Soon, you may be able to use cryptocurrency to pay for anything from your morning coffee to happy hour drinks (or, you know, maybe some things that aren’t a beverage). And you could do it as easily as you use your credit card or Venmo today.
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Circle, a payment startup owned by Goldman Sachs, announced yesterday that it’s launching a new cryptocurrency called the Circle USD Coin. The new currency is basically a digital version of the dollar that you’ll be able to purchase by trading in, you know, real money.
The USD Coin is the first cryptocurrency released by a major financial institution. While this sort of goes against the whole point of decentralized and distributed cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, Goldman Sachs and Circle hope to bring some stability to the cryptocurrency market, which has crashed and rebounded an exhausting number of times this year alone.
Circle doesn’t want its USD Coin to be subject to the instability and inflation inherent to other unregulated cryptocurrencies, so it will tie the value of a coin to that of a US dollar, according to CNBC. Again, this pretty much goes against the whole point of cryptocurrencies, which were originally designed to present a transparent financial market free of regulation from federal government and the influence of big banks. And though it has seemed increasingly likely that regulation and corporate influence will play a bigger role in the space, some, including Silicon Valley investor Sam Altman, staunchly believe that any USD-based cryptocurrency must remain under distributed control.
While other cryptocurrencies can be mined when users lend a part of their computer’s processing power to help maintain the updated ledger of all transactions, it seems like the only way to acquire new USD Coin — which will operate on the Ethereum platform for the foreseeable future — is to purchase them. So your extensive rig won’t help you get more USD Coin — looks like you’ll just have to buy it. With USD.
Since you need to give Circle one (1) dollar every time you would like one (1) dollarcoin please, it seems like the currency will serve more as an open-source Venmo, where you can pay for things with a digital cryptocurrency instead of paying with a debit or credit card.
Given Goldman Sachs’ recent investments in the crypto realm and announcement that the firm would trade Bitcoin on behalf of investors, it makes sense that the financial giant is trying to control the market as best it can.
So for now, the USD Coin doesn’t seem to have any practical purpose beyond introducing a stable and maybe accessible cryptocurrency. For the foreseeable future, a dollar in your hand is about the same as a dollar on the USD Coin blockchain.