs may be disappearing, but cryptocurrency is not going anywhere.