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Don't talk balls: cryptocurrencies are not dead

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

It's almost impossible to open a website or blog with even a peripheral interest in financial matters and not see a headline saying something like "The Death of Bitcoin." Total tosh. So are the click-bait headlines in the style of "is blockchain dead?"

This is why.

It is true that some crypto-currencies have seen their traded price fall to tiny USD equivalents. Amongst those causing the most expressions of surprise is Ripple. Ripple was subjected to sustained and forceful media boosting as the third leg of the tripod created by pushers along with Ethereum and Bitcoin. In percentage terms, Ripple performed well but in absolute dollar terms it started as a rank-outsider and limped over the line with a broken leg. Ethereum benefited from considerable pumping from people who misled the market as to exactly what it is (it's actually a platform, not a crypto-currency per se, although it does operate using "Ether" coins).

In a world where headlines are designed to catch those too stupid to recognise click-bait when they see it, things such as "is blockchain dead?" keep cropping up. So let's be clear: Crypto currencies are not blockchain and the blockchain is not crypto-currencies. Read that again and remember it. Then read this sister article and come back here "Crypto-currencies, block chain and distributed ledgers".

What, then, is the reality?

First, a bubble has burst but it has not caused financial meltdown, partly because it was not, at least directly, associated with homes, jobs or financial institutions.

Secondly, e-currencies are not new but they do come and go: I first wrote about them in my book "How not to be a money launderer" in 1996 and I've looked at them often since. In 2013, Bitcoin was interesting. It's not been interesting since, except for the complete numptiness of regulators who are too busy thinking it's something new instead of treating is as what it is: a currency and therefore subject to all the rules, regulations and restrictions (including e.g. money laundering) that use and trading in currencies brings without the need for any new laws or considerations.

Third, once all the fuss dies down, crypto-currenceis will settle into the mainstream of life but only once they are readily accessible. For that to happen, banks and card companies will need to allow customers to have multi-currency accounts. If they don't then there is little doubt that action will be taken to overcome their inertia. However, there have been a number of attempts to issue such cards. There is no technical reason why that cannot happen: the card companies just need to add them to the list of currencies in which a customer can pay, as selected at the till. There are, however, legal issues that arise from the failures at point two.

Fourth, there needs to be more information about accounts used for criminal purposes. This, ironically, is where the distributed ledger can come into its own. Once an account is identified as being used in an extortion attempt, for example, it can be blocked pending investigation. It's not difficult. We are at present beta-testing a feature in GlobalKYC.com to allow readers to post details of accounts referred to in, for example, extortion e-mails. Exchanges will be able to take those account numbers and refuse to accept transfers into them.

Fifth, yes, mining profits have collapsed, profits from selling kit and even electricity are much reduced, profits from trading (just like the stock markets in times of thin trade) have fallen dramatically and some exchanges and/or traders may be, or soon be, out of business.

Yes, like some shares, there are those that are so far out of fashion that there is barely any trade in them and, of course, without the buzz, the prospects of success of ICOs, already a highly risky prospect (see Let's have an ICO) are dramatically reduced.

But what is happening under the fear of failure is this: the public are gradually learning what crypto-currencies are and there will be a growing interest. As states move at least part of their fiscal operations to crypto-currencies (see "20150710 Geeks for Greeks - solving the Greek Debt Crisis" in which I suggested what Thailand and Venezuala are currently engaged in doing) acceptance by the public will increase. The very complexity of it might help satisfy them: it will, for sure, feel far more secure than a shopping app on a mobile phone which allows changing the delivery address, auto charging and authentication send by SMS to the very same phone.

Is crypto-currency dead? Absolutely not. It's just come over the other side of an enormous sleeping policeman hit at speed and now it's following normal progress.