Bitcoin might be a reserve asset for the crypto community but its recent price trajectory, with gains and losses tracking equities, suggest the non-crypto “normies” don’t (yet) see it that way. Given the COVID-19 crisis’ extreme test of the global financial system and central banks’ massive “quantitative easing” response to it, that price performance poses a challenge to those of us who see bitcoin’s core use case as an internet era hedge against centralized monetary instability. Far from complying with that “digital gold” narrative, bitcoin has performed like any other “risk-off” asset. Meanwhile, actual gold has shaken off its own early-crisis stock market correlation to chart an upward course. While bitcoin has repeatedly failed to sustainably break through $10,000, bullion has rallied sharply to close in on $1,800, levels it hasn’t seen since September 2012. Some analysts are predicting it will breach its all-time intraday high of $1,917, hit in the aftermath of the last global financial crisis in 2011. To add insult to injury, one Forbes contributor even stole from the crypto lexicon to describe the state of play, telling his readers that gold prices are “soaring to the moon.”
While both the Bitcoin and Ethereum networks are powered by the principle of distributed ledgers and cryptography, the two differ technically in many ways. For example, transactions on the Ethereum network may contain executable code, while data affixed to Bitcoin network transactions are generally only for keeping notes. Other differences include block time (an ether transaction is confirmed in seconds compared to minutes for bitcoin) and the algorithms that they run on (Ethereum uses ethash while Bitcoin uses SHA-256).
Speculators have often pushed the cryptocurrency market forward by merely selling their crypto-assets for fiat profits. However, Ethereum’s budding ecosystem allows for money to be spent and earned within its own internal economy. Although we are still a long way away from maturity, once Ethereum scales, these positive developments will surely accelerate.
The potential applications of Ethereum are wide-ranging and are powered by its native cryptographic token, ether (commonly abbreviated as ETH). In 2014, Ethereum launched a presale for ether, which received an overwhelming response. Ether is like the fuel for running commands on the Ethereum platform and is used by developers to build and run applications on the platform.
That network now sustains its financial system, a decentralized microcosm of the massive traditional one. It takes tokenized versions of the underlying currencies that users most value (whether bitcoin or fiat) and provides disintermediated mechanisms for lending or borrowing them or for creating decentralized derivative or insurance contracts. What’s emerging, albeit in a form too volatile for traditional institutions, is a multifaceted, market for managing and trading in risk.
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