updated - August 18, 2019 Sunday EDT
This past Halloween, with the US markets in their worst slump since the 2008 financial crisis, bitcoin turned ten years old. The timing was particularly apropos, seeing as Bitcoin first came onto the scene as a reaction to the financial crisis. 2018 is providing a sharp reminder that global finance is never as stable as it may seem.
Posers, Fakers, Movers and Shakers
In the ten years since Bitcoin first came onto the scene, there have been an almost uncountable number of imitators, functioning on the same decentralized blockchain technology, including - and really, who could forget - the short-lived Conye West. While many of these competitors have fallen by the wayside, coins like Ripple, Litecoin and Ethereum have managed to find a foothold, providing a healthy sense of competition in the field.
Bitcoin Cash and Public Use
At the outset, Bitcoin was typically used by cypherpunks and libertarians out of a sense of excitement and a desire to purchase goods anonymously. Sense 2008, however, many regular folks have incorporated Bitcoin into their regular shopping habits or scooped up a few coins to catch a bit of the zeitgeist. Secure digital currency platforms like Bitbuy offer users a range of coins, a place to store them, an easy to use interface and a guide to crypto that a normal person (read: non-math or computer wizard) can understand.
Bitcoin Cash, which was created out of a fork in the original Bitcoin code, offers faster transaction speeds to compete with PayPal and complete payments with a minimum of fuss - it's a great option for everyday users who aren't interested in holding their digital coins as an investment.
Many popular companies like Expedia, Microsoft and Shopify have begun accepting crypto transactions, in addition to smaller merchants who appreciate the exclusion of gatekeepers like Visa and Amex.
Commodification and Largescale Investing
Satoshi Nakamoto - the mysterious person (or persons) who invented Bitcoin - would be none too pleased to learn that Bitcoin and crypto have been taken up by notorious hedge-fund managers like Michael Novogratz who seek to make investors millions on the back of crypto's rise. Many crypto enthusiasts simply hold their coins as an investment, but companies like Galaxy are offering ETF-style baskets and merchant banking services for big spenders who wanted a well-hedged piece of the action.
Regulation and Long-Term Integration
Recently, India flat-out declared crypto illegal, while China has outlawed initial coin offerings (ICOs), allegedly in favour of state-sponsored research and development. Most crypto enthusiasts want to see digital coins thrive in the current, decentralized mode without any government or corporate interference. Big banks and governments, however, are keen to mold blockchain to their needs. At this stage, you couldn't argue that Bitcoin has been anything short of revolutionary, but the question remains, how will it be applied in the coming years, and for whose interests.
Verdict: Folks, It's Here to Stay
Bitcoin and its more successful peers have found a steady place in the hearts and digital wallets of the population. It is estimated that the final Bitcoin will be mined in the year 2140, it's tantalizing to wonder what the world economy - and the world - will look like by then.
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