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Chart: The Coin Universe Keeps Expanding

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Chart: The Coin Universe Keeps Expanding

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.

Bitcoin as a Percentage of Crypto Market

So what are the other altcoins that make up the rest of this universe, and where did they come from?

Litecoin
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
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
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.

Learn More

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.

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Bitcoin

Mapped: Cryptocurrency Regulations Around the World

Cryptocurrency regulations are essential for the future of digital finance, making it more attractive for businesses, banks, and investors worldwide.

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Cryptocurrency Regulations Around the World

Mapped: Cryptocurrency Regulations Around the World

Following the unprecedented cryptocurrency boom in 2017, investors and governments alike could no longer ignore the growth of decentralized finance.

The world has become increasingly fascinated with cryptocurrencies and the ways they are enabling greater access, such as being able to send funds to remote places or securing capital for small businesses.

To aid this, cryptocurrency regulations are being slowly introduced into global financial markets. Regulations help to monitor these emerging digital currencies, and to allow for clearer guidelines and a measure of security.

The Regulatory Landscape

Today’s graphic from ComplyAdvantage maps out major regulatory cryptocurrency and exchange landscapes around the world, showing how sentiments towards digital currencies are evolving.

To do this, ComplyAdvantage measured cryptocurrency regulatory environments using their own Light-to-Tight scale, based on the following criteria:

  • Cryptocurrencies and exchanges status? (Ban = 3 points, Regulated = 2 points, Grey Area = 1 point)
  • Cryptocurrency considered legal tender? (Yes = 1 point, No = 0 points)
  • Planned legislation to increase crypto regulation? (Yes = 1 point, No = 0 points)

Which jurisdictions have the strictest and most relaxed regulations for cryptocurrencies?

Regulations by Region

Global attitudes towards the rise of cryptocurrencies have shifted greatly over the past few years. While the term cryptocurrency is a bit of a misnomer, some countries do consider digital currencies legal tender, with many viewing cryptocurrencies as commodities.

Below is a table of the major countries that are pursuing cryptocurrency regulations:

CountryCryptocurrenciesExchangesInitial Coin Offerings (ICOs)
AustraliaLegal; treated as propertyLegal, must register with AUSTRACRegulated
SwitzerlandLegal; generally accepted as paymentLegal, regulated by SFTARegulated
MaltaNot legal tenderLegal, regulated under the VFA ActRegulated
EstoniaNot legal tenderLegal, must register with the Financial Intelligence UnitRegulated
GibraltarNot legal tenderLegal, must register with the GFSCRegulated
LuxembourgNot legal tenderLegal, must register with the CSSFRegulated
CanadaNot legal tender; some retailers accept as paymentLegal, regulation varies by province; final federal regulations expected late 2019Regulated
MexicoLegal, accepted as payment in some contextsGrey area; first crypto exchange in opened mid 2019Regulated
LithuaniaNot legal tenderLegal, must register with the Lithuanian Finance MinistryGrey area
United StatesNot legal tender; some retailers accept as paymentLegal, regulation varies by state; SEC expected to publish updated crypto regulations late 2019Grey area
UKNot legal tender; considered assetsLegal, registration requirements with FCAGrey area
RussiaNot legal tenderGrey area; regulations to be determined by the end of 2019Grey area
JapanLegal; treated as propertyLegal, must register with the Financial Services AgencyGrey area
NigeriaLegalGrey area; regulations upcoming from Central Bank of NigeriaGrey area
SingaporeNot legal tenderLegal, no registration requiredGrey area
South KoreaNot legal tenderLegal and regulated, must register with FSSBanned
IndiaNot legal tender; digital rupee may be in the worksEffectively illegal, but global and federal regulations being consideredBanned
ChinaBitcoin considered property; all other cryptocurrencies bannedIllegal, but a global regulatory framework being consideredBanned

Sources: ComplyAdvantage, HedgeTrade, CoinDesk

Asia

Japan has one of the most progressive regulatory climates for cryptocurrencies, widely considering bitcoin as legal tender and passing a law in mid-2017 recognizing cryptocurrencies as legal property. In late 2018, Japan also approved self-regulation for the crypto industry.

By contrast, China currently has one of the most restrictive environments in the world for cryptocurrency. China banned bitcoin transactions in 2013, as well as ICOs and crypto exchanges in 2017─though many have found workarounds through sites not yet firewalled.

Europe

Cryptocurrency and exchange regulations in the EU are determined by individual member states, and are considered legal across the bloc.

Digital currency offers great promise, through its ability to reach people and businesses in remote and marginalized regions.

—Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of IMF

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Switzerland has one of the most open climates for cryptocurrencies and exchanges in Europe. In 2016, the city of Zug, known as “Crypto Valley”, started accepting bitcoin as payment for city fees. Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann announced his goal in 2018 to make Switzerland the world’s first “crypto-nation”.

North America

Both Canada and the U.S. take a similar approach to cryptocurrency legislation at the federal level, as both countries view cryptocurrencies as securities. However, provincial and state regulations differ widely in their taxation requirements of profits from crypto investments.

Latin America

Regulations throughout Latin and South America run the full legislative spectrum.

  • Bolivia: unilateral ban on cryptocurrencies and exchanges
  • Ecuador: the first country to launch its own token; ban on all cryptocurrencies aside from its government-issued SDE token (Sistema de Dinero Electrónico = electronic money system)
  • Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile: cryptocurrencies widely accepted as payment
  • Venezuela: cryptocurrencies widely accepted; this makes sense, considering the economic crisis and subsequent freefall of the bolívar

The Importance of Cryptocurrency Regulations

Cryptocurrency’s journey is the story of a technology rapidly outpacing the laws that govern it.

Governments around the world are keenly aware of this problem. Members of the G20 published a request in June 2019 for a global regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies to be implemented to better manage the benefits and challenges that cryptocurrencies bring.

Regulation for both cryptocurrencies and crypto exchanges is essential for the future of digital finance─bringing legitimacy to the digital financial market, and making it more attractive for new businesses, established banks, and investors worldwide to more easily conduct business within this emerging ecosystem.

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Bitcoin

Mapping the Major Bitcoin Forks

Bitcoin forks play a key role in Bitcoin’s evolution as a blockchain. While some have sparked controversy, most Bitcoin forks have been a sign of growth.

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Mapping the Major Bitcoin Forks

The emergence of Bitcoin took the world by storm through its simplicity and innovation. Yet, plenty of confusion remains around the term itself.

The Bitcoin blockchain—not to be confused with the bitcoin cryptocurrency—involves a vast global network of computers operating on the same distributed database to process massive volumes of data every second.

These transactions tell the network how to alter this distributed database in real-time, which makes it crucial for everyone to agree on how these changes should be applied. When the community can’t come to a mutual agreement on what changes, or when such rule changes should take effect, it results in a blockchain fork.

Today’s unique subway-style map by Bitcoin Magazine shows the dramatic and major forks that have occurred for Bitcoin. But what exactly is a Blockchain fork?

Types of Blockchain Forks

Forks are common practice in the software industry and happen for one of two reasons:

  • Split consensus within the community
    These forks are generally disregarded by the community because they are temporary, except in extreme cases. The longer of the two chains is used to continue building the blockchain.
  • Changes to the underlying rules of the blockchain
    A permanent fork which requires an upgrade to the current software in order to continue participating in the network.

There are four major types of forks that can occur:

1. Soft Forks

Soft forks are like gradual software upgrades—bug fixes, security checks, and new features—for those that upgrade right away.

These forks are “backwards compatible” with the older software; users who haven’t upgraded still have access to the network but may not be able to use all functionality in the current version.

2. Hard Forks

Hard forks are like a new OS release—upgrading is mandatory to continue using the software. Because of this, hard forks aren’t compatible with older versions of the network.

Hard forks are a permanent division of the blockchain. As long as enough people support both chains, however, they will both continue to exist.

The three types of hard forks are:

  • Planned
    Scheduled upgrades to the network, giving users a chance to prepare. These forks typically involve abandoning the old chain.
  • Contentious
    Caused by disagreements in the community, forming a new chain. This usually involves major changes to the code.
  • Spin-off Coins
    Changes to Bitcoin’s code that create new coins. Litecoin is an example of this—key changes included reducing mining time from 10 minutes to 2.5 minutes, and increasing the coin supply from 21 million to 84 million.

3. Codebase Forks

Codebase forks copy the Bitcoin code, allowing developers to make minor tweaks without having to develop the entire blockchain code from scratch. Codebase forks can create a new cryptocurrency or cause unintentional blockchain forks.

4. Blockchain Forks

Blockchain forks involve branching or splitting a blockchain’s whole transaction history. Outcomes range from “orphan” blocks to new cryptocurrencies.

Splitting off the Bitcoin network to form a new currency is much like a religious schism—while most of the characteristics and history are preserved, a fork causes the new network to develop a distinct identity.

Summarizing Major Bitcoin Forks

Descriptions of major forks that have occurred in the Bitcoin blockchain:

  • Bitcoin / Bitcoin Core
    The first iteration of Bitcoin was launched by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Future generations of Bitcoin (aka Bitcoin 0.1.0) were renamed Bitcoin Core, or Bitcore, as other blockchains and codebases formed.
  • BTC1
    A codebase fork of Bitcoin. Developers released a hard fork protocol called Segwit2x, with the intention of having all Bitcoin users eventually migrate to the Segwit2x protocol. However, it failed to gain traction and is now considered defunct.
  • Bitcoin ABC
    Also a codebase fork of Bitcoin, Bitcoin ABC was intentionally designed to be incompatible with all Bitcoin iterations at some point. ABC branched off to form Bitcoin Cash in 2017.
  • Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Diamond, Other Fork Coins
    After the successful yet contentious launch of Bitcoin Cash, other fork coins began to emerge. Unlike the disagreement surrounding Bitcoin Cash, most were simply regarded as a way to create new coins.

Some of the above forks were largely driven by ideology (BTC1), some because of mixed consensus on which direction to take a hard fork (Bitcoin ABC), while others were mainly profit-driven (Bitcoin Clashic)—or a mix of all three.

Where’s the Next Fork in the Road?

Forks are considered an inevitability in the blockchain community. Many believe that forks help ensure that everyone involved—developers, miners, and investors—all have a say when disagreements occur.

Bitcoin has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Crypto investors should be aware that Bitcoin, as both a protocol and a currency, is complex and always evolving. Even among experts, there is disagreement on what constitutes a soft or hard fork, and how certain geopolitical events have played a role in Bitcoin’s evolution.

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