We’re just three weeks from turning the calendar on 2017, but cryptocurrency price appreciation has shown absolutely no signs of slowing. While marijuana and cloud-computing stocks have impressed, they can’t hold a candle to the 2,050% return in the aggregate cryptocurrency market cap ($17.7 billion to $380 billion) since the year began.
Leading that charge has been bitcoin, the world’s most popular virtual currency. Bitcoin, which began the year at $967, blew through the $13,000 level on Dec. 6, pushing its market cap to nearly $220 billion. With bitcoin up well over 1,200% this year, it’s almost laughable to think that it’s underperformed many of its peers on a percentage basis year to date.
As a whole, cryptocurrencies have benefited from the excitement surrounding blockchain technology. Blockchain is what underlies most cryptocurrencies and is responsible for digitally logging all transactions in a secure and efficient manner without the need for a financial intermediary like a bank. The key to its success is its decentralization, which ensures that cybercriminals are unable to cripple a network by gaining access to a server. Blockchain may offer the financial services industry a means to complete payments in a quick, or perhaps instantaneous, manner as opposed to waiting days for funds to clear, as is common with banks today.
The uptake of virtual coins has also been encouraging to investors. Bitcoin has been accepted by a handful of brand-name merchants for three years, but it’s been gaining steam with smaller merchants. Not only do these virtual currencies offer the potential to complete transactions, but they may also be used in combination with blockchain technology to speed the settlement of transactions.
Yet despite bitcoin’s dominance (it makes up 57% of the aggregate cryptocurrency market cap), it’s far from the only show in town. There are more than 1,300 other virtual currencies that are tradable, and quite a many are making waves with their currency or blockchain development. In fact, one lesser-known cryptocurrency might make you forget all about bitcoin.
Late last month, the IOTA foundation, a German nonprofit that oversees the IOTA virtual currency, announced the release of its Data Marketplace that utilizes its “blockless” blockchain. This blockchain-based marketplace will allow businesses to sell data in an effort to create incentive for the sharing of data that would otherwise be wasted. Five brand-name businesses have already signed up to test the two-month demo, including software giant Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Cisco Systems, Samsung, Volkswagen, and Fujitsu…