2017 was a tremendous year ever for Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency and digital asset world at large. The alpha dog cryptocurrency leading the entire cryptoasset industry had a spectacular run from around $1000 per BTC at the start of 2017 to almost $20,000 per BTC at the end of 2017 - all this despite trial and tribulations throughout the year including a Chinese ban on cryptocurrency and digital currency mining and a denial by the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) of a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).
There was another trial/tribulation for Bitcoin in 2017, however. Despite its unprecedented surge, Bitcoin was (and still is) plagued with key problems that hinder its usability in a truly widespread manner as originally intended for this cryptocurrency - these problems might affect Bitcoin's future as an alternative currency to fiat currency and the current traditional banking and financial system.
In August 2017, acting out of growing fear that Bitcoin would one day become too archaic and lose relevance in the cryptocurrency and digital currency industry, a group of Bitcoin developers split from the original cryptocurrency and created Bitcoin Cash in a process/procedure known as a fork.
First, what is a fork?
A fork in the cryptocurrency world can be simply explained as the splitting of any cryptocurrency into two or more independent branches but which all share the same roots. A fork is said to happen when the core developers of any particular cryptocurrency or digital asset disagree on the future operations of the blockchain underlying that digital asset and, as such, decide to go separate ways.
When a fork happens, the newer cryptoasset does not start from scratch from block zero or a genesis block but continues on from the point in the original blockchain when the split occurred. This means that all transactions and amounts of cryptocurrencies held by users on the old cryptoasset remain valid, but any future transactions are conducted independently of the original or parent cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin vs. Bitcoin Cash
The main point of contention that led to the split in the core Bitcoin development community was the slow transaction processing speed that Bitcoin was dealing with. This, coupled with very high transaction fees that were born out of the very low number of transactions the Bitcoin blockchain could support at any given period of time, made some in the core bitcoin development community desire a change.
Bitcoin’s block size is pegged at just 1MB but was designed to be increased at a later date by the creator of the cryptocurrency, Satoshi Nakamoto, who (if this is, in fact, a single individual) was never heard from after 2010, but the upgrade was never carried out by the developers who have since taken over control. With the huge adoption of Bitcoin, whose blockchain could only carry out about 250,000 transactions every 24 hours, a lot of backlogs began piling up which meant that miners received larger and larger fees for mining (eg. validating transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain). This is the problem that Bitcoin Cash attempts to solve - with an increased block size of 8MB, transactions can be verified at a very much faster rate on-chain, which then translates into cheaper transaction fees.
The Future of Bitcoin Cash
Bitcoin Cash markets itself as the true image of what the Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto had in mind - it's not attempting to be some sort of alternative version of Bitcoin, but attempt to be regarded as the true Bitcoin itself. The core Bitcoin development team obviously disagree with this contention. from which the core Bitcoin has deviated. With time, the Bitcoin Cash development team hopes that this new cryptocurrency will become the number one cryptocurrency in the industry and be regarded as the one true Bitcoin.
In 2009, Bitcoin pioneered what was to become a new asset class and a new industry becoming the first stateless and borderless currency in the world that was at once fast, private, and secure. Bitcoin has since seen widespread adoption and investment from all corners of the world, but it was not very long after its launch that a few cracks started appearing in its processes and functionality as an alternative to traditional fiat currency.
With the focus of the cryptocurrency and crypto asset world being, in part, on uprooting and replacing the traditional financial banking systems of the world, it was not long before those in the cryptocurrency and cryptoasset community who felt dissatisfied with the way things were going brought their own alternatives to the crypto scene. These new and alternative coins to the original cryptocurrency bitcoin became known as altcoins over time. Among the more prominent of these altcoins was and is Dash - a portmanteau for Digital Cash.
As its name implies, Dash is a blockchain based cryptocurrency whose main goal is to one day become the go-to digital alternative to everyday cash. Dash seeks to provide all of the uses that cash offers us all in our everyday life, but under a decentralized system that is fast, safe, cost-efficient, and highly private. Dash was conceptualized from its foundation to solve many of the key problems that plagued bitcoin.
Dash aims to be more private than Bitcoin
Many people new to the cryptocurrency and cryptoasset scene think Bitcoin is private. Although it is reasonably private, it is not completely private by any means - Bitcoin uses public keys that can easily be tracked and these public keys (if they are able to be tied to a person's real-world identity) can show what Bitcoin transactions a person had done.
Dash's original team of developers wanted to create a digital currency that was actually private. One of the key attractions of the digital currency and the cryptoasset worlds is that it promises the user a completely private means of sending money from one place to another without the fear of being tracked by anyone. Although Bitcoin transactions don’t strictly carry the names of the sender and the recipient of any digital payment, the actual payment can be traced by anyone with a computer and internet connection using the open source blockchain. This type of digital currency tracing is not possible with Dash using special features of the Dash network.
Dash aims to be faster than Bitcoin in digital currency transactions processing
Dash, unlike Bitcoin, offers its users a nearly instantaneous means of confirming digital payments on the Dash network. A typical Dash payment can’t take as little as 2 seconds to completely confirm -this is fast compared to Bitcoin which takes at least 10 minutes (due to the 10 minute block time) and far faster than centralized options such as third-party clearing providers. Lately, as the Bitcoin network has expanded in terms of the number of users who are adopting the digital currency, transactions can take up to a day to be confirmed.
Dash attempts to be truly Fungible
One of the key weaknesses of Bitcoin is that Bitcoins themselves are not seamlessly interchangeable with one another. This is because Bitcoins carry a history of the transactions they have been involved in previously. Therefore, any Bitcoin that is traced to have been previously used in an illicit or dark activity is at the risk of being rejected by merchants or having its value deprecated in some way. Merchants or Bitcoin exchanges can blacklist Bitcoin wallet addresses. Dash comes with the fungibility of fiat currency as the transaction history related to a coin on the Dash network is routinely deleted - this makes them interchangeable and protects users from losing the value of their digital asset.
Recurring Funding - Dash's Approach to Improving the Platform
While Bitcoin relies completely on the big-interest miners to continuously verify transactions and keep the network intact, with no recurring source of funding, the Dash acts like a digital corporation where recurring funding is sourced in order to allow the digital asset platform to keep hiring tech-savvy minds and bringing in new ideas in an attempt to improve the Dash network.
How to Acquire Dash
As with Bitcoin, Dash can be acquired either via mining or via simple purchase from digital exchanges. In this sense, Dash is similar to Bitcoin and many other cryptoassets and digital currencies that rely on hashing algorithms and mining.
Jamie Dimon Steps Back from Harsh Crypto Comments - Another Indication that the Traditional Financial World's Hatred of Cryptoassets is Slowly Beginning to Thaw
.Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, stepped down from his comments he made in late 2017. In September of 2017, Dimon said that Bitcoin is a "fraud" and that he would fire people who worked for him if they traded in the cryptocurrency.
bitcoin is a fraud
Many in the cryptoasset and cryptocurrency community were unhappy about such remarks coming form a very senior person in the financial and banking world. Many in the financial world, including Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, hesitated even during that time in 2017 to make extremely harsh criticism of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. They didn't make extremely harsh criticisms, but they still criticized it.
Blankfein said in November of 2017 that "maybe Bitcoin is kind of a bubble" but he also said that "the list of things that are conventional today that I use every day that I thought would never make it is a very long list."
the list of things that are conventional today that I use every day that I thought would never make it is a very long list
On Tuesday, January 9, however, Jamie Dimon said that he regretted calling Bitcoin a fraud - he added that he feels the "blockchain is real." These statements were likely prompted by various things, including the rise in cryptocurrency and cryptoasset prices since Dimon made that original statement. However, it's likely that pressure on Wall St. to not be the pariah of the crypto world also had something to do with it. Finally, it's possible that Dimon simply took some time to learn more about cryptocurrency and cryptoassets - after that learning he might have a better opinion of the overall technology behind it.
the blockchain is real
While many want to look down upon Dimon for going back on his remarks or for not being on the mark back in 2017, this isn't a smart way to think about things. Incentives matter a lot - this is basic economics. Jamie Dimon is the CEO of one of the world's largest financial institutions - he is the epitome of the entrenched establishment in the global financial world. No one who is not naive should be surprised that such a person would make negative comments about something that could potentially disrupt his entire industry - an industry he devoted his life to. Instead, it's promising that he took a step toward setting things right.
From the birth of Bitcoin -- which effectively was the birth of the modern cryptocurrency and crypto asset scene -- it has been known as being in some ways anarchic or promoting some sort of counterculture. This misconception (a misconception that is slowly and steadily going away as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptoassets enter into the mainstream financial world) is detrimental to the cryptocurrency and cryptoasset industry because it causes people to not pay attention to the real strengths of cryptoassets and the blockchain technology that generally underlies it.
One major step on the cryptoasset scene was the creation of Ethereum - Ethereum is a second-generation cryptoasset that remedied many of Bitcoin's problems. Ethereum is one of the most prominent of these newer cryptoassets (aka altcoins) that was created to solve a whole lot of the problems that we know Bitcoin to have - chiefly by enabling users to create what are called smart contracts. Ethereum itself, however, has not been immune to problems - this is one of the main reasons for the creation of Cardano by former Ethereum developers, a third-generation cryptoasset which seeks to further improve on Ethereum.
Cardano is based on Peer-Reviewed Research
One of the key things that make Cardano standout among all other cryptocurrencies is that the ideas that were used to build it and with which its developer team continue to improve the network are a product of meticulous peer-reviewed research. This means that unlike almost all other cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets on the market today -- whose underlying ideas are just published by its team of developers without any scrutiny or tests before being rolled out -- most of the principles upon which Cardano is built are scientifically-researched. With former Ethereum CEO Charles Hoskinson being a prominent member of its development team, Cardano perhaps boasts of one of the most credible foundations of any cryptocurrency and cryptoasset outfit in the industry
Problems Solved with Cardano
Cardano attempts to solve various problems that have plauged other cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets. Cardano's benefits include the following:
Cardano's Mining Protocol
Cardano uses a proof of stake (PoS) mining protocol that is known as the Ouroboros, which is a cutting-edge and scientifically-proven mining protocol that has been proven beyond doubt to be scalable and completely secure.
By implementing proof (something that Ethereum will likely implement in the future), the Cardano network allows for the printing of new blocks without wasting a lot of electricity - the mining problem is something that Bitcoin is currently dealing with.
The Internet of Things (IoT) industry is among the promising new technologies on the horizon (along with AI and machine learning). As of present, it is estimated that there are over 8 billion internet-enabled devices that communicate with each other without any human interference. This metric is expected to grow exponentially with over 25 billion devices expected to be online at the end of this decade. In
IOTA is a decentralized cryptocurrency/cryptoasset network that seeks to provide a perfect ecosystem for IoT devices to seamlessly connect with each other and trade information and resources with one another without ever needing the input of a human being to maintain the network. A lot of data is collected by IoT sensors all over the world, a large portion of which is useless to the company who created the product but very useful to other firms. IOTA enables the seamless trade of these kinds of data between devices as well as the trading of other resources (such as buying electricity when a device needs it most and selling excess when it is feasible and prudent). IOTA enables all communication and trades to be carried out with zero fees attached to them.
Tangle vs. Typical Blockchain
Unlike most decentralized networks today which are built on a blockchain like Bitcoin and Ethereum, IOTA developers know that with billions of devices in constant communication with one another conducting transactions every second, a blockchain which is already coming under a lot of criticism for slow transactions can simply not support the millions of transactions every second that IoT devices carry out every single day.
To solve this problem, the creators of IOTA formulated its own consensus and transaction verification mechanism known as the Tangle. This is a verification process in which every participating device needing to have its own transaction verified must also verify two older transactions in order to have its own cleared by another device whose transaction comes after it. With the Tangle consensus protocol, the IOTA platform seems to solve the problem of scalability that bugs a lot of blockchain technology. As such no proof of work is required for transactions to be verified on its network as is with many other cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets (eg. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, etc.). The fact that each device contributes its own quota in powering the network and securing its integrity, no transaction fees are added to any transactions on the IOTA network.
Potential Disadvantages of IOTA
One of the criticisms IOTA receives is related to its revolutionary Tangle consensus process - some experts say it is vulnerable to attacks and takeovers from hostile entities. While a typical blockchain such as the Bitcoin blockchain requires up to 51% of the total computers on it to be taken over in order for any significant damage to be caused. IOTA requires less than this - it is estimated at only 34% of the IoT devices on the network have to be taken over.
Cryptocurrency and cryptoasset industry watchers say this ability to seemingly take over the network with less than 40% of IoT devices exposes the IOTA network to a significantly higher risk of being compromised with a hostile party being able to add false transactions or delete genuine ones in the case of such an attack.
However, given the potentially very large number of IoT devices that are expected to go online over the coming years, this might prove a difficult proposition. IOTA backers also say that this vulnerability is only prevalent at its initial stages for which IOTA have taken measures to prevent by assigning what they term as the “Coordinator” to monitor and re-verify transactions until the network becomes big enough, where it will be almost impossible for any single entity to muster the needed 34% for any attack.
Ripple is a blockchain-based startup that is different from most others as it is not a decentralized open ledger network but a centralized one with an aim that is not quite perfectly aligned with the aims of most other decentralized cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets available on the market today. Ripple unlike Bitcoin and other altcoins (such as Ethereum and Litecoin) is focused on complimenting the present financial industry and providing it with tools to deliver better and faster services - this is different from Bitcoin's quasi-unstated goal of uprooting and transforming the global financial landscape.
Ripple is a payment system which seeks to take international payments that banks regularly engage in out of the Dark Ages (where it can take up to 3 to 5 days for payments to clear) and to create a system built on modern technology and built for the 21st century. On the Ripple network, anything of value (including fiat currency, commodities, other cryptocurrencies, or even mobile credits) can be transferred from one corner of the earth to another in a matter of seconds in the form of tokens - all this in a secure and very inexpensive manner using Ripple token (eg. tokens that can be used on the Ripple network) called XRP.
Ripple vs. Bitcoin
Ripple is starkly different from most cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and other altcoins. Some of these key differences include:
How to acquire XRP tokens?
Since the Ripple network is generally a private thing, mining is not currently an option for acquiring XRP tokens for use on the Ripple network. Instead, one has to purchase XRP token outright from an exchange - many reputable exchanges currently provide the ability to purchase XRP tokens.
Ripple is already making waves in the financial industry
Ripple is not just a concept - many large global financial and non-financial firms have already dived into Ripple (either actually using the Ripple network or researching how it can be used). Top global financial firms such as the following are already members of the Ripple network:
Although there's room to grow (the list of Ripple users is yet to add the largest and most complex global financial powerhouses), the current membership list for the Ripple network goes a long way towards demonstrating how effective Ripple is today and how powerful it can become in the future.
Making payments with intangible currencies used to sound like a scam. However, with the increasing acceptance of cryptocurrencies (digital money) Litecoin has become more prominent.
What is Litecoin?
Litecoin (LTC) is a digital currency (altcoin), released on October 7, 2011, that allows payments to individuals without the use of third parties like banks. It is an open source system without a central authority developed by Charlie Lee, a former Google employee, and released to the public on October 7, 2011.
Litecoin is incredibly similar to Bitcoin - no white paper for Litecoin was even produced in part because of its similarity to Bitcoin. Similar to Bitcoin, Litecoin is open-source and it is not government regulated. However, it is secure because each user has the ability to verify each transaction before a new block (a string of blocks is a blockchain) is formed, similar to how Bitcoin works.
Litecoin vs. Bitcoin
There are few key differences between Litecoin and Bitcoin that you should be aware of. These differences include:
4 times the number of coins: There will be 84 million LTC vs 21 million BTC
1/4 block confirmation time: 2.5 min for LTC vs 10 min for BTC, making the use of LTC faster for transactions (very desirable for something attempting to be the main transactional cryptocurrency)
Proof of Work (PoW) uses scrypt: Scrypt is a password-based key derivation function (KDF) that makes it (1) less practical to use ASIC devices for LTC mining and (2) to carry out attacks against the Litecoin network
The above changes stemmed in part from the fear that the Bitcoin network is too cumbersome and dominated by large-scale bitcoin miners using purpose-built ASICs to mine BTC. Litecoin's aim is to be "lite" in the sense that mining is easier for everyone, transactions are faster, and more LTC exists in circulation. In this, Litecoin is attempting to be the more transaction cryptocurrency and is considered by some to be the "silver to Bitcoin's gold."
Success of the Litecoin
Though not the first cryptocurrency, it has been very successful. In November 2013, Litecoin’s aggregate value experienced a 100% increase within 24 hours. As Bitcoin rises in value, reputable altcoins such as Litecoin have been able to ride Bitcoin's coattails to new highs.
Presently, Litecoin is among the top five cryptocurrencies in the world. It is praised for its speed as it takes about two minutes for transactions using the Litecoin network to go through.
How to Acquire Litecoin
You can get them by either mining them (similar to mining Bitcoin) or simply buying them. To buy, you can either use fiat currency or another cryptocurrency or cryptoasset (usually Bitcoin).
To mine means to contribute computer power to validating transactions on the Litecoin network and being rewarded for the exertion of this effort. The miner is required to solve complex mathematical problem/puzzle as part of the mining process. As with Bitcoin, the incentives paid out for mining decrease over time in order to maintain a stable supply of LTC.
Future of Litecoin
Litecoin is a rapidly growing cryptocurrency which has been described as the more transaction-friendly cryptocurrency. In this, Litecoin is able to differentiate itself from Bitcoin and argue that the value-add is in the transactional capabilities. Some in the cryptocurrency and cryptoasset industry believe that Bitcoin will over time be used for large-scale clearing transactions (more rare and large) while Litecoin will be used for daily transactions (far more numerous and relatively small). Time will tell if this dynamic plays out or if the Bitcoin network is able to improve over time to become more flexible and more accommodating to large numbers of small-scale transactions without requiring extremely large computing resources deployed around the globe.
When most people think of digital currency or cryptocurrency, they think of Bitcoin. Bitcoin is only one of many cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets available today, however. Among all of the new members of the cryptoasset scene (also called altcoins), none has made a bigger impact (both in terms of mindshare and in terms of market cap) than Ethereum.
Many people Ethereum akin to silver if Bitcoin is considered gold. However, many others in the crypto industry believe that Ethereum has the potential to overtake Bitcoin due to its inherent characteristics and capabilities that Bitcoin does not possess.
What is Ethereum?
Ethereum is a distinct blockchain platform different from Bitcoin - it was created by Vitalik Buterin and went live in the Summer of 2015 (read the constantly updated Ethereum white paper here).
Ethereum was designed as the ultimate blockchain upon which all kinds of blockchain-based applications including newer cryptocurrencies can be built. The Ethereum blockchain was designed with the target of fixing many of Bitcoin's problems/weaknesses as well as to enhance the efficiency of any application that is built on the Ethereum blockchain.
Ethereum has been one of the major reasons for the explosion in the number of initial coin offerings (ICOs) that are constantly happening all over the world due to the relative ease and reduced costs it now takes for a startup to release its own blockchain application or cryptocurrency. Effectively, many of the world's ICOs are build upon Ethereum.
Similar to Bitcoin, Ethereum uses a Proof of work (PoW) approach whereby computers solve complex mathematical problems in an attempt to receive a reward; this is also how transactions are validated around the world in a decentralized way. Ethereum used a slightly different hashing algorithm than Bitcoin and there are plans and discussions to transition Ethereum away from a Proof of work (PoW) approach to a Proof of Stake (PoS) approach - a Proof of Stake (PoS) approach is considered more sustainable and will likely require less intensive computing power.
Being a distinct blockchain platform, the creators of Ethereum recognized the importance of the platform having its own native currency with which transactions can be conducted on the Ethereum platform. This why the Ether token was created, which is the means of exchange on the Ethereum platform - users can use Ether (ETH) pay for the space to build their own applications as well as use ETH to make peer-to-peer payments in a decentralized way similar to Bitcoin.
But, Ethereum is more than just a means of exchange
Ethereum is touted as the biggest thing to happen in the crypto and blockchain scene since the creation of Bitcoin in 2009. This is because it brought about a number of new innovative features that have the potential to prove very useful. The main differentiating feature of Ethereum is the ability to engage in what are called "smart contracts" on the Ethereum platform - whereby Bitcoin is simply a means of exchange, Ethereum has the potential to be a lot more through the use of smart contracts.
A smart contract is a simple idea which made cryptocurrency payments safer for users all over the industry. It is a few lines of code (instructions) which dictate that a certain number of ETH should be transferred from one user of the Ethereum platform to another user upon the fulfillment of certain stated conditions and not otherwise. Smart contracts were designed to enable honest business between total strangers, in which the seller knows that as long as they deliver their part of the bargain, they will receive a full payment (or whatever else was bargained for). Additionally, buyers know that their payments remain safe until they receive the good or service they are paying for.
How to store your Ether
Ether and Bitcoin are completely separate things in the crypto space - they are built on different source codes and utilize different hashing algorithms. ETH and BTC cannot be stored on the same crypto wallet - a separate Ethereum wallet is required for the storage of ETH. In order to effectively and securely store your Ether, you'll need to find a reputable wallet that caters to ETH storage.
Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency which is built on the revolutionary blockchain technology, the purpose of which is to provide people and organizations all over the world with an alternative peer-to-peer means of making payments that is fast, private, and doesn't require the modern financial system/infrastructure. Bitcoin allows for the potential eschewing of fiat money to perform financial transactions in favor of an immutable record (eg. blockchain) that is deeply decentralized and highly secure.
Bitcoin (BTC) came on the scene in January of 2009 - during the heart of the global financial crisis of the time. In a white paper published by Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin's purpose and technical framework were articulated - although the purpose has evolved and continues to do so, Bitcoin has remained the most trusted and most popular digital currency to date.
General Characteristics of Bitcoin
Bitcoin when it first came online was an innovation the like of which has never been seen. Bitcoin has many distinct characteristics and features some of which include:
How are Bitcoin acquired?
Bitcoin can be created through a complicated and capital-intensive (the capital being computing power) process known as mining - miners receive a reward (akin to a fee) for providing the computer power needed to validate Bitcoin transactions. Alternatively, an individual can simply buy Bitcoin from a cryptocurrency exchange that is reputable using their fiat currency.
Bitcoin and Banking
Bitcoin can be created through a complicated and capital-intensive (the capital being computing power) process known as mining. Alternatively, an individual can simply buy Bitcoin from a cryptocurrency exchange that is reputable using their fiat currency.
Bitcoin is not accepted by any commercial bank for safekeeping as of this writing - banks traditionally only deal in the fiat currency realm with banks in each country primarily transaction and storing the fiat currency of that particular country under regulation from central banks and other governmental regulatory bodies. However storing Bitcoin is easy and convenient without a banking system because they can either be stored on exchanges (eg. Coinbase, Kraken, Poloniex, Xapo, etc.) or on a private Bitcoin wallet - each method has its own advantage and disadvantages, but both are generally convenient and reliable if done properly.
The world is abuzz with talk of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets. Not long ago these revolutionary means of transacting were considered a fringe idea that was going to die a natural death or evolve into some niche part of a more broad product schema. Fast-forward to the present day, however, and you'll see that the cryptocurrency and cryptoasset industry has snowballed and has a market cap (the total value in USD of all material cryptocurrencies and crypto assets) that rivals the largest firms in the US (with little sign of things slowing down).
So, what is this new thing called cryptocurrency and what is all the commotion in the financial news related to it about?
What is a cryptocurrency or a cryptoasset?
A cryptocurrency or cryptoasset (these terms can generally be used interchangeably) in general terms can be defined as any member of the new blockchain-based platforms that are made specifically to enable people to make peer-to-peer payments in fast, highly secure, and private ways that requires no recourse to banks, payment providers, or third-party clearing firms. A cryptocurrency is generally a stateless borderless digital currency, the first example of which came into existence in 2009 with the creation of Bitcoin by Satoshi Nakamoto. The cryptoasset industry has since grown exponentially and presently has over 1000 distinct currencies - many of these are scams and useless gimmicks while others are potentially very useful and add capabilities beyond what Bitcoin originally possessed.
Cryptocurrency vs. Fiat Money
The following are a few key aspects of cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets that distinguish them from traditional fiat money (eg. USD, Euro, Yen, Yuan, etc.):
How do I store cryptocurrency?
Being a totally decentralized and boundary-less currency, cryptocurrencies don’t need the present banking infrastructure to be kept safe by their owner. They are stored in encrypted software known as “wallets”, which carry unique codified address with which the user sends and receives them. Additionally, cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets can be stored with third parties where the third party stores the key cryptographic information (eg. your private keys) that will allow access to your cryptocurrency or crypto assets.
Such third party services include Kraken, Poloniex, Coinbase, and Xapo. There is an inherent risk present when using third-party firms for cryptocurrency and crypto asset storage - you are trusting them with the proper maintenance of very key and unique information.
How can I acquire cryptocurrency?
There are two main ways in which to acquire cryptocurrencies or cryptoassets. The first is by following the technical process of creating them (which is generally known as mining), where computers are coupled with specialized hardware to solve massive mathematical puzzles with the chance earning a reward which is the cryptocurrency. The second method is by simply going the route of using your fiat money to buy the cryptocurrency of your choice from the nearest reputable exchange you can find (eg. those third-party firms referenced above).
Prices of cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets from one cryptoasset to another as each digital currency has its own distinct features and peculiar purpose it serves - these unique features and/or purposes influence demand and the addressable market, which in turn influences price. Currently, cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets have proven to be very volatile when compared to traditional financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities - this volatility makes it riskier when purchasing cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets because it is hard to know whether the price of a cryptoasset will move against you soon after purchase.
A cryptocurrency is a secured decentralized digital medium of exchange developed to facilitate secured peer to peer transactions. While many people have heard of cryptocurrencies and some are involved in the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets, only a few are aware of the history behind this potentially world-changing application of cryptographic technology.
As such, compiled below is the history of cryptocurrency. This history will be both useful for newcomers to the cryptocurrency and cryptoasset worlds as well as those that are more seasoned - understanding the history of a topic or technology almost always is useful in terms of adding context and grounding to one's understanding.
The late 1980s to Early 1990s - Foundations begin to Form
In the 1980s people began conceiving the idea of the creation of digital cash and/or virtual currency. These people then began to seek ways to bring this idea to fruition. However, none of their efforts and/or the results was reported.
In the year 1990, American cryptographer David Chaum invented DigiCash, the first form of electronic currency. This new "e-cash" gained tremendous publicity and sparked interests in various diverse intellectual quarters, including libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and those interested in the applications of cryptography. Chaum's DigiCash was however later found to have some faults and subsequently, was no longer used.
1998 - A Precursor to Bitcoin
In 1998, Wei Dai, a computer engineer created and published an article on "b-money". Dai regarded b-money as an anonymously distributed electronic cash system which allows for senders to directly communicate with buyers over “an untraceable network”.
Also in 1998, computer scientist Nick Szabo, designed the mechanism for a decentralized electronic currency he termed "bit gold". To use bit gold, a person would have to solve cryptographic puzzles whose solutions would be sent to a registry and then assigned to a designated public key representing the solution provider. Each solution would then become a part of a subsequent challenge which would then help to create a growing chain of new property for the solution provider. This design was created to help validate new coins.
Although bit gold was never implemented, it is regarded as the precursor to Bitcoin - those who know anything about Bitcoin mining will see the somewhat shared intellectual DNA between Bitcoin and Szabo's bit gold.
2009 - The First Truly Decentralized Digital Currency, Bitcoin
The year 2009 can be said to be the year the concept of cryptocurrency became established. Although much work (both technical and non-technical in nature) had been done in the previous two decades pertaining to digital currency and the potential application of cryptographic methods to make them effective, 2009 can easily be considered the genesis of cryptocurrency proper.
In 2009, Bitcoin was established. This establishment and its subsequent use can be attributed to Satoshi Nakamoto, who is a pseudonymous individual (or more likely, a group) that developed Bitcoin. Nakamoto articulated the concept of Bitcoin in a white paper published in the same year. Per his white paper, Nakamoto called Bitcoin a peer-to-peer cash payment system - little did the initial readers of the white paper (and possibly Nakamoto himself/herself) know what Bitcoin would become over the course of the coming decade.
This system was able to actualize true decentralization which was a feature many before him/her could not achieve. He was able to achieve this such that there could be a consensus between parties without the need for a central authority (eg. a financial firm or a government). Additionally, Nakamoto's Bitcoin was able to seemingly solve the double spending problem, something that seemed unachievable without a proper centralized network or clearinghouse.
Bitcoin has since gone beyond being the first cryptocurrency to also be the most popular, most sought after, and most used cryptocurrency with over 16 million in circulation (out of a total of 21 million that will ever exist per Nakamoto's original design).
2009 to Present - Altcoins, Proliferation, and Investing
Since the creation of Bitcoin in 2009, over 850 cryptocurrencies (often referted to as altcoins) have been developed and are now in circulation. Some of these altcoins are Litecoin, Peercoin, Robocoin, Ethereum, Salt, Cardano, Iota, Viacoin, Siacoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, and Dogecoin.
Many of the new cryptoassets or altcoins that are on the market today are not considered high-quality cryptoassets like Bitcoin but are instead considered frauds, scams, gimmicks, or schemes that allow the creators of the coins to make a quick profit (through the use of what are called initial coin offerings or ICOs).
Other cryptoassets or altcoins, however, seem useful and add capabilities beyond what Bitcoin is currently capable of. For example, Bitcoin is generally only used for payments while Ethereum has the capability for use in what are called "smart contracts" and Iota is created to assist with the creation of an internet of things (IOT) world.
The concept behind cryptocurrencies is now being researched by financial institutions and governments, its’ monetary value is on a steadily rising (in terms of fiat currency such as the USD or the Euro) and many are beginning to see cryptocurrency as an investment option.
Foggy Future - Where will cryptoassets go from here?
Given the past 30 years in cryptocurrencies, cryptography, and the concept of decentralized digital cash (and especially the last 10 years since the creation of Bitcoin), it's a fool's errand to try to predict in any meaningful way where things will go in the cryptoasset space. However, it is likely that many of the early trends seen today will continue on. Specifically, it is likely that cryptoassets will consume more mindshare globally, will break into Wall Street (eg. futures, ETFs, hedge funds, etc.), and that a broader infrastructure (both in support of and in use of crypto assets) will be built up over the coming years and decades.
Expand Your Understanding of the Investment Possibilities that Exist
Most people in the western world have an overly narrow view when it comes to investing - they usually think one of those places for storing money:
Even the above list is broad - most young people today don't readily buy bonds or invest in bond funds (even though the overall bond market is bigger than the equities market). Unless you're lucky enough to have had your grandma buy you a bond, you've probably never owned one and you might not even really know how one works.
So, that leaves us with equities or cash - is there nothing else? Of course, there is something else -- most people have been doing other things with capital rather than buying equities or saving cash -- throughout history. You just have to open your eyes to the broader investing and capital allocation universe that's out here.
Of course, you shouldn't be foolish - equities (eg. stocks, mutual fund, and ETFs) and cash are better understood and offer a lot of advantages. But a person can also invest in:
getting even deeper and more complex, you can invest in things aren't aren't even assets but things that might bring a return later on. These might include:
Again, no one here is saying that you should forget the bread and butter that cash and equities offer the broad swath of the investing public - far and away these should (for most people and in most situations) make up the majority of your saving and wealth-boiling plan. However,r it's smart to lift your head up once in a while to see other possibilities and opportunities available if only to build a better and more comprehensive understanding of what capital allocation, investing, growth, return, and success really mean in your overall financial life.
The Importance of Failing at Investing - It's Almost a Prerequisite to a Successful Long-term Investing Track Record
Failure is always unpleasant but a part of life that can teach. Not all things require failure - you can be a great academic and never fail a class and you obviously don't' want to be an engineer or an architect that ever fails. However, with investing, it's a whole different game - failure early on is almost a prerequisite to a successful long-term investing track record. It's not only that failure is ok, it's almost that utter failure early on (or possibly later on, but early on is better because you usually will have less invested early on).
Financial Markets are too Difficult to Predict
This is a pretty bold statement we're making - we're saying that not only is failure ok but that failure in investing is almost a prerequisite for a good long-term investing track record. This is the case because investing -- unlike so many other professions and activities -- involves intense levels of uncertaintly and potentially chaos. The markets are uncertain and can act in chaotic ways. Additionally, when they are chaotic, they are of the more complicated second order chaos variety - this means that not only is it hard to predict financial markets but that in attempting to predict them we influence them as well. The problem is that humans have a lot of deep-seated heuristics and cognitive biases that intensely cloud our thinking and prevent us from acting in rational ways.
Cognitive Biases and Heuristics Can Lead an Investor Astray
An engineer or an actor or an architect or a college student or an academic doesn't need to fail because their professions are (1) far less uncertain in terms of predicting outcomes and (2) rely on things that are less affected by heuristics and cognitive biases. For example, a bridge builder uses principles of physics to predict the behavior of materials in various situations - not only does this prediction not involve deeply complex or chaotic systems, but it can also be tested in small-scale environments before being implemented (something that's not really possible in a world where time travel hasn't been invented yet). Here's a brief list of some heuristics and cognitive biases:
Two Main Benefits of Investment Failure
Failure in investing does one of two things (and maybe both):
A Real-Life Example of Investment Failure
As an example, I failed big time when I was about 20 years old. This was right before the Great Recession and my friend was working at Washington Mutual as a teller while going to school - the now defunct predominantly- Western bank that was purchased by Chase after it's collapse. We were young college students interested in entering the market and we had no inkling that the Great Recession might come. We bought a significant amount of WaMu stock. Then the economy tanked and the stock went down. We were pretty heavily invested in this one stock at the time. He went to his job every day and he told me no to worry - after all, how could a big bank like this with so much real estate and so much branding and so many customers collapse? It wasn't going to happen. Then, the bank failed and we lost our entire investment.
That experience taught me a lot about investing:
You can't save your way to riches if you don't have a big enough income to save just like you can't dig a big hole if your shovel is tiny. Too many people, too many financial websites, too many financial advisors, too many financial shows have for too long advocated saving with a deep lack of attention to the more important sid of the equation: INCOME.
Of course, even if you have an enormous income but still manage to spend it all, you won't build wealth. But that is not at all relevant to what we're discussing here. What we're saying is that there are simple mathematical and physical principles govern the world we live in and based on these principles there's something we know that's true:
the maximum amount you can save is your full income - this would be not possible in most cases it would require not spending anything
So, if you're earning $30,000 a year but are the most magnificent saver in the world, the most you can possibly save is $30,000 but realistically you'll be considered an ultra-saver if you manage to save $20,000 a year.
Contrast that $30,000 per year example with someone who earns $300,000 a year - clearly that individual has a much bigger shovel and has a lot more room to take advantage of saving. In effect, this person who makes $300,000 can benefit more from saving because the more he/she saves the more they can put away for building wealth up to their income. In effect, if they can spend $10,000 a year like the person in the $30,000 example, they can save a huge pile of money every year and build a lot of wealth.
People should be focused on saving, but they should equally (if not more intensely) be focused on generating more income for themselves os that they can put more money aside. This is easier said than done and that's the reason most financial resources tend to focus on saving rather than increasing income - everyone simply wants to pick the low-hanging fruit.
In Antiquity, Family and Community Provided a Safety Net in Retirement
Throughout most of human history, the idea of retirement as we know it today didn't exist. People simply worked their entire lives either hunting and gather or farming (after the Agricultural Revolution) -- if they were lucky enough to survive into adulthood -- and when they were too old to work, they relied on their families to take care of them. An old person might rely on younger siblings, children, and nieces and nephews within the family or community to take care of them. While doing this they probably still had to do some work - the idea of not working at all is a deeply modern notion and even very old people in ancient times still likely cared for children, did chores around the house, and performed other familial duties (eg. arranging marriages, representing the family to other communities, and advising younger family members).
Although life was incredibly harsh with humans having to face both natural disasters and man-made dangers in the form of banditry, war, pillaging, or abandonment, most human societies operated in a way where the elders and those who were unable to work were taken care of by family. As time moved forward and as humans settle down this was more and more true - while a hunter-gatherer tribe might leave an old person to die, a farming community would likely be able to provide for the elderly because life was calmer and a bit more stable in terms of movement and physical danger.
Obviously, no one in their right mind living in the first-world should want to go back to a hunting and gathering lifestyle and especially a farming lifestyle (as farming was likely worse than hunting and gathering for overall human well-being). However, we can't deny that the family bonds that existed in the past that effectively created an organic safety net for the elderly no longer exists today.
Safety Nets Such as Welfare Provide Retirement Security in a Changed World
As the world moved forward modernized, nations around the world began creating public, centralized welfare systems to take care of those who were too old to work and had to enter a stage of retirement or diminished income-earning capability. In the United States, during Roosevelt's New Deal during the Great Depression, the Social Security system was created - this was a system where old people who were no longer working could receive income from the government (meaning from those who were earning income). In effect, this wealth-transfer mechanism sought to replace the old traditional familial and community retirement safety nets that had long since been eroded over the centuries following the Industrial Revolution.
It is difficult to argue that a safety net for old people who can no longer produce income through their labor and who don't have a large enough retirement nest egg to live on is a prudent idea - it is deeply natural to humanity to take care of one another. The difference is that instead of taking care of each other locally, we started taking care of each other on a grand national scale. This creates its own problems and perverse incentives, but it fundamentally is in line with our human nature. If done in a prudent and conservative way (something that is far from guaranteed), such a retirement safety net can at once benefit the economy through stabilizing things and benefit society through creating a better and healthier moral landscape by taking care of retirees.
Retirement Saftey Nets in Jeopardy - Self-reliance is Key
However, today the Social Security system -- a system that hasn't even been around for a century -- seems to be in jeopardy (it is projected that in 2037 Social Security trust fund reserves will be exhausted and where 100% of payments will no longer be able to be made). A system designed at a time where there were few retirees living into their 60s and 70s compared to the working population is under stress in the world where Baby Boomers are aging rapidly with access to world-class health care that will allow them to live into their 80s and 90s reliably and in good numbers. Many believe this system will not be able to sustain itself. This will be further exacerbated if unemployment increases over the coming decades due tot he rise of artificial intelligence. Young people today should not rely on Social Security to be around when they are old and gray - that is now a foolish proposition.
For young people today, the idea of retirement is different than for almost all past generations. For the first time in history, neither (1) the familial/community structure that effectively provided retirement benefits for the old nor (2) the retirement benefits provided by welfare systems like Social Security is likely to be around when today's young men and women reach retirement age.
So, we're now in a world where the old family and community structure have long since been almost totally wiped out and where the retirement safety net that came in to replace that old structure is itself in peril. We are facing a troubling and dark world when it comes to retirement - we have neither one nor the other, we only have ourselves at this point. Although a fix might occur and things might turn out well, in the end, any prudent person who is under the age of 40 should discount Social Security and only rely on himself/herself to provide in old age and retirement. This requires changes - it requires a discipline that might not have existed in the last century for most of the population in term of saving. Young people must be diligent and disciplined savers and investors if they are going to be able to amass a nest egg large enough to support them through what could be decades of retirement.
This means that saving 5% or 6% in your 401k to get your employer match, putting $5000 a year into an Investment Retirement Account (IRA), or simply having a nice cash cushion in the bank is not even close to enough. Saving rates must far exceed 10% and should approach 25% if young people today are going to be able to comfortably retire. Additionally, effort and energy must be put in to invest the savings in a smart way - saving cash will not be sufficient as growth is going to be needed over time in order to build up a nest egg.
And now, given the rise of cyrptocurrencies and crypto assets to quasi-mainstream financial assets, we're dedicated to providing quality, relevant, and interesting material on cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets. Articles on Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Cardano, and many more cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets can be found on Pennies and Pounds - all that in addition to a plethora of information on what cryptoassets are, how the entire crypto industry came to be, blockchain/immutable ledge technology, mining, proof of work, proof of stake, and how to prudently invest in crypto if you are so inclined (based on your risk tolerance and ability to withstand the volatility that will come with a crypto portfolio).