Cryptocurrency is a word that, when spoken, has an effect on the person who hears it. Some respond positively acknowledging the transactional wherewithal (and convenience), the potential to disrupt the powers that be, and the need to assimilate into the digital revolution.
Some respond negatively, befuddled by the rapidity of change, fearful that thieves will make off with their invisible money ... and misunderstanding of all of the aspects of what cryptocurrency is to anyone, let alone them.
If it's money you want
Let's address that first: What is cryptocurrency? Simply put, it is an online, digital representation of money that can be used in any barter system. Think about it this way: If you have a dollar in your hand, then it's the same as a dollar in the bank. What backs up that dollar? It's the promise made by the U.S. banking system that the dollar is worth a dollar.
If the system were to suddenly decree that a dollar is worth 50 cents, then it would be worth 50 cents. We left the gold standard a while ago, so the dollar you have in your wallet right now is essentially backed by a cooperative agreement among everyone in the system. In God we trust, indeed.
Now, suppose that you were to decide you no longer want the promise of the current system? What if you chose instead to put your trust in a different system, one managed and backed by computers? You would distribute the log that remembers what a dollar is worth, and how many you have, and voila — a new system.
Instead of relying on banks, you'd be relying on other people and other computers, including your own. Which, you may already have intuited is more or less the same thing. Money, in our modern era, doesn't have any intrinsic value: It's power is in the goodwill of a shared cooperative system.
It doesn't really matter if the actual currency is paper, coins, beads, or yes, entries in a computer log. As long as everyone agrees on the basics, and cooperative standards can be set, you can trade anything for anything and have its worth measured.
The only actually bad thing about cryptocurrency is that there is a theoretical cap on the current supply, whereas governments that print paper money can always print more.
A post-hype sensation
A lot of the excitement and energy about cryptocurrency that was everywhere present in tech circles and spilling out into the wider world three or four years ago has died down. Is the world just not ready for the cryptocurrency revolution yet? Or has it continued to grow and flourish despite losing its novelty?
Cryptocurrency, never fear, is still with us. The furor may have died down, but the idea is alive and well. Bitcoin was the biggest player in the initial cryptocurrency market and, for this article, I'll focus a lot on them. Other players have entered the market because, remember, you only have to have faith in your currency — and a few clever engineers.
Bitcoin had a bad year in 2018. The digital currency lost 73 percent of its value, dragging down the entire cryptocurrency market. Does this speak to the world not being ready for cryptocurrency? I don't think so.
I believe that horizontal supply, the cap on how much bitcoin there can be, and the way in which completing the ledger to create bitcoin is done is spinning people's heads. Also, bitcoin wasn't the only one that came to the market. The wild West cryptocurrency rush of early 2018 scared a lot of investors away, and others saw the price jump to $20,000 per coin and happily cashed out.
The truth of the matter is that the market, now holding steady at around $8,800 per coin will remain stable in the near future for new investors. Bitcoin millionaires are out there, but not very many of them are new. I believe the world is ready for cryptocurrency. It's just no longer a novelty and therefore people no longer pay attention to it.
As cryptocurrency flourishes outside the limelight, we will see a softer regulatory stance. ETF (Exchange Traded Funds) will take off and cryptocurrency will take off ... again. The underlying technology in bitcoin or any cryptocurrency is blockchain. This ability to write a ledger and keep track of a distributed ledger has led to some distinct advantages for business willing to adopt it.
For instance, you can sign contracts, without the possibility of tampering, to keep track of the fact that a contract was signed by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Contract law will need to keep up.
Speaking of laws, regulation — or, more precisely, the lack thereof — is perhaps the biggest reason that cryptocurrency hasn't lodged the hearts and minds of every consumer. No one knows what to make of regulatory concerns, and the uncertainty is bound to persist until new laws are written and enforced.
If, by chance, a bitcoin fund was stolen, can you get your money back? Is it possible to sue? Is it possible to recover a stolen account? Most investors or adopters will shy away from questions like this and choose to remain on the safe side. You can't lose your skin if you don't have any skin in the game.
Despite the uncertainty, over the past couple of years, two trends have set in. First, cryptocurrency exchanges have been popping up all over the place. A lot of companies are trying their hand at trading cryptocurrency and even manipulating it. For instance, the FTX exchange hit $10,000 per coin, while other exchanges didn't get that high.
This is yet another reason why investors and the general public tend to view cryptocurrency as being fake or just a fad. I think the really smart people out there are taking action quietly, in the background, and turning cryptocurrency into a juggernaut. Could you imagine a single, one world currency that was completely digital?
That brings me to my second trend: foreign interest has skyrocketed. China, in particular, has created such a demand for cryptocurrency that the government has officially backed it. No one knows what that really means — but creating buzz about cryptocurrency is the way to go.
With China giving cryptocurrency a thumbs up, Facebook has created its own cryptocurrency and blockchain. It will launch sometime in 2020 and, I'm sure, take over the world.
How much longer will paper money be viable?
While many have shot down the idea that bitcoin and the crypto market are mainstream, the sector is determined to prove them wrong. Cyptocurrencies may not yet be a standard for payments and value exchanges, but the technology that underlies them — blockchain — is quickly becoming a standard in different sectors and industries.
Perhaps more crucially and critically, the services these tools provide are all based on, and powered by, cryptocurrencies and blockchain. As companies continue to fix pain points and uncover new frictionless solutions to old problems with blockchain, crypto will flex its muscles even further.
Despite its many doubters and doomsayers, the crypto market has continued to move along and thrive. Although prices have fluctuated wildly, and in some cases enormously to the detriment of investors, the sector is finally starting to stabilize and increasingly appears to be leaving its infancy behind. As more companies discover uses for crypto and blockchain, and more users accept them as a way to simplify their lives, they will remain a central point of conversation in technology.
Cryptocurrency is nowhere near dead. In the next five years, as companies adopt all forms of blockchain, as money exchanges speed up and become more decentralized, we will start to see a resurgence of this technology. Buckle up. Cryptocurrency is still in the driver's seat, and the future is an open road.