The long term viability of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin will depend on many factors, and so does its perceived merit as a type of investment. As with any investment, the future is never clear, but if cryptocurrencies can overcome some of the major obstacles facing them today, we may see that the wild volatility that has plagued them in the past due to speculation will ease up and a general upward trend will emerge.
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Cryptocurrency was little more than a purely academic concept around 2008, when a forward-thinking tech entrepreneur was in the process of developing the Bitcoin under the pen name Satoshi Nakamoto. In 2009, the first Bitcoin was released without much pomp and circumstance from the mainstream media. It was barely a blip on most people’s radar; to this day, there are many people who have never heard of such a thing as Bitcoin.
As it gained popularity and monetary value, competing cryptocurrencies were released in the years following, such as LiteCoin (2011) and Ripple (2012). But Bitcoin really caught the attention of Wall Street and forex traders in 2013, when the value of the Bitcoin jumped from around $140 USD to $230 in just 3 days (April 5-8, 2013). That bubble was short-lived, however, crashing down to just over $80 in less than a week (April 14, 2013). This sort of volatility has made many investors question the value of cryptocurrencies as a form of investment, being that they are speculative in nature (for the time being, at least) and not back by any material assets.
Still, anyone who held on to their Bitcoins through the end of that year had a pleasant surprise when the value shot up once again, peaking at a little over $1230 on December 4, 2013. But like before, the bubble quickly burst, eventually hitting a low point at around $260 on February 16, 2014, bouncing back well for the rest of the year and then plummeting to $164 on January 4 of this year. Since then, the Bitcoin has recovered quite well and while it is still prone to volatility, it seems to have calmed down slightly. From August 24 to this writing, the value has increased fairly steadily from $212 to its current $307.
The value of cryptocurrency is not intrinsic; rather, it depends entirely on people’s willingness to use it and how much they are willing to pay for it. This means that making average people comfortable with something as technologically complex as cryptocurrency is a hurdle that needs to be jumped if we want cryptocurrency investments to pay off. More merchants are accepting Bitcoin, for example, every day, but they are still few and far between. Becoming more widely accepted may reduce the volatility of cryptocurrency somewhat as its value becomes more tied to supply and demand than speculation.There is also the question of how increasing attempts by world governments to regulate cryptocurrency will affect their popularity, particularly among their main demographics.