Many economists and tech analysts have recommended Zimbabwe to adopt bitcoin as a currency with the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe being hesitant to introduce the cryptocurrency.
The central bank cites that this currency is a risky venture for its users in the country.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
While Bitcoin remains by far the most famous cryptocurrency and most other cryptocurrencies have zero non-speculative impact, investors and users should keep an eye on several cryptocurrencies. What is cryptocurrency?
What is cryptocurrency?
Is it the 21st-century unicorn – or the money of the future?
A cryptocurrency is a medium of exchange like normal currencies such as USD, but designed for the purpose of exchanging digital information through a process made possible by certain principles of cryptography.
Cryptography is used to secure the transactions and to control the creation of new coins. The first cryptocurrency to be created was Bitcoin back in 2009. Today there are hundreds of other cryptocurrencies, often referred to as Altcoins.
Unlike centralized banking, like the Federal Reserve System, where governments control the value of a currency like USD through the process of printing fiat money, government has no control over cryptocurrencies as they are fully decentralized.
Most cryptocurrencies are designed to decrease in production over time like Bitcoin, which creates a market cap on them. That’s different from fiat currencies where financial institutions can always create more, hence inflation. Bitcoin will never have more than 21 million coins in circulation. The technical system on which all cryptocurrencies are based on was created by Satoshi Nakamoto.
Few people know, but cryptocurrencies emerged as a side product of another invention. Satoshi Nakamoto, the unknown inventor of Bitcoin, the first and still most important cryptocurrency, never intended to invent a currency.
In his announcement of Bitcoin in late 2008, Satoshi said he developed “A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.“
His goal was to invent something; many people failed to create before digital cash.
Announcing the first release of Bitcoin, a new electronic cash system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending. It’s completely decentralized with no server or central authority. – Satoshi Nakamoto, 09 January 2009, announcing Bitcoin on SourceForge.
The single most important part of Satoshi‘s invention was that he found a way to build a decentralized digital cash system. In the nineties, there have been many attempts to create digital money, but they all failed.
… after more than a decade of failed Trusted Third Party based systems (Digicash, etc), they see it as a lost cause. I hope they can make the distinction, that this is the first time I know of that we’re trying a non-trust based system. – Satoshi Nakamoto in an E-Mail to Dustin Trammell
The security of cryptocurrencies is two part. The first part comes from the difficulty in finding hash set intersections, a task done by miners. The second and more likely of the two cases is a “51%” attack“. In this scenario, a miner who has the mining power of more than 51% of the network, can take control of the global blockchain ledger and generate an alternative block-chain. Even at this point the attacker is limited to what he can do. The attacker could reverse his own transactions or block other transactions.
Types of Cryptocurrency
The one and only, the first and most famous cryptocurrency. .Bitcoin serves as a digital gold standard in the whole cryptocurrency-industry, is used as a global means of payment and is the de-facto currency of cyber-crime like dark net markets or ransomware. After seven years in existence, Bitcoin‘s price has increased from zero to more than 650 Dollar, and it‘s transaction volume reached more than 200.000 daily transactions.
There is not much more to say: Bitcoin is here to stay.
The brainchild of young crypto-genius Vitalik Buterin has ascended to the second place in the hierarchy of cryptocurrencies. Other than Bitcoin its blockchain does not only validate a set of accounts and balances but of so-called states. This means that Ethereum can not only process transactions but complex contracts and programs.
This flexibility makes Ethereum the perfect instrument for „blockchain“-application. But it comes at a cost. After the Hack of the DAO – an Ethereum based smart contract – the developers decided to do a hard fork without consensus, which resulted in the emerge of Ethereum Classic. Beside this, there are several clones of Ethereum, and Ethereum itself is a host of several Token like DigixDAO and Augur. This makes Ethereum more a family of cryptocurrencies than a single currency.
Maybe the less popular – or most hated – project in the cryptocurrency community is Ripple. While Ripple has a native cryptocurrency – XRP – it is more about a network to process IOUs than the cryptocurrency itself. XRP, the currency, doesn‘t serve as a medium to store and exchange value, but more as a token to protect the network against spam.
Ripple Labs created every XRP-token, the company running the Ripple network, and is distributed by them on will. For this reason, Ripple is often called pre-mined in the community and dissed as no real cryptocurrency, and XRP is not considered as a good store of value.
Banks, however, seem to like Ripple. At least they adopt the system with an increasing pace.
Litecoin was one of the first cryptocurrencies after Bitcoin and tagged as the silver to the digital gold bitcoin. Faster than bitcoin, with a larger amount of token and a new mining algorithm, Litecoin was a real innovation, perfectly tailored to be the smaller brother of bitcoin. “It facilitated the emerge of several other cryptocurrencies which used its codebase but made it, even more, lighter“. Examples are Dogecoin or Feathercoin.
While Litecoin failed to find a real use case and lost its second place after bitcoin, it is still actively developed and traded and is hoarded as a backup if Bitcoin fails.
Monero is the most prominent example of the cryptonite algorithm. This algorithm was invented to add the privacy features Bitcoin is missing. If you use Bitcoin, every transaction is documented in the blockchain and the trail of transactions can be followed. With the introduction of a concept called ring-signatures, the cryptonite algorithm was able to cut through that trail.
The first implementation of cryptonite, Bytecoin, was heavily premined and thus rejected by the community. Monero was the first non-premined clone of bytecoin and raised a lot of awareness. There are several other incarnations of cryptonote with their own little improvements, but none of it did ever achieve the same popularity as Monero.
Monero‘s popularity peaked in summer 2016 when some darknetmarkets decided to accept it as a currency. This resulted in a steady increase in the price, while the actual usage of Monero seems to remain disappointingly small.
Besides those, there are hundreds of cryptocurrencies of several families. Most of them are nothing more than attempts to reach investors and quickly make money, but a lot of them promise playgrounds to test innovations in cryptocurrency-technology.