Penetration rate of Bitcoin is determined for each country based on the number of observed full nodes per 100 000 Internet users. Countries are ranked each month by relative penetration determined from two snapshots taken in the first and the third week of the month. The raw data was obtained from Bitnodes and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Keep reading for a detailed discussion of data sources, assumptions, methodology, and limitations. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The IP addresses of Bitcoin nodes are collected using an instance of Addy Yeow’s bitnodes, and are mapped to countries and published on Bitnodes.IO. Alternatively, IP addresses are collected using an instance of Pieter Wuille‘s bitcoin-seeder hosted by Luke-Jr, and mapped to countries using the Webnet77 database. Number of downloads of the reference Bitcoin client software for each country is available from the Bitcoin SourfeForge page. Number of Internet users in 2012 is obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Goals, background, assumptions, and methods
The aim here is to compare countries based on relative adoption rates, not to determine the absolute numbers of Bitcoin users. Simply looking at the quantity of observed nodes or of downloads of software cannot be used to estimate the actual number of Bitcoin users, as increasingly many users are choosing to rely on alternative clients or on third-party services, rather than running a full Bitcoin node. However, assuming that the fraction of users deciding to run a full node at any given time does not vary significantly between countries, we can still determine and compare relative adoption rates between countries. If country A has relative adoption rate of 1.0, and country B of 0.5, a randomly picked Internet user from country A is twice as likely to be using Bitcoin as an Internet user from country B.
Various representations of the geographic distribution of Bitcoin users are currently available, based on the observed nodes (the Bitcoin Globe and Bitcoin Nodes WebGL Globe), or downloads of reference Bitcoin client (The United Nations of Bitcoin by IDV Solutions and Mapping Bitcoin Adoption by The Genesis Block). Such data tends to portray simply the population size of a country or region, or more specifically the number of Internet users, rather than any meaningful information about the adoption of Bitcoin. The articles by IDV Solutions and The Genesis Block have also ranked countries based on the number of software downloads relative to the population size, thus providing a metric of the adoption rate.
The apparently first attempt to estimate Bitcoin adoption rate was discussed in October 2012, and was based on the inventory of nodes published on RowIT and either the population size or the number of Internet users for each country. The data was also turned into a choropleth map of the world.
Comparison of data sources
The IP addresses of nodes on a particular day were obtained from two independent sources, Bitnodes and the bitcoin-seeder, and mapped to countries. The two resulting data sets show reasonably good correlation. Since Bitnodes.IO provides data already processed and mapped to countries, it was chosen as data source in furher analysis.
To minimize the occurrence of glitches due to statistical variability, countries with less than 50 observed nodes or with less than 200 000 Internet users were excluded from further analysis. For each country, the number of nodes per 100 000 Internet users was calculated and expressed relative to the top-ranking country in the data set.
Next, the relative adoption rates determined above are compared to the number of downloads of Bitcoin-Qt in the preceeding six-month period, showing a reasonably good correlation. Either of the two indicators could thus be used to compare relative rates of adoption between countries. There may be some interesting cases worth noting. The Ukraine, Germany, and Belarus appear to maintain downloaded nodes more stubbornly than, for example, Cyprus and the UAE. This difference can be partly explained in terms of a distracted, short-lived interest fueled by the local media in certain places at certain times.