Does A Blockchain Without Bitcoin Harm or Hurt the Currency?

As somebody whose opinion is published for all the world to see, I probably shouldn’t draw attention to the times when I get things wrong, but on the basis that the bitcoin community values honesty and openness above all else, I am prepared to do just that. Back in June of this year I wrote that separating the blockchain from bitcoin was possible, but not really practical. Five months is a long time in the fast moving world of digital currency, and recent news indicates that that that opinion has already been overtaken by events.

IBM (IBM), in conjunction with other tech giants and big banks and financial institutions, has launched what it has called the “Open Ledger Project,” a blockchain type system designed to be used for financial and security transactions. It will, as the name suggests, be an open source project, meaning that anybody can contribute to its development. In fact, to be fair, there are other similar projects too, many that pre-date the IBM version, but the list of names associated with this one gives it the best chance of success.

It seems then that the blockchain, or at least some other named version of it, can and will be operated independent of bitcoin or any other digital currency. The implications of that for the largest crypto currency, however, are still open to question. To be fair to myself, I should point out that the actionable advice that that June article contained, to buy bitcoin in the 230s against the dollar, has worked out pretty well.

BTC/USD is, at the time of writing, trading somewhere around $455. I guess if you consider that investing is like golf in that it is how many, not how, that matters, then a nearly 100 percent profit in five months is pretty good. The intriguing question, though, is this: Is that jump in value a sign that the separate development of open ledger systems could actually benefit the currency?

Well, it could. There are, of course, many other reasons why bitcoin has increased in value in the second half of this year. Much of the trading that has driven the move up has come from China, where devaluation of the Yuan by the Central Bank and the threat of currency controls have made bitcoin far more attractive to those looking to store wealth.

Quantitative Easing by the ECB has effectively increased supply of the Euro, making a currency that is not subject to effective devaluation by a central bank more attractive to Europeans as well. Perhaps the biggest driver of all, though, as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, is that the number of bitcoin transactions has continued to increase. In other words, bitcoin is increasingly being used in a practical sense as a currency.

With all of those things driving the price upwards it is hard to know whether the separation of bitcoin technology for other purposes is helping or harming, but the best guess right now seems to be that neither is true. It certainly doesn’t seem to be hurting. If anything the increased visibility and understanding of the concept of a virtual currency that has resulted from these projects had probably helped a little.

When I wrote that article back in June, I think I, like many with an interest in bitcoin, feared that if any part of the idea was co-opted by big finance, it would be at least in part motivated by a desire to kill off a potential threat to profitability. So far, though, that does not seem to be the case. It appears that banks and others are happy to develop their own versions of the blockchain for their own purposes, while leaving bitcoin alone to grow slowly and naturally. Of course, in another five months, that too could be proven to be way off the mark.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Martin Tillier

Martin Tillier spent years working in the Foreign Exchange market, which required an in-depth understanding of both the world’s markets and psychology and techniques of traders. In 2002, Martin left the markets, moved to the U.S., and opened a successful wine store, but the lure of the financial world proved too strong, leading Martin to join a major firm as financial advisor.

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