If you are worried you’ve missed out on making millions by betting on bitcoin, don’t worry: there will be plenty more bizarre, borderline-incomprehensible digital bubbles in the future, and their value is only going to go up (until it all comes crashing down, that is).
Here are five assets each competing to be the next bitcoin.
If there is a reason beyond market exuberance for the latest boom in bitcoin’s price – $16,900 (£12,600) as I write this, though who knows what it will be when you read it – then it is Ethereum. It is hard to buy Ethereum directly, so most investors trade currency for bitcoin, then bitcoin for Ethereum, meaning a spike in interest in the latter helped revive the former.
Ethereum, which was launched in 2015, allows users to build “decentralised applications”, spending tokens called “ether” to buy processing power on computers run by other members of the network. Those applications can offer anything from file storage to financial services or simple games, all in a way that is impossible for any centralised authority to shut them down.
One of the oddest Ethereum projects in operation, CryptoKitties is a three-way cross between Tamagotchis, Beanie Babies and animal husbandry. Users can buy, sell and breed the eponymous cats, with traits inherited down the generations. The CryptoKitties network is responsible for 11% of all traffic on Ethereum, according to one report. A new “gen0” cat is born every 15 minutes, which the company auctions off, and it also takes a cut of all other CryptoKittie sales. The typical cat sells for about $4 these days, but a few of the rarer cats – particularly those descended from some of the oldest bloodlines – are worth many times that. The most expensive CryptoKitty sold to date, Founder Cat #18, went for more than $110,000 on Thursday.
If lovable algorithmic cats are too cutesy for you, Monero harks back to the dark origins of the cryptocurrency craze. This alternative to bitcoin lets users make the same sort of digital transactions as its older sibling, but with vastly greater privacy protections. While bitcoin transactions are permanently recorded, and visible to everyone (if hard to connect to a real person), Monero goes to great lengths to obscure what is actually going on: you can’t ever prove the sender, recipient and value of a transaction at the same time. The currency is also altered to make it easier to generate new coins using the sorts of processors in computers and phones, rather than requiring specialised “mining rigs”. This makes it very popular for services ranging from drug dealing online to monetising malware by taking over the processors of victims.
Perhaps you want to plough your money into something backed by an authority you trust. In that case, let me introduce you to LydianCoin, the “first AI big data marketing cloud for blockchain”. If the buzzword bingo doesn’t get you pulling out your e-wallet, maybe the celebrity backer will: in September, Paris Hilton said she is backing the currency.
Want someone else? Boxer Floyd Mayweather posted his support of Stox.com’s ICO (a “Bancor-based open-source prediction market platform that is built on Ethereum”, to quote industry news site Coin Telegraph), as well as Hubii Network (a content marketplace). He even dubbed himself “Floyd Crypto Mayweather”. Or you could follow Jamie Foxx (Cobinhood, a “zero trading fee cryptocurrency exchange”) or Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah (Cream Capital, a blockchain-based ATM network).
PlexCoin, an innovative attempt to build “the next decentralised worldwide cryptocurrency”, has already raised $15m from backers, so you’d better move fast to – ah, hang on. No. The founder has just been sent to jail for two months for, among other things, falsehoods on the company’s fundraising documents, as well as taking investor money and using it to fund home improvements. A statement by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said the company “hits all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam”. Oh well. At least PlexCoin is now a steal on the open market: just 2¢ a coin, down from 12¢ before the SEC filed charges. Maybe you could buy low and make a killing after all?
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010