For many cryptocurrency investors, 2017 was the year of Bitcoin. Topping out in 2016 at around $800, the currency reached new heights this year by breaking the $18,000 mark, further fueling speculation that it has entered a new bubble. On the other hand, the currency found a new audience after the release of Bitcoin futures on the Chicago Board Options Exchange, with additional plans by the CME Group to offer the same. For those who missed the boat, however, Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency showing promise as the year comes to a close. While many are putting their hopes in Bitcoin cash, a cryptocurrency created by a split from Bitcoin’s blockchain several months ago, rival currency Ethereum is also showing plenty of promise.
Live since July of 2015, Ethereum, or Ether, is the brainchild of Russian-Canadian writer and programmer Vitalik Buterin, who is also notable as the founder of Bitcoin Magazine. Ethereum set its own record this week by reaching an all-time high of $752, growing 20 percent in just 24 hours. This more or less puts Ethereum in the same position as Bitcoin last year. Its growing popularity is particularly focused in US markets, to which the coin attributes 25 percent of its recent trades. Trading volume for Ether is quickly approaching $5 billion globally, putting it behind Bitcoin but well ahead of Bitcoin Cash.
Ethereum’s sudden rise could be a sign of things to come. Earlier this year Mike Novogratz, a notable hedge-fund investor who twice ranked on Forbes‘ billionaire list, offered a prediction that 2018 will see Ethereum increase as much as three times its value from early December of this year. Whether or not this happens, Ethereum does have at least one advantage over Bitcoin. In terms of actual cryptocurrency transactions Ether is leading the pack, even when combining all competitors.
That said, founder Buterin is less optimistic. He noted the lack of practical use of cryptocurrency and the lack of adoption beyond a small group of investors as a major hurdle, making the current market valuation much too high based on cryptocurrency’s actual usefulness. In other words, until Ethereum, Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies find a practical niche in solving global financial issues for the public at large, any speculation at growth can only be short term. The market value may be increasing, but as Buterin notes, cryptocurrency’s actual potential isn’t.