While there is no denying Bitcoin is the leading cryptocurrency, Ethereum, an alternative digital currency, is showcasing high levels of growth and applicability. The cryptocurrency hit a record value high on Sunday, June 4, the upward trajectory of which in part to the heavy trading taking place in Asia.
The digital currency marketplace known as CoinBase charts reported that Ethereum was traded at $250.41, the highest ever for the Bitcoin alternative. On January 1, the cryptocurrency was trading at $8.52—an increase of roughly 2,800%. Part of this recent increase is due to Bitcoin’s success, which has driven digital currency users to seek alternative forms. Another reason is the credibility that Ethereum has gained through the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. The EEA was established to facilitate connections between technology vendors and large companies via the Ethereum blockchain. Companies like JP Morgan, Microsoft and Intel were among the first with another 86 companies following suit.
The actual currency being traded is known as Ether and is processed through the Ethereum blockchain, which is similar to the blockchain employed by Bitcoin. A blockchain is like a digital ledger that tracks all transactions being made via the respective cryptocurrency. Ethereum’s blockchain has attracted investors with its potential real-world applications, something Bitcoin’s blockchain does not offer. Ethereum’s blockchain supports ‘smart contracts’, which are computer programs set to automatically execute given the right conditions. This streamlined processing takes a lot of manpower out of the equation, whereas Bitcoin’s blockchain relies on Bitcoin miners to sift through each transaction.
While cryptocurrencies are unregulated, given their independent status from centralized financial institutions and individual countries, some, like Ethereum, are backed by legitimate corporations for smart contract applications. There are many different alternative forms, meaning that investors can purchase all types of digital currencies. Some see this as a bubble that will eventually burst wide open, but for the time being, the value of these currencies is showing a positive trend.
Companies that are born out of these digital currency blockchains gain value by selling their respective tokens (whether Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, etc.) that can be used to purchase goods or services or stored away for investment purposes. The unregulated cryptocurrency market does not stop digital currencies from being publicly ‘traded’, in a sense. The former IPO has turned into an ICO (initial coin offering), and alternative currency companies on the Eretheum blockchain have raised over $180 million in ICOs this year alone. With the status of the market as it is, ICOs tend to operate more like crowdsourcing campaigns, leaving cryptocurrencies’ potential of longevity to those who decide to invest in it.
One market where digital currencies are used heavily is online gambling. Many licensed online gambling sites accept Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies and even encourage them due to their fast processing speeds. Consumers like them because there are no exchange rates applied with international transactions and a degree of anonymity with each transaction.
The SEC has yet to step in and impose any sense of regulatory oversight. This allows for widespread purchasing and trading of these cryptocurrencies like Ether to companies that accept them. Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Eretheum, recently met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to talk about the possibility of applying the currency in Russia, suggesting potential regulation. Some believe that regulation and governmental oversight will help drive cryptocurrencies, while other cryptocurrency enthusiasts believe the lack thereof is what makes them so appealing already.
In any case, Ethereum’s recent surge suggests that the cryptocurrency could potentially overshadow Bitcoin. The currency’s smart technology application appeals to large companies and those partnerships could spur further market development.
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