171018 Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are encoded currencies; money programmed to exist only on the Internet.  Most are based on blockchain technology, a methodology developed by Satochi Makamoto, the enigmatic inventor of Bitcoin.  Blockchain has become suddenly a raging success, discovered by Wall Street, the insurance industry, manufacturers of all types, social media developers, sports teams and municipalities around the world.  The list of applications actually goes on and on because anywhere a secure ledger is required, blockchain is a desirable solution.  The operable word is SECURE.  Every entry is public and shared throughout the network, instantly.  New entries are not accepted until they can be verified by a secure number of existing portions of the ledger’s network, making it completely trustworthy.  That’s key.  If an information network can be trusted implicitly, then it can be built upon in all sorts of manners and ways.  People, companies, and organizations of all variety are rushing to do just that.

Blockchain’s first application, Bitcoin, has seen huge success and continues to thrive eight years since its inception.  Following that, hundreds, if not thousands, of other cryptocurrencies have come into being.  Each one designed to optimize some aspect of its nature to an advantage.  Whether it’s faster, or smaller or holds more information, each cryptocurrency’s advantages make it more or less desirable.  It’s difficult to understand why the world would need hundreds of cryptocurrencies.  Perhaps it doesn’t.  We’ll soon find out.  But, for now, think of it this way.  American Airlines issues “Airmiles” credits for use by its customers.  Virgin Atlantic does the same only theirs are called “Virgin Airmiles.” And, wouldn’t you know it:  American Airlines doesn’t accept Virgin’s miles.

The problem is more nuanced than that, however.  In the world of barcoding, for example, there are several different types of barcode, each designed to do something well; better than any of the other barcodes.  Datamatrix holds vast amounts of information in a small space. Code 39 is very forgiving. It can be printed poorly, be covered in mud, and are still just as readable.  UPC and EAN are highly restrictive; a focused set of rules makes them difficult to forge, keeping fraud at a minimum.  In the world of cryptocurrency, forward-looking programmers are envisioning all sorts of problems these new monies will encounter and proposing alternatives. Some will prove to be good solutions, some not.  Only time will tell.