Gold has had at least three millennia to establish itself as a store of value people turn to when social systems are in stress. Bitcoin has only existed for 11 years. While plenty of investors are willing to speculate on the possibility bitcoin might supplant or compete with gold, the idea is far from ingrained across society. When will it be more widely accepted? Perhaps when the international crisis of global leadership unleashed by COVID-19 undermines the capacity of institutions like the Federal Reserve to sustain economic and social confidence. Whatever new institutions and systems we create going forward will need to address how the internet has upended society’s centralized systems of governance. When that happens, we’ll need a decentralized, digital reserve asset as the base value layer. As I said, it will take time. Meanwhile, the developers will keep building.
And while Ethereum fans crow about there being 12 times more wrapped bitcoin on their platform than the mere $9 million locked in the Lightning Network’s payment channels, the latter is making inroads in developing nations as a payment network for small, low-cost bitcoin transactions. Unlike WBTC, which requires a professional custodian to hold the original locked bitcoin, Lightning users need not rely on a third party to open up a channel. It’s arguably more decentralized.
Two of these DeFi platforms are AAVE and Compound and you should zip over and take a look. I had some Ethereum sploshing about so I popped $23 worth in and in seconds I was watching the value tick up 79 billionth of a dollar every second or so. I’m going to have to wait a year to make a $1 but that’s not the point. I just opened a deposit account in one minute, transferred money into it in seconds and now I’m watching it grow instantaneously and that purely from landing on the beach of a new continent of financial services that can spin off from this.
This system is being fueled by a global innovation and development pool bigger than Bitcoin’s. As of June last year, there were 1,243 full-time developers working on Ethereum compared with 319 working on Bitcoin Core, according to a report by Electric Capital. While that work is spread across multiple projects, the size of its community gives Ethereum the advantage of network effects.
Though it’s too early to know who the eventual winners will be, I believe this trend captures the early beginnings of a new, decentralized global financial system. So to describe it, an analogy for the existing one is useful: bitcoin is the dollar, and Ethereum is SWIFT, the international network that coordinates cross-border payments among banks. (Since Ethereum is trying to do much more than payments, we could also cite a number of other organizations in this analogy, such as the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) or the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC).)
If you have wondered why sites that give away free cryptocurrencies exist at all, here is the answer; Sites and apps that offer you a way to get free Ethereum make their money from advertising, and sometimes by using your CPU to help with their mining activities. They are also introducing you to cryptocurrency, in the hope that you will buy related services from them later.
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