If recent market performance has shown us anything, it’s that cryptocurrency investing is not for the faint of heart. Depending on which coin(s) you’ve put your money into, the risk of your crypto portfolio probably lands somewhere between value-based venture capitalism and playing the slots at a casino. (Hey, you can’t take it with you, right? Let it ride, baby!)
Truth time: we’re all here because we are willing to take on financial risk in exchange for the chance of hitting a big return. We’re not trading Treasury Bonds or energy futures here – we’re buying and selling cryptocurrencies that go to fund (mostly) pre-revenue enterprises. Some – like Bitcoin and Ether – will change the way we engage with each other in the digital world. Others, not so much.
At this moment in time, cryptocurrency markets are far too speculative to be functional for mainstream banking and retail payment systems. However, the technology behind cryptocurrencies continues to evolve. As programmers update the Bitcoin blockchain through new hard forks, 2018 may be the year we see cryptocurrencies in mainstream use.
Cryptocurrencies. What’s that? You know, Bitcoin.
Just try to explain cryptocurrencies to everyone at your next family dinner and not use the word “Bitcoin.” You can’t do it.
The world’s first cryptocurrency has a first-mover advantage that has made it universal. Bitcoin is synonymous with digital currency in most common parlance, and the name recognition alone will maintain its place in the collective consciousness for the foreseeable future. Google. Apple. Trump. Bitcoin.
Bitcoin, however, is far from achieving its full potential as a decentralized peer-to-peer transaction network. Satoshi Nakamoto’s version of Bitcoin broke new ground, but it could stand for a few improvements. Bitcoin created a new way for us to create, store, and trade digital currencies. It’s incredibly secure, but it’s also unfortunately slow and surprisingly expensive to use. Talented programmers can improve the currency’s underlying technology regarding block consensus, mining protocols, and governance systems in ways that increase the functionality of the world’s most trusted cryptocurrency.
Improving on The Original
Bitcoin has inspired several spinoffs. There are nearly 1,500 cryptocurrencies being traded across thousands of markets as I write this very article. Not all of them – perhaps even only a precious few – will actually add value to the long-term development of blockchain technology. However, the cryptocurrency community’s recent trend towards generating new coins through hard forks may create new avenues for the market leader.
At this early level of development, many hard forks are just experimental. This is no big secret. Super Bitcoin (SBTC), a hard fork at block 49888 currently trading at a market cap of about $3 mil at press time, publishes a gentle reminder “This is just an experiment” right on its homepage.
As Bitcoin passes through this experimental stage, programmers will be working hard to develop the next valuable software update for the Bitcoin blockchain. Upcoming hard forks have the potential to increase the security, functionality, ease of use, and efficiency of the world’s first virtual currency. If successful, these forks will improve Bitcoin in the manner necessary to finally integrate it into mainstream finance.