Could 2018 be the trillion-dollar year for cryptocurrencies?

Could 2018 be the trillion-dollar year for cryptocurrencies?
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With total market capitalization exceeding half a trillion dollars in January, cryptocurrencies — once characterized as a fringe store of value, now lauded as gold 2.0 — are here to stay. Government involvement in crypto isn't always reluctant either; the Ukrainian government recently agreed to piloting a decentralized property ledger backed by blockchain technology that lets buyers and sellers transact property deals autonomously and bypass many of the  bureaucratic and systematic limits typically associated with global real estate purchases. It shows that government bodies are closer than ever to sanctioning crypto on a broader scale.

It also highlights that crypto is no longer just for a niche community. According to a survey by VC firm Blockchain Capital, 30 percent of millennials say they’d rather own $1,000 of bitcoin than $1,000 of government stocks. Seventy-nine percent of the general public knows what bitcoin is, and 40 percent are open to using it for transactions and purposes. Traditional financial forces are also coming around to crypto. Hedge funds and wealthy individuals are finally choosing to invest, heralding the involvement of even more traditional institutions like banks.

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This widespread adoption of crypto proves it’s not just a bubble. In fact, we can actually expect a 50 percent market drop in 2018 as cryptocurrency prices stabilize — leading to an increased and sustainable market cap of $1 trillion.

 

These five major currencies are likely to drive market capitalization in 2018.

Bitcoin and Ethereum

These two wildly popular currencies aren’t going away anytime soon, despite inaccessible prices ($11,527 for bitcoin and $1,023 for Ether as of Jan. 24), continuing to put them out of reach of the casual investor. Bitcoin has an advantage as the first cryptocurrency invented; it’s become almost synonymous with “cryptocurrency” for the casual consumer. But Ethereum’s support for smart contracts and distributed applications is leading it to be adopted by mainstream consumer companies like Microsoft, giving its Ether crypto a natural boost. As Ethereum’s profile rises, we’ll see other currencies that are built on it — such as Tron and EOS — become more influential as well.

Ripple

Ripple is a payment solution for large financial institutions like banks. Its advantage, like Ethereum, is its adoption by mainstream companies. American Express and Santander have already partnered to route their transactions with business partners through the blockchain, using Ripple as an aid. These partnerships allow for significantly speedier worldwide payments and lead the way in illustrating the blockchain’s broad commercial uses.

Blockchain evangelists complain that it’s too mainstream — but that’s just the thing that’s giving consumers the trust to invest. Stellar — whose crypto rocketed into the top 10 by market capitalization this year — will also cause waves. An offshoot of Ripple, it’s focused on enabling people-to-people transactions. And these transactions take less than six seconds to settle.

Litecoin

Created to be the “little brother” of bitcoin and make it easier to complete smaller payments, Litecoin transactions only take 2.5 minutes (compared to 10 for bitcoin) and is slated to have 84 million coins in circulation instead of 21 million. Its association to bitcoin gives it security, while its price point makes it an easier buy-in ($179 as of Jan. 24).

NEO

Often called the “Chinese Ethereum,” NEO was developed to compete with Ethereum’s smart contract offering. Investors might be loathe to buy into a coin based in China due to some of its crackdowns, such as banning digital coin issuances. However, these crackdowns actually demonstrated the coin’s incredible potential—despite the fierce regulation, NEO is still in the top 15 coins at this time of writing. One of its main advantages is the sheer number of code bases it supports; developers have to learn Ethereum’s proprietary language before they can use that platform.

EOS

Another competitor to Ethereum, EOS focuses on delivering a system that’s faster and more scalable. This will allow users to build decentralized applications more efficiently. However, it will also allow end consumers to interact with EOS. (Ethereum is not user-friendly, meaning it can only be navigated by people with a bit of prior knowledge.) Another notable advantage is that EOS won’t require users to pay for every transaction on its platform, unlike Ethereum.

Though these major cryptocurrencies will have a hand in the action, 2018 is anyone’s year. As blockchain technology infiltrates the mass consumer space, we’ll see coins and tokens we haven’t even heard of yet dominating the space. From those that put the real estate market on the blockchain to those that make it easier for content creators — such as artists and bloggers — to share with fans, innovators will use the blockchain to revolutionize the way we buy, sell, and conduct business. Bitcoin might have started it all, but these new coins and tokens will also become household names—along with cryptocurrency itself.

Natalia Karayaneva is the founder and CEO of Propy, a global property store that uses blockchain to give real estate buyers and sellers access and transactional control over properties sold via cryptocurrency.