Bitcoin was launched in January of 2009. It introduced a novel idea set out in a white paper by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto—bitcoin offers the promise of an online currency that is secured without any central authority, unlike government-issued currencies. There are no physical bitcoins, only balances associated with a cryptographically secured public ledger. Although bitcoin was not the first attempts at an online currency of this type, it was the most successful in its early efforts, and it has come to be known as a predecessor in some way to virtually all cryptocurrencies which have been developed over the past decade.
ZIMBABWE ACCIDENTALLY LEAVES DOOR OPEN FOR CRYPTO. Here’s a recipe for creating a fertile environment for alternative payment systems: outlaw the system everyone is currently using. When the Zimbabwean government made the nutty step of banning digital payments – used for 85% of transactions by individuals, due to severe shortage of cash – it clearly wasn’t trying to promote bitcoin. In forcing people to go to a local bank to redeem funds locked in popular payments apps such as Ecocash, its goal was to protect the embattled Zimbabwean dollar. In a statement, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said the move was “necessitated by the need to protect consumers on mobile money platforms which have been abused by unscrupulous and unpatriotic individuals and entities to create instability and inefficiencies in the economy.” The thinking is that Ecocash, which enables currency trading, is making it easier for people to dump the local currency. But here’s the thing: Ecocash, which said it suspended cash-in-cash-out functions (presumably because its banking lines will be cut) is still keeping in-app payment facilities open. And it said nothing about stopping its fairly popular service allowing people to buy cryptocurrency. Not surprisingly, since the ban “demand for bitcoin has skyrocketed,” according to African crypto news site, bitcoinke, with “sources claiming bitcoin is now selling at at 18% premium above the market rate.”
As is their wont, each faction described the growth of WBTC tokens, whose value is pegged one-to-one against a locked-up reserve of actual bitcoin, as proof of their coin’s superiority over the other. The Ethereum crowd said it showed that even BTC “hodlers” believe Ethereum-based applications provide a better off-chain transaction experience than platforms built on Bitcoin, such as Lightning or Blockstream’s Liquid. Bitcoiners, by contrast, took it as confirmation that people place greater value in the oldest, most valuable crypto asset, than in Ethereum’s ether token.
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).
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“I’m shifting slightly away from Bitcoin in my interests, and in the things that I want to write about,” he said. He explained that recent world events meant he was less excited about focussing primarily on Bitcoin, and the harsh line that was adopted by some Bitcoin fans. He also said he believed that things were about to get more political—a prospect that didn’t excite him.
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.