Chart: The Coin Universe Keeps Expanding
Bitcoin’s record year is just a part of the big story
Note: This post was updated June 27th, 2017 with current values for all cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency, and its meteoric rise has made it a mainstay of conversation for investors, media, and technologists alike.
In fact, the innovation of the blockchain is changing entire markets, while causing ripples with central banks and the financial industry. At time of publication, the bitcoin price now hovers near US$2,400, a massive increase from this time last year.
But the true impact of Bitcoin is actually far more reaching than this – it’s actually helped to birth new markets for over 800 other cryptocurrencies and assets that are available for online trading. And while the market for bitcoins is worth $40 billion itself, the rest of these cryptocurrencies are actually worth even more in combination.
The Altcoin Universe
For the first time since Bitcoin was founded, it now makes up the minority of the entire cryptocurrency market at about 41.6% of all coins and assets.
So what are the other altcoins that make up the rest of this universe, and where did they come from?
Litecoin is one of the first altcoins, and it is nearly identical to Bitcoin after being “forked” in 2011. Litecoin aims to process blocks 4x faster than Bitcoin to speed up transaction confirmation time, though this creates several other challenges as well. At time of writing, Litecoin’s market capitalization is worth $2.1 billion.
Ethereum, launched in 2015, is the largest coin by market capitalization aside from Bitcoin. However, it is also quite different. While Bitcoin is designed to be a payments protocol first, Ethereum enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications, while also enabling smart contracts. The tokens used to power the network are called Ether, but they can also be traded online. At time of writing, Ethereum’s market capitalization is $25.7 billion.
Also interesting: the Ethereum network actually split into two in 2016. It’s a complicated situation, but read about it here. There is now a separate Ethereum, based on the original Ethereum blockchain, trading as “Ethereum Classic” with its own market capitalization of $1.8 billion.
Ripple (XRP) is the native currency of the Ripple Protocol – a broader catch-all for an open-source, global exchange. It’s already being used by banks such as Santander, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, UBS, and RBC. It solves a different problem than Bitcoin, allowing for settling payments between different currencies and even different payment systems. Today, Ripple’s native coin (XRP) has a market cap of $10.5 billion.
With over 800+ altcoins or assets out there, there’s plenty of information to absorb.
Here’s a short 20-minute course on the history of altcoins that might provide useful context, as well as in-depth explanations of Ethereum and Ripple that may help you learn about the important parts of a rapidly growing altcoin universe.
How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible
Under the current global financial system, billions of people do not have access to quality assets. Here’s how decentralized finance is changing that.
Infographic: How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible
Did you know that a majority of the global population doesn’t have access to quality financial assets?
In advanced economies, we are lucky to have simple options to grow and protect our wealth. Banks are all over the place, markets are robust, and we can invest our money into assets like stocks or bonds at the drop of a hat.
In the United States, roughly 52% of people are invested in the stock market – but in a place like India, for example, this portion drops to a paltry 2%. How can we make it possible for people on the “outside” of the financial system to gain access?
Breaking Down Barriers
Today’s infographic comes to us from Abra, and it shows how decentralized finance could make investing a more universal phenomenon, especially for those that don’t have access to the modern financial system.
It lays out four key obstacles that prevent people in developing markets from investing in quality financial assets in the first place:
- The Geographic Lottery
Where you live plays a massive role in determining your ability to build wealth. In advanced Western economies, the average person is much more likely to be invested in financial markets that can help compound wealth.
- Financial Literacy and Complexity
Roughly 3.5 billion adults globally lack an understanding of basic financial concepts, which creates an impenetrable barrier to investing.
- Local Market Turmoil
Even if a person is mentally prepared to invest, local market turmoil (hyperinflation, political crises, closed borders, etc.) can make it difficult to get access to stable assets.
- The Cost of Investing in Foreign Markets
Foreign assets can be pricey. One share of Amazon is $1,800, which is realistically more money than many people around the world can afford.
In other words, there are billions of people globally that can’t take advantage of some of the most effective wealth-building tactics.
This is just one flaw in the current financial system, a paradigm that has created massive amounts of wealth but only for a specific and well-connected group of people.
Enter Decentralized Finance
Could decentralized finance be the alternative to open up access to financial markets?
By combining apps with blockchain technology – specifically through public blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum – decentralized finance makes it possible to get around some of the barriers that are created by more traditional systems.
Here are some of the innovations that are making this possible:
Smart contracts could automate transactions and remove intermediaries, making investing cheaper, faster, and more accessible.
Fractional investing could allow partial or shared ownership of financial assets by using tokenization. This would make expensive stocks like Amazon ($1,800 per share) available to a much wider segment of the population.
Location independent investing is possible through smartphones. This would make it possible for people in remote parts of the developing world to invest, even without access to nearby financial institutions or local markets.
Like the internet with knowledge, decentralized finance could reshape the world by making financial access universal. Who’s ready?
Decentralized Finance: An Emerging Alternative to the Global Financial System
What is decentralized finance? Learn how technology is changing the rules of the game, creating the potential for a new financial system to emerge.
Decentralized Finance: An Emerging Alternative
The global financial system has created massive wealth, but its centralized nature means the spoils have gone to the people who are best connected to the financial centers of the world.
As global inequality continues to rise, how can wealth building tools become more accessible to the rest of the global population?
Luckily, technological developments and their rapid adoption make this the right time for a new decentralized financial system to emerge:
- The Internet: 3.9 billion users by the end of 2018
- The proliferation of smartphones: Two-thirds of the unbanked have mobile phones
- Digital banking: over 2 billion users by end of 2018
- Bitcoin and Blockchain: the emergence of new public blockchains
Today’s infographic comes to us from investment app Abra, and it highlights how public blockchains could help to enable a decentralized finance system.
What is Decentralized Finance?
Decentralized finance describes a new decentralized financial system that is built on public blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum. After all, Bitcoin and Ethereum aren’t just digital currencies — they’re foundational open source networks that could be used to change how the global economy works.
There are six primary features that differentiate public blockchains from the private networks used by governments and traditional financial institutions:
- Permissionless: Anyone in the world can connect to the network
- Decentralized: Records are kept simultaneously across thousands of computers
- Trustless: A central party isn’t required to ensure transactions are valid
- Transparent: All transactions are publicly auditable
- Censorship Resistant: A central party cannot invalidate user transactions
- Programmable: Developers can program business logic into low-cost financial services
In such a financial system, users will have access to apps that use public blockchains to participate in new open global markets – but how would this shape the global financial system for the better?
The Potential Impact of Decentralized Finance
Here are five ways that decentralized finance will have an impact on the world:
1. Wider Global Access to Financial Services
With decentralized finance, anyone with an internet connection and a smartphone could access financial services. There are a variety of barriers that prevent access in the current system:
- Status: Lack of citizenship, documentation, credentials, etc.
- Wealth: High entry-level funds required to access financial services
- Location: Vast distance from functioning economies and financial service providers
In a decentralized financial system, a top trader at a financial firm would have the same level of access as a farmer in a remote region of India.
2. Affordable Cross-Border Payments
Decentralized finance removes costly intermediaries to make remittance services more affordable for the global population.
In the current system, it’s prohibitively expensive for people to send money across borders: the average global remittance fee is 7%. Through decentralized financial services, remittance fees could be below 3%.
3. Improved Privacy and Security
In decentralized finance, users have custody of their wealth and can transact securely without validation from a central party. Meanwhile, in the current system, custodial institutions put people’s wealth and information at risk if they fail to secure it.
4. Censorship-Resistant Transactions
In a decentralized financial system, transactions are immutable and blockchains can’t be shut off by central institutions like governments, central banks, or big corporations.
In places with poor governance and authoritarianism, users can divest to the decentralized financial system to protect their wealth. For example, Venezuelans are already adopting Bitcoin to protect their wealth from government manipulation and hyperinflation.
5. Simple Use
Plug and play apps will allow people to intuitively use decentralized financial services without the complexity of the centralized system.
With a decentralized system, a woman in the Philippines could receive a loan from the U.S., invest in a business in Colombia, and then pay off her debt and purchase a home – all through interoperable apps.
The Potential Blue Sky
Unless governments and central banks suddenly cease to exist, it’s difficult to imagine a world where decentralized finance completely replaces their centralized counterparts.
But what if they can co-exist?
Public blockchains can interact with the traditional financial system to create a new hybrid model:
- Users could conduct economic activity on public blockchains and exchange their new wealth into the centralized system.
- Users could hedge against systemic risk by diversifying their wealth holdings in both the central and decentralized system.
Like the internet with knowledge, decentralized finance could help democratize the financial system.
But will we allow it?
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