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Is Crypto a Global Currency? What’s the Competition?

By Jinia03/04/2024


Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others, are often seen to be competing with fiat currencies.

By design, cryptocurrencies are a global currency due to their borderless nature and potential to be used for transactions worldwide without the need for traditional banking systems. 

However, as of now, most cryptocurrencies are not universally accepted as mainstream currency, and the status or acceptance of crypto (including Bitcoin, the most popular crypto) varies from country to country.

How Cryptocurrencies Compare to Fiat Currencies

Let’s start with definitions to get a good grasp of how these two compare.

As mentioned, cryptocurrencies are borderless, meaning they are built as digital or virtual forms of currency that can be used to make online transactions while avoiding double-spending. The creator of Bitcoin solved the concept of double spending through cryptography. 

Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties. It involves creating mathematical algorithms for encrypting and decrypting data to ensure only authorized parties can access the information. In the context of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, cryptography plays a crucial role in securing transactions and maintaining the integrity of the blockchain ledger.

Double spending is the risk of a digital currency being spent more than once. In traditional electronic payment systems, such as credit cards, the double spending problem is typically addressed by relying on trusted intermediaries, such as banks, to verify and record transactions. However, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin aim to eliminate the need for intermediaries by using decentralized consensus mechanisms, such as proof-of-work or proof-of-stake, to validate transactions and prevent double-spending.

The decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies means that transactions are verified and recorded on a distributed ledger, or blockchain, which is maintained by a network of nodes. Each transaction is cryptographically signed and broadcast to the network, where it undergoes validation before being added to the blockchain. Once a transaction is confirmed and added to the blockchain, it becomes immutable and tamper-proof, providing a transparent and secure record of all transactions.

By leveraging cryptography and decentralized consensus mechanisms, cryptocurrencies enable secure and trustless transactions on a global scale without the need for centralized authorities or intermediaries. This borderless and decentralized nature is one of the key features that distinguish cryptocurrencies from traditional fiat currencies, and it has profound implications for the future of finance and digital commerce.

Bitcoin Competes with Everything Else

In terms of its status as a store of value, Bitcoin, as the top crypto, competes against traditional fiat currencies (like the US dollar, Euro, etc.) and other forms of digital payment systems, such as credit cards, electronic bank transfers, and mobile payment apps like PayPal and Venmo. 

Its competition also includes other cryptocurrencies, as there are thousands of different cryptocurrencies, each with its own features, use cases, and communities. Bitcoin, being the first and most well-known cryptocurrency, often serves as a benchmark against which other cryptocurrencies are compared. However, newer cryptocurrencies often bring innovations and improvements that aim to address the limitations of older ones. 

The competition also includes central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), which are digital currencies issued by central banks and are seen as a digital form of fiat currency. CBDCs aim to provide the benefits of cryptocurrencies, such as faster and cheaper transactions, while still being backed and regulated by governments and central banks. 

Crypto Competition in Transaction Fees

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin also compete with mobile peer-to-peer payment platforms such as PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App. While these platforms offer convenient ways to send and receive money electronically, they often come with transaction fees that can be significant, especially for larger transactions.

One of the key advantages of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is the potential for lower transaction fees compared to traditional payment methods. Bitcoin transactions typically involve lower fees compared to credit card transactions or bank transfers, especially for international transfers where traditional banking fees can be high.

However, the issue of transaction fees in cryptocurrencies has been a topic of debate and concern within the crypto community. Bitcoin, in particular, has experienced periods of high transaction fees and network congestion, especially during times of increased transaction volume.

The level of transaction fees in cryptocurrencies is determined by various factors, including network congestion, transaction size, and the priority assigned to the transaction by the sender. Miners, who validate and add transactions to the blockchain, are incentivized to prioritize transactions with higher fees, leading to competition among users to have their transactions processed quickly.

To address the issue of high transaction fees and scalability limitations, developers and researchers have proposed various solutions, such as the implementation of off-chain scaling solutions like the Lightning Network for Bitcoin and the use of alternative consensus mechanisms with lower energy consumption and faster transaction processing times.

Transaction fees are not the only winning point for crypto, as crypto also competes with traditional payment methods in terms of transaction speed and settlement times. Cryptocurrencies are designed to offer the potential for near-instantaneous transactions, and even though there is still a long way to go in terms of perfecting transaction speeds, some cryptocurrencies have managed to speed and efficiency. 

However, you should note that the transaction speed of different cryptocurrencies can vary depending on the features of the blockchain that crypto is built on, network congestion and the specific other protocols used.

Challenges Faced by Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, offer numerous advantages over fiat currencies, ranging from decentralization and low transaction costs to speed and transparency. However, they also grapple with challenges like scalability, especially during peak network congestion. These obstacles have impeded the path to widespread adoption, allowing traditional fiat currencies to maintain their dominance despite the rise of crypto.

Furthermore, while innovation within the cryptocurrency space persists, the emergence of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) poses yet another challenge to widespread crypto adoption. CBDCs, backed by central banks, offer the benefits of digital currencies while maintaining regulatory oversight and stability. Their potential integration into existing financial infrastructures could further solidify the dominance of traditional fiat currencies, potentially overshadowing the role of cryptocurrencies in the future.

Despite these challenges, the crypto community remains committed to addressing scalability issues and advancing technological solutions to improve transaction efficiency and user experience. Initiatives such as developing layer-two scaling solutions and exploring alternative consensus mechanisms aim to enhance the scalability and usability of cryptocurrencies.

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Jinia is a fintech writer focused on the cryptocurrency market and passionate about blockchain technology. With years of experience, she contributes to some of the most renowned crypto publications such as Cointelegraph, Coinmarketcap and others. She also has experience writing about the iGaming industry.

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