Vote: Will Bitcoin and Other Digital Currencies Be Here in 5 Years?
Bitcoin is the world’s most famous crypto-currency but, these days, you barely hear about it. Instead, the buzz has shifted to blockchain, the underlying technology for bitcoin, which banks are now using for day-to-day business. Meanwhile, newer and more versatile types of digital currency are overshadowing bitcoin.
This raises the question of whether bitcoin even has a long-term future. I recently spoke with Faisal Husain, the CEO of Synechron, which advises banks about blockchain, and asked him if he thought bitcoin and two other well-known crypto-currencies—Ripple and Ethereum—will still be around in five years.
His answer: two of the three currencies will survive, but he wouldn’t say which ones. You can weigh in yourself by taking our poll below, but I confess I don’t see an obvious candidate for failure—or success.
In the case of bitcoin, it’s by far the biggest with a market cap of around $11 billion, but its core use case is still for sketchy stuff, such as ransomware payments or buying drugs on the Internet. Meanwhile, mainstream bitcoin companies like Coinbase and Circle are pivoting as fast as they can towards more general forms of Internet money transfers.
Ripple has the advantage of being both a currency and a transport protocol, and the company that bears its name has recently locked up a number of high profile partnerships with major banking institutions. This bodes well for the company, though it’s less clear the currency (known as XRP) has a long-term role. Bankers like using Ripple’s infrastructure to move money around, but several have told me the currency is unnecessary, and that banks do not want to be forced to use it in the course of foreign exchange transactions.
As for Ethereum, it’s attracting the most enthusiasm right now among developers (see my colleague Robert Hackett’s recent profile in Fortune), appearing to be the most versatile and sophisticated form of crypto-currency. But it’s market cap is less than a tenth of bitcoin. (Ethereum is worth around $1 billion, while Ripple is third at around $250 million.)
All this doesn’t mean, of course, that all these crypto-currencies can’t flourish in the future. According to Adam Ludwin, CEO of a well-respected blockchain company called Chain, the three currencies will still be around, and the financial ecosystem will even integrate newer ones like Zcash (in which he is an investor).
“I don’t think they’ll ever go away. One of their design principles is resiliency in a hostile environment,” Ludwin says. “Bitcoin [especially] is a clear and sustainable project.”
He adds that bitcoin and other crypto-currencies also have a place as a distinct asset class, like gold, for people who want a store of value outside conventional currencies and investments.
So what do you think? Take our poll and predict if the three most well-known crypto currencies will still be around in five years:
And, of course, take whatever results you see with a grain of salt. Online polls are not known for being conclusive. Furthermore, in the case of crypto-currency, there tends to be a selection bias in terms of who will take such a poll (think crypto-geeks and speculators) in the first place.