Cryptocurrency Evolved Out of Necessity
Nearly ten years after the introduction of bitcoin, the first and most prominent cryptocurrency, digital currencies continue to defy the doomsday. Despite being around for less than a decade, cryptos already show potential to replace traditional fiat currencies and transform the financial services landscape. But how did they come so far so quickly?
While the concept of online currency predates bitcoin, 2009 marked a defining moment for peer-to-peer electronic cash system when an individual (or group) under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto publicly released the bitcoin software. Bitcoin was created to protect against inflation, provide security, and put the control of money in the hands of the people.
The release kick-started what is now known as bitcoin mining, and indeed the introduction of alternative currencies, which have been developed, either to address bitcoin’s perceived shortcomings or to accomplish different goals.
Bitcoin was valued for the first time in 2010 when an early adopter decided to swap 10,000 units for two pizzas. The token is believed to be worth around $0.00001 when it was first created.
The Emergence of Alternative Cryptocurrencies
As bitcoin grew in popularity and gained more acceptance, users began to notice some of its shortcomings. As a result, alternative cryptocurrencies (often referred to as altcoins) were launched to fix its perceived flaws in areas such as privacy, transaction speed, DNS resolution, proof-of-stake, among others.
Similarly, Forks like Bitcoin Classic and Bitcoin Cash were created by manipulating the existing bitcoin code to reduce confirmation times, reduce transaction costs, or correct scalability issues.
Namecoin, Litecoin, and SwiftCoin were the first altcoins to launch in 2011. Today, some of the most popular alternative cryptocurrencies are Ethereum, Ripple, Zcash, Litecoin, Monero, and Dash. There are currently more than 1,500 cryptocurrencies online.
Initial Coin Offering (ICO), a fundraising tool for startups, makes it easier than ever to launch new cryptocurrencies. The first ICO was held in 2013 by Mastercoin. Since then, several cryptocurrencies have begun this way. Some of the most popular cryptocurrencies created through this means include Ethereum and NEO.
Growing Acceptance and Surge into Mainstream
The popularity of cryptocurrencies is on the rise. Countries like China, Ecuador, Tunisia, Venezuela, Senegal, Sweden, Estonia, Singapore, etc. have either created their own national cryptocurrency or are planning to launch one.
In addition, bitcoin and other popular digital currencies appear to be gaining more acceptance as a growing list of retailers and services now accept them as payment. The market value of digital currencies is expected to reach $1 trillion this year as positive sentiments continue to rise.
Challenges to Mass Adoption
Cryptocurrencies are a suitable medium of exchange, store of value, and unit of account. Possessing these characteristics make them a reliable form of money by any yardstick. However, some obstacles must be overcome before the general public widely adopts these online-based currencies.
One of the major barriers to mass adoption of cryptocurrency is volatility. Merchants are sometimes reluctant to accept cryptocurrencies as payment because their prices fluctuate very often. Scalability issues, security, and regulatory challenges are other factors that impede further adoption of digital currencies.