The rise of cryptocurrency has brought an unprecedented amount of attention to the nature of money. Terms from the theory of money like Store of Value (SoV), Means of Exchange (MoE), and Unit of Account (UoA) are now becoming increasingly commonplace.
Now, due to its popularity, Bitcoin is becoming more a store of value than a means of exchange. In the early days of Bitcoin, transaction fees were low enough that using it for everyday purchases was completely reasonable. Those days are long gone.
What If Cryptocurrency Could Replace Fiat Currency?
The idea of Bitcoin being used as a replacement for cash, and promoting it as such, was a big part of what drove up Bitcoin’s price and laid the groundwork for what cryptocurrency has become today.
This has always been a big part of the bullish sentiment around cryptocurrencies. The current value of all the readily accessible money (cash and checking account deposits) in the world is estimated at US$36 trillion.
This is $36 trillion worth of value that has a massive, massive problem — namely, that it is a key component of one of the most savage scams of human history, and people are starting to realize it.
Awareness of the fact that fractional reserve banking means that private banks are essentially given the right to create money out of nothing is at an all time high. And with people feeling the pressure of prices increasing faster than wages, they are starting to understand just where the value of their money is going.
What we are witnessing is the break-up of the state monopoly on cash and the emergence of “cash as a service.”
Of course, the overall market is split right now — cash is usually used as both a MoE and a SoV. In cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is increasingly a SoV, with a number of currencies now competing to become a mainstream MoE.
At the same time, we are seeing increasing specialization in cryptocurrencies and blockchains, with the rise of a plethora of platform coins, or cryptocurrency networks designed for the deployment of dapps.
So which of the thousands of cryptocurrencies are focusing on disrupting cash and bringing cryptocurrency to the masses?
Following is a (by no means exhaustive) list of cryptocurrency projects specializing in disrupting the cash market.
10 Cryptocurrencies Hoping to Be the New Cash
Often called the silver to Bitcoin’s gold, Litecoin was originally conceived for everyday transactions, and this is still a major focus today.
Litecoin was one of the first cryptocurrencies to arise after Bitcoin’s inception, and it has 4 times the coin supply and 1/4 the block time, and usually ¼ the transaction settlement speed.
True to its origin, Litecoin tends to closely follow Bitcoin– Litecoin adopted SegWit around the same time as Bitcoin, and is also experimenting with setting up payment channels on the Lightning network, which could definitely make it more likely to be used for buying and selling.
Bitcoin Cash came about as a result of the controversial SegWit/Block Size debate, following months-long arguments about the merits of variants on upgrades to the Bitcoin protocol.
Its larger, 8 MB block size has resulted in a faster transaction settlement time, which its supporters argue make it more suitable for use as a MoE.
Learn more about this coin in our Bitcoin Cash guide.
Dash is a contraction “Digital Cash,” and as the name suggests, it has been working towards serving as cash since the beginning. It was originally a fork of Bitcoin, and has sought to improve on the original with additional privacy features.
Dash was the first network to implement masternodes. Although this was controversial with some members of the cryptocurrency community, the masternodes currently enable the InstantSend feature, which could help Dash gain popularity as a currency.
Originally conceived as a privacy coin, Dash is currently making inroads in South America.
Dogecoin, oddly enough, has had much success at being used as a currency, partly because most people are not too worried about holding on to it, because no one thinks the price is going to go up that much.
After Bitcoin and Ethereum, Dogecoin has the most daily active wallets at the time of writing.
Monero is also popular in the software developer community for its distributed design architecture.
Decentralization as a security feature is not only a technical issue– if the developer community working on a cryptocurrency is too centralized, it could make the network vulnerable to the actions of oppressive governments, which is why Monero is likely to continue to grow in popularity with activist organizations like WikiLeaks.
Another highly popular privacy coin, Zcash is also a descendent of Bytecoin. Originally called Zerocoin, a team of qualified academics has been working for several years on making Zcash the most effective means of privately transacting with cryptocurrency.
Since there is big demand for privacy, it’s a big deal that the groundwork for Zcash’s privacy tech was laid by professional mathematicians and cryptographers.
Zero Knowledge proofs are currently much talked about in discussions of privacy and cryptocurrency, and were originally invented by Zcash’s founder, Alessandro Chiessa.
CitiCash is a newer entrant to the market with an integrated strategy to achieving mass adoption. The team is developing software to make using the currency as simple as possible, with shortened, simplified addresses, and user-friendly apps.
This is combined with a comprehensive public outreach strategy designed to reach as many people as possible.
In addition to offering privacy features, CitiCash also has built in inflation, which acts as an incentive to actually use the currency rather than horde it.
Learn more about the project and their token sale in our guide to Citicash.
As its supporters are fond of pointing out, it features zero fees and transactions are generally confirmed within 10 seconds. Nano may have an easier path to mass adoption as cash, since the structure of the DAG may make scalability less of an issue than it is with blockchains.
Although theoretically Nano is “infinitely scalable,” the network is currently believed to be able handle up to 7,000 transactions per second, although real world tests have so far only reached 300– still considerably higher than most of the popular blockchain networks.
Despite numerous accusations of being a scam, and also being relatively new, Verge, originally a fork of Dogecoin dark (itself forked from Peercoin), has an unusually active user base.
Part of the popularity may be due to the meteoric price increases, driven in part by internet security entrepreneur and cryptocurrency showman John McAfee’s support, and what some say were overhyped assessments of the underlying tech.
To be fair, Verge does have good technical performance and, like many of the most popular currencies, an emphasis on privacy.
Verge also recently partnered with Pundi X, a startup working on getting cryptocurrencies accepted at retail locations, which could help facilitate more widespread adoption.
Electroneum has a strong mobile focus, going after low income users who may have their only access to the internet through a smartphone. While the model is promising, Electroneum has so far suffered from slow transaction speeds.
Which Cryptocurrency Will Succeed as a Means of Exchange?
Any coin that is going to try to take over the role of major currencies like USD, RMB, and EUR is going to need to have several characteristics:
- Stability: To be an effective everyday currency, people have to think in that currency. This requires maximum stability, which will require matching supply to demand as closely as possible. But if there is inflation, who benefits from it?
- Widespread Acceptance: Money is absolutely subject to the network effect. A big part of its value is utility, and utility increases the more people are willing to accept it.
- Incentives: There has to be a real reason for using the currency. According to Gresham’s law, people will spend the currency whose value they think will go down, and save the money that they think will go up in value.
- Scalability: It needs to be able to offer frictionless transactions with a rapidly expanding user base.
- Ease of Use: Acquiring, managing, and spending the currency has to be as easy as possible.
If we were to evaluate the above-mentioned cryptocurrencies in each of these 5 categories, it is hard to say who would come out on top.
Litecoin is probably the most well-known and widely accepted (currently), but if Nano’s theoretical claims turn out to be true, it would likely be the network most able to handle a high transaction volume.
Conceptually, the idea of extremely user-friendly, mobile wallets combined with a sustained marketing campaign, as in the case of Electroneum or Citicash, might be one of the best ways to rapidly spread adoption.
The Future of Money
It boggles the mind to try to imagine what the cryptocurrency landscape is going to look like in 10-15 years time.
While the last major internet boom resulted in the consolidation of the market in giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, so far in the Web 3.0 boom we are seeing the proliferation of cryptocurrencies.
At the same time, mechanisms are being developed to link these networks together.
Since the very nature of the whole cryptocurrency market is based on decentralization, and considering inherent scaling limitations, it is unlikely that any single currency is going to dominate. It may be the ability to build community and offer unique value propositions to consumers that becomes a major factor in shaping the evolution of the market.
In any case, the end of the central bank’s monopoly on money is definitely a good thing for consumers– now the trick is motivating people to take advantage of the opportunity. Ultimately, the best marketing strategy for cryptocurrency is to just let central banks keep doing what they’re doing.