Lesson 3: The Future of Digital Currencies
Upon the surge in interest in Bitcoin and blockchain since 2009, a number of other
cryptocurrencies (or tokens) have come into existence. There are over 850
cryptocurrencies currently being traded across the globe. Litecoin, Dash, Ripple,
Stratis, ZCash, and Monero are some examples of the popular coins. The total
market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies combined crossed $100 billion in June
2017, a remarkable milestone in the cryptocurrency journey.
As an obvious outcome of this, a completely new industry of cryptocurrency trading
has emerged globally. Blockchain-based apps will intrinsically make use of a
cryptocurrency. To that extent, an exchange plays the role of a provider of access to
cryptocurrencies, which the common people will utilize to use such blockchain based
A relatively new cryptocurrency called Ethereum (ETH) is competing in a race with
Bitcoin for world dominance and popularity. Proposed in late 2013 by Vitalik Buterin,
the Ethereum Project went live in July 2015. Ethereum is basically an open source,
blockchain-based distributed computing platform, whose major highlights include
smart contracts, the Ethereum Virtual Machine, and a set of programming languages
to build blockchain apps.
In a short time of existence, Ethereum has shown tremendous promise and received
unparalleled support from developers, users and businesses. The total market
capitalization of the currency is already around $30 billion. Being an open source
blockchain project has enabled tons of startups to develop their own
cryptocurrencies built on the Ethereum platform.
The ease of development, the size of the developers community, the technological
edge over other blockchain platforms, and its signature Enterprise Ethereum Alliance
(a consortium of world’s leading businesses which employ and help the Ethereum
platform) are some of the main reasons why it is getting so popular.
The philosophy of cryptocurrencies is to break all borders and barriers, at least in the
context of finance and trade. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies, like
Bitcoin, are revolutionizing the way people think about government currency
monopolies, transferring money across the globe, maintaining financial privacy and
security, and verifying ownership of money or potentially everything. Their place in
society and the financial system is rapidly expanding. This is one of the reasons that
the concept attracts criticism from bankers and politicians. They currently are playing
the reactionary role in the face of a decentralization revolution. Nearly a thousand
coins are competing with each other in these early stages of blockchain
development. The future may see a single leader while others are rendered
obsolete, or the future may see 3–4 leading coins which define the entire payments,
lending, trading and banking infrastructures globally.
Within the next few years, cryptocurrencies may become popular enough for
mainstream adoption of blockchain-based apps.