Global interest in cryptocurrencies has grown over the last five years driven by political turmoil, social unrest, economic disparity, and investment speculation. Although the concept of currency is globally understood, the need for and use of cryptocurrencies varies by country. This article explores the nuances of cryptocurrency interest around the world using the "Bitcoin" Google search term as a benchmark.
Worldwide search interest in Bitcoin peaked in December 2017, but review of country-specific Google Trends data show distinct differences in behavior and timing leading up to that all time high. These variations provide stark reminders of the economic and political disparities that shape human experience.
In some countries, search interest for Bitcoin is higher now (June 2021) than ever before. This article seeks to identify those countries and provide context for further audience research.
- Global search interest for Bitcoin grew in three phases, starting in January 2017 and concluding with the all time high in December 2017.
- Phase 1 countries Bolivia and Nigeria, were the first to demonstrate significant interest in Bitcoin. Of these two, Nigeria is the one with sustained Bitcoin search interest.
- Phase 2 countries Colombia and Paraguay, were the next to show Bitcoin search interest starting in May 2017. Although both countries recorded an upward trend in Bitcoin search interest in 2021, the Colombian audience marked a new all time high in Bitcoin search interest.
- Phase 3 countries joined en masse, from Europe and the Middle East to Asia and North America, culminating in the global all time high in Bitcoin search interest in December 2017.
- After years of stagnation, worldwide Bitcoin search interest began to grow again in early 2021.
- Ten countries have since reached new all time highs in Bitcoin search interest in 2021 versus their original highs in 2017: Argentina, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Poland, Switzerland, Thailand.
Google Trends Usage and Limitations
Google provides free access to global search interest data through the Google Trends platform. Google Trends data is insightful, but has known limitations due to the data normalization process and use of relative numbers versus absolute numbers.
Audience size differs widely between countries, and the search interest metric used in the following Google Trends charts is relative to the audience contained in the chart query. Some countries have such low audience levels and/or interest in Bitcoin that they are excluded from this review due to lack of sufficient data.
Another limitation of Google Trends analysis is the bias toward Google search audiences. However, Google's Search Engine captures 92% of searches worldwide. The Chrome Browser is also the dominant browser worldwide at 65% market share as of June 2021.
Bitcoin Search Interest
The term Bitcoin is ubiquitous and its global search volume significantly exceeds all other cryptocurrency related terms. For purposes of this article, Bitcoin is used as the benchmark Google search term for audience comparison by country.
The world witnessed a resurgence of Bitcoin search interest in early 2021 that has sustained through today (mid-June 2021). Although not at the global all time high recorded in December 2017, there are individual countries with higher search interest in Bitcoin now than ever before.
The Evolution of Bitcoin Interest
Worldwide interest in Bitcoin grew to an all time high in late 2017, but country-based review of the months leading up to the fourth quarter of 2017 reveal differences in the waves of interest from one country to the next. Notably, three phases emerged, with Bolivia and Nigeria leading the initial search interest, followed by South American countries, and finishing with the majority of the world in late 2017.
Bitcoin Growth Phases
- Phase 1: January 2017 - April 2017
- Phase 2: May 2017 - October 2017
- Phase 3: November 2017 - December 2017
Phase 1: January 2017 - April 2017
Two developing countries were the first to show significant search interest for Bitcoin: Bolivia and Nigeria. Bitcoin interest coincided with political turmoil in both countries, but Nigeria's stronger economic position relative to Bolivia's may have been a differentiator in long-term interest.
Nigerian search interest for Bitcoin has steadily increased over the last five years, marking two new all time highs in search interest in the last 12 months.
Bolivian Bitcoin search interest has declined and stagnated, even as other South American countries demonstrated renewed interest in Bitcoin searches as of mid-year 2021.
Phase 2: May 2017 - October 2017
Two South American countries exhibited increased Bitcoin interest next, coinciding with political turmoil and economic unrest. Unlike Bolivia and Nigeria, the audiences in Colombia and Paraguay show similar Bitcoin search interest trends from 2017 through June 2021.
Bitcoin search interest in Colombia was relatively flat through 2018 and 2019. Interest rebounded, reaching a new all time high in January 2021.
Phase 3: November 2017 - February 2018
Many cryptocurrency audiences joined the search for Bitcoin information online in January 2018, coming from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America. Bitcoin's primary interest drivers in the first two phases - political turmoil and economic unrest - had now been joined by large potential user bases and speculative investors.
A number of these countries exhibited resurgences in Bitcoin search interest in 2021. However, there does not appear to be a correlation between the economic dominance of developed countries and Bitcoin search interest. The following Phase 3 countries exhibited higher interest levels in Bitcoin in 2021 than during the global all-time-high in December 2017.
The following Phase 3 countries exhibited higher interest levels in Bitcoin in 2021 than during the global all-time-high in December 2017:
Although Bitcoin interest is global, audience needs and use cases vary widely by country. Economic disparity and political unrest appeared to be the primary drivers of Bitcoin search interest in the early phases of cryptocurrency adoption, with two emerging markets exhibiting new all-time-highs in Bitcoin search interest as of June 2021: Nigeria and Colombia.
Eight of the phase three countries have marked new all-time-highs in Bitcoin search interest: Argentina, Austria, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Switzerland, Thailand.
Only time will tell the story of Bitcoin adoption across the world, but the audiences in these ten countries are certainly players on the 2021 global cryptocurrency stage.