"Virtual currencies might just give existing currencies and monetary policy a run for their money," International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde predicted last fall. "Citizens may one day prefer virtual currencies, since they potentially offer the same cost and convenience as cash — no settlement risks, no clearing delays, no central registration, no intermediary to check accounts and identities," she said.
Most people are at least somewhat familiar with Bitcoin even if they do not accurately understand how it works. However, once they begin to get involved with cryptocurrency, they may be surprised to learn that there are hundreds of cryptocurrencies (a.k.a altcoins) out there besides Bitcoin (CoinMarketCap listed more than 2000 altcoins at the time this guide was written).
Other coins might embrace niche aspects such as entertainment, bill paying, security, and other aspects of decentralization. For example, consider DentaCoin that is the dental world’s first cryptocurrency enhancement. This coin does not vow to be the next Bitcoin; it simply wants to be widely used in the world of dentistry. The coin Ripple wants to be used by banks opposed to competing against them. The coin SunContract eliminates the middleman between providing and purchasing solar energy, which increases what homeowners earn from their solar panels. These kind of niche applications allow various industries to take advantage of the powers of cryptocurrency in very specific areas.
Some bitcoin exchanges allow account holders to short — bet that bitcoin will fall in value — but the ordinary investor cannot do this as easily with bitcoin as with stocks or exchange-traded funds. Shorting is easy on the futures markets, however, as the trader simply buys a contract to sell a block of bitcoin at today's price sometime in the future. If it works out the price will fall and the bet will pay the difference.
Bakkt explains that they continue to develop their platform but they focus on supporting regulated institutions in serving customers in this emerging asset class. At the same time, the involvement of new players such as enterprises legitimizes the market. It confirms that there is a real interest from both retail and institutional investors on these assets.
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