While it has only been around for a few years, there are very few people today who haven’t heard of virtual currency, usually in the form of BitCoins.
A Brief History of Virtual Currency
The first mention of virtual currency was defined by Wei Dai in 1998 on the cypherpunks mailing list. This mailing list is an un-moderated list dedicated to discussing cryptography and its effect on society. In his original post, Wei Dai explained his idea of a virtual currency that would free people from government imposed restrictions and manipulations. He described a system where people could buy and sell products and services anonymously, using advanced cryptography which would control the virtual currency’s creation and transactions.
The first specifications and proof of concept of a virtual currency (called Bitcoin) were published in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. However, nobody really knows who this “Satoshi Nakamoto” is. While there has been much speculation and investigations, there is still many questions on the originator of Bitcoin, but we do know that since its original conception as Bitcoin, virtual currency has grown by leaps and bounds! As a matter of fact, at the time of writing this article, there are almost 800 different Crypto-Currencies available for trading and that number is expected to keep rising.
Why does Virtual Currency remain so popular?
There are several factors that make Virtual Currency so popular. One of the main attraction to virtual currency is the anonymity factor. The way virtual currency (aka crypto-currency) is set up makes it almost impossible to match up a person with a transaction. This is a good thing for those who want to set up a nest egg, but don’t want their government to know about it.
Although Cryptocurrency can often be spent like any other currency, the government can only tax it when and if you are ready to cash out or make a purchase. This makes virtual currency something of a tax haven! Of course, many governments are now trying to figure out ways to tax virtual currency: To this day, however, it remains very difficult (if not impossible) to impose any taxes on a currency that does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.
Another thing that makes virtual currency such an attractive option is that, since it’s conception, many places across the world have actually started accepting Bitcoins (and other virtual currency) as payments. According to an article in Technology Review, there are tens of thousands of Bitcoin transactions every day, with hundreds of businesses (mostly online) accepting bitcoins (and other virtual currencies) as payment.
As Virtual Currency becomes more entrenched in the world, we will find more and more businesses, vending machines, grocery stores, etc. accepting this type of currency.
What does the Future hold for Virtual Currency?
While there may be hundreds of virtual currencies out there right now, only a few are really viable currencies. We’ve already discussed the most popular virtual currency, BitCoin, but few others seem to be making waves.
For instance, shortly after bitcoin’s emergence, we saw another virtual currency called Litecoin. Unlike the creator of the Bitcoin, however, the creator of Litecoin (the second most successful virtual currency) is well known. Charles Lee successfully launched Litecoin in 2011, based in part on the Bitcoin code, but using Scrypt as a proof of work function, instead of the SHA-256 function that Bitcoin uses. Basically, what this means is that it takes less computing power to generate the Litecoin, so more people can “mine” it.
Other virtual currencies are appearing on the horizon every day that may give LiteCoin and even BitCoin a run for their money. The creators of virtual currencies are always coming up with new and inventive ways of mining and distributing these “coins,” such as OneCoin and YoCoin, which use different methodologies for distribution.
As virtual currencies catch on, we will probably see many innovations and new ideas that will propel the virtual currency world further and further. Who knows, we may see a global currency, some day, based on the concepts of virtual currency, that will make real currencies a thing of the past. While many virtual currencies are a flash in the pan (based on poor coding or poor planning), you would do well to keep your eye out on emerging virtual currencies, as you never know what might be the next BIG thing. If you get in on the right one early, you can easily see a 500% or higher return on your investment. Take BitCoin as an example. When it first came out, BitCoin was trading at $1 per coin. Today, a bitcoin is worth over $500 (though this can fluctuate daily) and has fluctuated as high $1,242! So, you can see, although it may be considered ‘high-risk’ it’s definitely something to keep in mind as you consider making an investment in the future.
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