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Crypto, What Is It Good For? An Overview of Cryptocurrency Use Cases

Over a decade ago, a white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto was distributed to a cryptography mailing list outlining a novel proposal for a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system” called bitcoin. This innovation spurred a new, global industry and asset class that has created hundreds of billions of dollars in value, and inspired a generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.

The advent of cryptocurrencies has led to the creation and operation of new global, decentralized networks that have been used by over 100 million people across the world to transfer trillions of dollars of value. Bitcoin, for example, is more than just a technology - it is a powerful social, political and cultural movement that asks us to imagine money, banking and payments in new and novel ways. 

While cryptocurrencies are most often recognized as new monetary systems and financial networks, the public blockchain networks that they secure can be used to power diverse use cases and create new applications across industries. These networks are constantly evolving through an open-source software ecosystem with globally distributed communities that upgrade, maintain and operate them. Innovators, entrepreneurs and engineers are rapidly building and bringing to market new products and solutions that provide access to or leverage these new networks.

The World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Cryptocurrencies represents a broad cross-section of experts working to make cryptocurrencies useful across a wide range of use cases. The Council includes practitioners from a diverse range of backgrounds, and more importantly, its members do not share one common view of cryptocurrencies. 

While much has been written about blockchain technology, there is little discussion of cryptocurrencies beyond price and financial speculation. The Council has thus created this booklet to highlight a non-exhaustive list of companies, protocols and projects that represent the diversity of use cases that cryptocurrencies and the networks which they power can enable.

Cryptocurrencies have reached a point of inevitability. We have dedicated our careers to advancing the adoption and use of cryptocurrencies because we believe they represent an enormous opportunity to grow the global digital economy and benefit consumers and businesses across  
the world.

We hope that this Council can help to educate and advocate for this technology while serving as a trusted resource to navigate this new fascinating, emerging ecosystem. Over the course of this year, we will produce research, content and events that make cryptocurrency comprehensible, accessible and inclusive. We hope you will join us.

Bitcoin
Since the advent of the internet, cryptographers and innovators have struggled to create a native currency for transactions on the internet. The bitcoin white paper surfaced after the financial crisis of 2008. It combined innovations in cryptography and distributed systems into a novel solution. The bitcoin network is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party. In simple terms, bitcoin is the internet of money. 

Project goals
Bitcoin attempts to separate money and state. Unlike traditional currencies, which are issued by central banks, bitcoin has no central monetary authority. Instead it is underpinned by a peer-to-peer computer network. Bitcoin uses public key cryptography and an innovative approach to bookkeeping to achieve the authorization, balance verification, prohibition on double spending, delivery of assets and record inalterability described above. It happens in near real time at minimal cost.

Implementation strategy
Bitcoin is an open-source protocol and software development project. The bitcoin network is made up of computers running the bitcoin protocol, and includes miners who use specialized chips called ASICs to organize bitcoin transactions into blocks and add these blocks to the blockchain in exchange for transaction fees and the opportunity to earn bitcoin via the block reward. Bitcoin has a fixed, pre-programmed supply schedule, and as of November 2020, 85% of all bitcoin that will ever exist have been mined. This is why some people describe bitcoin as digital gold. By downloading and running the bitcoin software, anyone can use the bitcoin network to transact with bitcoin, the asset. There are thousands of companies around the world who have built products and services around bitcoin, the asset, and the bitcoin network. This includes wallets, which broadcast transactions to the bitcoin network and facilitate storage of bitcoin, as well as exchanges, payment providers and more.

Traction and key metrics
As a store of value and an asset, bitcoin has seen material price appreciation in the last year. At the start of 2020, bitcoin was valued at $7,500 and as of November 2020, it was valued at $18,500. Bitcoin’s market cap is $346 billion; $28 billion of bitcoin is traded on a daily basis. As a payment network, the bitcoin network processed $3.8 trillion of transactions in 2019. As a point of comparison, PayPal processed $700 billion in transactions over that same period, and its estimated total internet transactions via the traditional banking and payment systems totaled $4.1 trillion over the same period.

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