Greta Keliuotytė-Staniulėnienė and Gintarė Smolskytė
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Cryptocurrencies have experienced an exponential growth trend in the past 24 months, followed by a big crash. In the early years of the Internet, inspired entrepreneurs such as Jeffrey Bezos realized that, when something grows exponentially, it becomes ubiquitous within a short time span. Similarly to the Internet in 1994, cryptocurrencies have recently been growing at a dazzling rate, thus one can expect them to be used on a global scale very soon, in spite of the last bubble which has already burst. Alternative currencies are greeted with great enthusiasm, due to their potential to return financial power back to the people, especially in the context of general dissatisfaction and disappointment with the banking sector. They bring about several advantages, such as financial innovations, lower fees as well as increased availability to developing populations. At the same time, their high volatility and lack of supervision might imply that they only serve as complementary financing and not as a substitute of traditional banking. This article discusses the development of cryptocurrencies, including aspects related to Bitcoin, financial technology and the blockchain. Using historical data from Coinmarketcap.com between April 2013 and February 2018, I run a quantitative analysis of the distributions and evolution over time for all listed cryptocurrencies with known market capitalization. I look at the interplay between number of cryptocurrencies and market value, at growth rates, cumulative shares and volatility. I find a phenomenon of exponential growth and violent volatility, which I explain in light of cryptocurrencies’ strengths and weaknesses, as identified in the literature. I emphasize the importance of cryptocurrencies in the context of the global digital economy and I discuss future implications.
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