Whenever people who typically aren't involved in the financial markets get invovled because prices keep rising for a particular asset class or a specific asset, it usually means a correction looms. This has been true about stocks, and it's true about pretty much any asset, including gold, silver, bonds, other commodities, real estate, etc.
Crypto is no different - whenever people pour into the crypto asset class en masse (especially those who traditionally aren't involved in finance, investing, or the financial markets), it usually means we're reaching a local peak, and a correction might be in order.
Of course, a correction doesn't mean things are through. Corrections can be healthy, and after corrections, we often see assets rise again above their pre-dip peaks.
Take a look at Google searches for Bitcoin below - one can see peaks and dips corresponding to rises and dips in the price of Bitcoin (and crypto generally). Interestingly, the spike in late 2007/early 2018 overshadows a lot of other data around it. As of this writing (October 2019), this pre-crypto correction peak is the highest point so far. However, any prudent investor who has studied market history would know that this might not be the case for long.
What is important to understand here is that whenever there's massive euphoria surrounding any financial asset, things aren't generally going to be good in the short-run and medium-run. If there's a ton of euphoria, media coverage, and both your Uber/Lyft driver and grandma want to get in on the action, it might mean the market is saturated with demand. If this is the case, prices for the particular asset might be inflated, and a correction might be in order. This isn't always the case, but it's the case most of the time.
Luckily, it's not hard to know when mass euphoria takes hold. If you're an aware person, you'll likely hear about the new asset craze at the office, at the bar, on the news, or online. Everyone knew about the Bitcoin craze in late 2017. If you want to take things a step further, however, a lot of data is available online that can provide useful proxy information - the Google Trends graph below is a basic example of this.
Have cryptocurrency and/or cryptoassets become a proper asset class in the financial world? It's hard to answer. But, sitting at the end of the first 1/5th fo the 21st Century, it seems like crypto is on its way to becoming a real asset class if it's not already there.
There isn't some special or sacred list in finance houses in London's financial district or on Wall St. in NYC that has a list of all asset classes - it doesn't work that way. What's considered a proper asset class and what's regarded as an alternative asset class (and further distinctions at various levels of granularity) is more based on collective consensus.
Common consensus may make sense, but whose consensus are we talking about. Generally speaking, whether a financial instrument is considered a proper primary asset class (like stocks, bonds, and cash) is determined by the conglomeration of the following people's/org's opinions:
It's the interplay between individuals in each of the above categories that determine whether an asset class is going to be considered a core/primary asset class in the general conception.
Another critical thing to think about is the size of the crypto market. The market cap of all cryptos can be viewed against the market cap of individuals asset classes and the entire finance industry as a whole. Questions like the following might be asked to understand better how big the overall crypto market is relative to all other finance-related markets:
Although there's no hard and fast way to determine whether anything is a core asset class definitely, crypto seems on its way to getting there. It seems likely that one day, gold will remain an alternative asset, but crypto will be a core part of most people's long term investing and retirement portfolios. One day, financial advisers may even find it imprudent to not include crypto as part of a proper diversified investing strategy.
One of the best ways to calm your anxieties during market turmoil is to track your portfolio over time in a robust and sustainable way. What does that look like? It means periodically and consistently -- on a weekly or monthly basis (daily is too volatile and yearly is too high level to see intra-year fluctuations) – in a way that makes you actually have to engage with your portfolio.
This means using software or an app to track might not be sufficient if the app does all of the work for you. One of the best ways to do it is to use an Excel file and simply list your total portfolio value over time, row by row, with each row representing a particular point in time (see example below).
What this will give you is something incredible – it’ll give you some perspective. Perspective is an amazing gift, but it isn’t very easy to come by. To get real perspective, there aren’t a lot of shortcuts you can take – it takes time. But, even if you have been investing for years and years, you still likely won’t gain perspective if you don’t track your portfolio but instead mindlessly go about checking it every once in a while without putting its current value in appropriate historical context. Remember - perspective is earned.
By having some perspective, you'll be less likely to make dumb investing mistakes. When stocks go down severely due to short term market turmoil, you'll have enough historical perspective to understand that markets are volatile in the short term.
This is useful for all sorts of investors - those that invest in stocks obviously, but it's also useful for investors in real estate, derivatives, cryptoassets, and even fixed income (although fixed income can be a bit more complex because it is exposed to interest rate risk in addition to market risk).
Bitcoin cash is a cryptocurrency created in August 2017, arising from a fork of Bitcoin, the classic/original cryptocurrency. The most significant difference between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash has to do with the size of blocks on the blockchain.
By increasing the block size from 1MB up to 8MB, Bitcoin Cash allows many more transactions to be processed in one block. The idea is to process larger transaction volumes faster and for lower fees.
Bitcoin Cash offers lower fees and a purportedly, more reliable transaction rate than Bitcoin. In terms of development, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin share a majority of code. Having so much code in common makes developing software or altering existing software to support Bitcoin Cash quite simple.
Bitcoin Cash differs from Bitcoin Classic in that it increases the block size from 1 MB to 8 MB.
Bitcoin Cash attempts to increase the number of transactions that can be processed in a given interval of time. Bitcoin Cash supporters hope that this change will allow Bitcoin Cash to compete with the volume of transactions that PayPal and Visa can handle by increasing the size of blocks. Since the issue of scalability tends to be at the forefront of cryptocurrency debates, developers have made increasing block size and improving transaction processing speeds their top focus areas.
Despite the many vocal Bitcoin Cash advocates, as of early 2019, Bitcoin cash is used in exchanges at far lower rates than Bitcoin. In fact, with so little traffic that as of yet in the Bitcoin Cash network, the block size increase hasn't been necessary to process transactions more quickly than Bitcoin.
Since the beginning, there have been questions surrounding bitcoin's ability to scale effectively. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that exists within a decentralized network of computers all over the world. Payment transactions are verified by majority rule, not by an individual actor.
The problem with this technology is that it's slow, especially in comparison to banks that deal with credit card transactions. For example, Visa processes 150 million transactions per day, averaging roughly 1,700 transactions per second. The company's capability far surpasses that, standing at aproximately 24,000 transactions per second.
How many transactions can the bitcoin network process per second? Seven.
Transactions take about 10 minutes to process. As the network of bitcoin users grows, waiting times will become longer since there are more transactions to handle without a change in the underlying technology that processes them. Ongoing debates around bitcoin's technology have graviated around this central problem of scaling and increasing the speed of the transaction verification process.
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.
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 ledger 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).