Since it first became accepted as an investment product, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been fluctuating in price and popularity, going from a viable replacement for cash and credit cards through to merely another flash-in-the-pan concept. Hannah Stevenson, Staff Writer, shares an insight into this product and how its value has changed since it first took off.
Cryptocurrencies, a digital currency that can be exchanged for goods and services in a similar way to cash, have been in circulation since around 2009, although they only became mainstream more recently. Some firms even started accepting it as genuine currency, whilst others have viewed it as an investment opportunity.
Over the years, the currencies have fluctuated in value, as investors and users alike try to understand their potential and adjust to the realities of using online currency as opposed to physical money.
On 8th May, the world’s largest and original digital currency, Bitcoin, jumped around 10 per cent within 24 hours, pushing past $3,700 for the first time in three weeks. Nigel Green, chief executive of deVere Group, commented on the increase.
“It was a relatively sudden jump, and, of course, positive news for those currently holding Bitcoin. However, the price only reached the top of the trading range and investors should not be popping champagne corks just yet.”
“There are three likely drivers of Bitcoin’s price spike. First, there are widely published reports that according to a leaked interview with a commissioner, a Bitcoin ETF could imminently secure approval from the U.S. securities watchdog.
“Second, the development of the lightning network which will dramatically improve Bitcoin’s well-documented scalability issues, allowing it to move towards mass adoption. And third, the 2020 Bitcoin halving. The code for mining Bitcoin halves around every four years and the next one is set for May 2020. When the code halves, miners receive 50 per cent fewer coins every few minutes. History shows that there is typically a considerable Bitcoin surge resulting from halving events.”
“Bitcoin is the flagship cryptocurrency and, as such, we can expect when its values climb, it will drive prices of other major digital currencies such as Ethereum and XRP.”
This increase is a positive point for Bitcoin, which has faced many challenges in 2019 already, with a number of firms deciding that the currency’s popularity in 2017-2018 was not enough to continue to make it a viable option as a form of payment.
Among those firms whose attitude towards Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is forward-thinking waste management firm, BusinessWaste.co.uk, which has recently said that it is ‘reluctantly’ no longer accepting cryptocurrencies – such as Bitcoin – as payment for its services.
The company originally announced it had become the first refuse and recycling business to accept these virtual currencies as payment in 2017 in order to give flexibility to their customers in an increasingly digital age. However, the firm says that despite its efforts, the uncertainties of the market are making digital currencies an unreliable source of payment.
Mark Hall, Communications Director of BusinessWaste.co.uk, commented on the figures and his firm’s inability to accept the currency as a form of payment.
“Cryptocurrencies have become much more mainstream in recent years – which is why we were happy to move with the times and accept these digital forms of money as payment. As a business we are dedicated to being thought leaders and innovating to provide the best service to our clients, and accepting internationally-recognised digital currencies was one way we could do that – but, as with many emerging technologies, there are still wrinkles to be ironed out within the cryptocurrency market.”
These forms of currency – which include the most well-known, Bitcoin, as well as other forms such as Ethereum and Litecoin – are not tied to a particular country’s economy as with standard, or fiat, currency. This means it has a tendency to be much more volatile than fiat currency; for example, in 2010, when the currency made its first real-world transaction, 1 Bitcoin (BTC) was worth less than £0.01. In December 2017, 1 BTC was worth over £15,000 – a fluctuation many times higher than a fiat currency would experience over a 7-year period.
This volatility has come to be considered an intrinsic hazard of a currency whose value works much like traditional stocks and shares – where market rumours and movement have potentially massive knock-on effects on its value. This could have potentially serious ramifications for businesses who accept crypto payments and then find themselves with a payment which has dropped significantly in value within a short period – such as in December 2017, when 1 BTC fell in value from £15,000 to £2,500 today in response a crackdown on improper practices in the market.
However, the popularity of cryptocurrencies has also led to unscrupulous users attempting to use ‘scam’ or fake coins to pay for goods and services. Cryptocurrencies rely on key information to verify that they are legitimate, such as the ‘white paper’ which details the origins of a coin, who made it, and how it works. These papers can be forged and simply just made up – which can cause businesses who end up with scam coins to be out of pocket, and as such firms such as BusinessWaste.co.uk have come to realise their fallibility and declined to accept them as payment.
Overall, the issue of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency’s effectiveness and continued acceptance rests on proving their legitimacy as a currency and creating systems where they can be safely traded. This will remain a challenge for the future and will provide many interesting developments for investors and users alike.