"Bitcoin's Network Effects and the ICED Theory: Understanding the Future of Digital Currency and Infrequent Products"


Hatched by Glasp

Jul 17, 2023

4 min read


"Bitcoin's Network Effects and the ICED Theory: Understanding the Future of Digital Currency and Infrequent Products"


In today's interconnected world, the concept of money has evolved beyond physical forms to digital currencies like Bitcoin. Bitcoin, a decentralized cryptocurrency, has disrupted the traditional hierarchical structure of currency and introduced a new era of network effects. This article explores the relationship between Bitcoin's network effects and its future, while also delving into the challenges faced by infrequent products using the ICED theory.

Bitcoin: The King is Dead, Long Live the Network

Money has always been a collective belief, and the stability of a currency relies on the trust and confidence of its users. Traditional currencies, backed by hierarchical structures with a central authority, establish belief through centralized decision-making, predictability, authority, and the tax base. Bitcoin, on the other hand, operates on a decentralized network structure, eliminating the need for a central authority and introducing a new form of belief through network effects. Bitcoin has replaced the king with a network, relying on decentralization, software-encoded rules, ubiquity, and resiliency to create belief.

Understanding Bitcoin's Network Effects

Bitcoin's value and future lie in its network effects. By analyzing the health of these network effects, we can gain insights into the potential of Bitcoin in the coming years. There are several types of network effects that contribute to Bitcoin's defensibilities:

  • 1. Belief Network Effect: The more people believe in the value of Bitcoin, the more valuable it becomes. As belief spreads through the network, it becomes self-fulfilling and solidifies Bitcoin's position as a store of value.
  • 2. Protocol Network Effect: The strength of Bitcoin's network effect is influenced by the number of nodes connecting to the protocol. Changes in the protocol, such as the shift from proof of work to proof of stake, can impact its long-term survival and fitness in the ecosystem.
  • 3. Marketplace Network Effect: Bitcoin operates in two marketplaces - speculation or "store of value" and payments. While the store-of-value marketplace has a weak network effect, as liquidity reaches diminishing returns, multi-tenancy allows for the holding of various currencies as a store of value.
  • 4. Platform Network Effect: The number of developers working on a platform, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, strengthens its network effect. The more developers contribute to the platform, the stronger the network effect becomes.
  • 5. Data Network Effects: Bitcoin's blockchain creates two data network effects. First, it establishes an immutable history of interrelationships, difficult to replicate by competitors. Second, as the chain of blocks grows, the computational effort required to compromise the network increases, enhancing security and value.
  • 6. Tribal Network Effects: Bitcoin's tribal effects, arising from in-group and out-group dynamics, contribute to its defensibility. The emotional sense of belonging and identity associated with Bitcoin strengthens its position within the network.
  • 7. Bandwagon Network Effects: Bitcoin's global brand and market cap create a strong bandwagon effect, attracting more users compared to other cryptocurrencies.

The ICED Theory: Addressing Challenges of Infrequent Products

The ICED theory provides a mental model to address the challenges faced by infrequent products. Infrequent products, unlike their frequent counterparts, struggle with product recall, customer engagement, and distinctive positioning. The ICED theory consists of four factors:

  • 1. Degree of Infrequency (I): The degree of infrequency influences key business decisions such as monetization and the cost of traffic acquisition. Higher engagement becomes crucial for customer retention and advocacy.
  • 2. Degree of Control Over the User Experience (C): Increasing control over the user experience reduces perceived effort and discourages customer disloyalty, ultimately reducing churn.
  • 3. Degree of Engagement Before, After, and During the Transaction (E): Engagement is determined by transaction complexity, touchpoints, and predictability of retention. Higher engagement fosters customer loyalty.
  • 4. Distinctiveness of the Product (D): Failure to be distinctive can strain customer acquisition, especially for infrequent products. Market penetration becomes crucial for product-market fit.

Conclusion: Actionable Advice

Based on the insights gained from Bitcoin's network effects and the ICED theory, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Foster Belief Network Effects: Focus on building belief in your product or currency by leveraging decentralized networks, software-encoded rules, ubiquity, and resiliency.
  • 2. Enhance Engagement for Infrequent Products: Reduce perceived effort for customers by streamlining the user experience and increasing touchpoints before, after, and during the transaction.
  • 3. Differentiate and Penetrate the Market: Ensure your product stands out from competitors and strive for market penetration, even for infrequent products. Distinctiveness and customer acquisition are vital for success.

By understanding the power of network effects and addressing the challenges faced by infrequent products, businesses can navigate the evolving landscape of digital currency and product growth. Bitcoin's future will rely on its ability to leverage network effects, while infrequent products can thrive by implementing strategies derived from the ICED theory.

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