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The Two Worlds of Cryptocurrency
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The blockchain technology came into existence in 2009 when Satoshi Nakamoto published the White Paper entitled ?Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System?. The first-ever cryptocurrency arose from its own blockchain, and Bitcoin entered our world. Like any new thing, cryptocurrency has both supporters and opponents.

On one hand, decentralized technology gives rise to grandiose prospects for future applications. That is, a new form of money that is not controlled by any government in the world and does not require to have intermediaries like banks for conducting payments.

On the other hand, official authorities see this as a threat to the traditional financial system. The anonymous nature of Bitcoin gives grounds for accusations of its use for potential criminal activities, money laundering and terrorist financing. During extreme growth of crypto-market capitalization in 2017, many famous financiers and even some Nobel Prize winners called Bitcoin ?not a value producing asset? and ?a speculative bubble?.

Supporters

The cryptocurrency today is like Internet 20 years ago: a brand-new and unexplored thing that promises great opportunities. So, many people expressed interest in it and became participants of the crypto world.

Benefits of Cryptocurrency
Bitcoin created a new type of financial transactions: a transparent way to make money transfer that is validated not by the bank, but by independent participants of the blockchain network. And the record of these transactions is stored in the public decentralized ledger, and thus it can?t be changed in retroactive.

Cryptocurrency became a better instrument for payments compared to physical money as it is cheaper and faster, especially for large amounts. Unlike traditional wire transfer, that takes 2 to 5 working days to complete, cryptocurrency allows sending money that can be received within the same day: up to one hour for Bitcoin, 5-10 minutes for Ethereum, and just a few seconds for Ripple. And transaction fees for these cross-border payments are much lower than fees in banks or popular remittance services such as Western Union or PayPal.

Ethereum, the second most popular cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, gives the possibility to create your own money by issuing tokens. Since 2014, many startup companies used a new form of fundraising ? Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to attract investments faster and cheaper than with traditional venture investing. In 2017, the total amount of funds raised through ICOs worldwide exceeded the amount of venture capital investments.

Online Purchases with Cryptocurrency
As a new type of digital money, cryptocurrency can be accepted for purchases, including online purchases. A major U.S. online retailer, Overstock.com, started to accept Bitcoin as payments method in 2014. Using Bitcoin, you can buy a wide range of goods from electronics to furniture and clothes.

Another example is Shopify, a well-known online platform for e-commerce websites with over 600,000 online shops, which also accepts Bitcoins for payment. Expedia, the world?s well-known travel platform, has been accepting Bitcoin since 2014 as a payment option for booking hotel rooms on its website. Bitcoins are accepted to buy sandwiches in Subway shop in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Microsoft allows using Bitcoins for purchasing games, movies, and apps in its Windows and Xbox stores.

Big Brands Partnering with Crypto
Many popular cryptocurrencies have also partnered up with big brand names.

For instance, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, established in 2017, includes around 200 companies from a wide range of industries who are testing Ethereum blockchain and implementing it in different real-world projects. Among them, there are such brands as JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Intel, Mastercard, Credit Suisse and BP.

Ripple is marketing its blockchain technology for global financial institutions and recently announced numerous partnerships with a large number of financial companies. For example, in 2016, Ripple established a partnership with Japanese financial services company SBI Holdings, forming a consortium under the name SBI Ripple Asia that includes more than 60 Japanese banks, including JCB, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Mizuho Financial Group, that are implementing Ripple?s solutions for instant payments. And recently, the two largest banks in South Korea, Woori Bank and Shinhan Bank, have joined the pilot program for testing real-time cross-border transfers between Japan and South Korea using the Ripple network.

The Bank of England and Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (the central bank of Saudi Arabia) have also announced the collaboration with Ripple to launch domestic interbank payments sent in and out of the country with Ripple technology. And the world?s largest money transfer companies Western Union and MoneyGram are currently testing Ripple solutions to reduce transaction fees and speed up the settlement time for cross-border payments.

Sovereign Cryptocurrencies
Even governments have started to discuss the launch of their national cryptocurrencies.

Venezuela is the first country that has already launched a national cryptocurrency. In February 2018, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the successful ICO of ?Petro?, an oil-backed coin, that raised over $700 million in one day.

Several other countries have also expressed an interest in creating their own cryptocurrencies. Among them are a rumored national digital currency in Iran, Crypto Ruble in Russia and TurkCoin in Turkey. Also, the People?s Bank of China (PBoC) is considering to develop a digital currency called DCEP (Digital Currency for Electronic Payment).

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