If you want to trade in digital currencies, you are going to need a platform on which to trade them, and an intermediary to communicate with the network. Coinbase is a global digital asset exchange company (GDAX), providing a venue to buy and sell digital currencies, as well as send information about those transactions out to the blockchain network to verify those transactions. Coinbase serves as a wallet, too, where the digital currencies can be stored. The application operates exchanges of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin, as well as other digital assets with fiat currencies in 32 countries, and Bitcoin transactions in many more countries. According to its website, Coinbase has served over 10 million customers and facilitated the exchange of more than $50 billion worth of digital currency.
In April 2019, a UK corporate filing stated that Coinbase's non-U.S. revenue grew 20% to €153 million (U.S.$173 million) in 2018 resulting in a net profit of €6.6 million. Coinbase UK CEO Zeeshan Feroz said the company's non-U.S. operations accounted for nearly one-third of the company's overall revenue and Reuters estimated that the company's global revenue totaled "around $520 million" in 2018.
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Since the Bitcoin creation in 2009, the price of this virtual currency remained quite stable until January 2013, reaching a maximum value of approximately 20 U.S. dollars. Afterwards a monthly price growth was observed until October 2013 when the price reached 198 U.S. dollars. This nearly tenfold increase in Bitcoin value proved to be insignificant in comparison to the price rally in November 2013, when the threshold of 1,100 U.S. dollars per coin was broken. After a period of downtrend which followed, Bitcoin price reached 1,349.19 U.S. dollars in April 2017.
Ripple positions itself as a complement to, rather than a competitor with, Bitcoin - the site has a page dedicated to Ripple for bitcoiners. Ripple is a distributed network which means transactions occur immediately across the network - and as it is peer to peer - the network is resilient to systemic risk. Ripples aren't mined - unlike bitcoin and its peers - but each transaction destroys a small amount of XRP which adds a deflationary measure into the system.
In 2014, the company grew to one million users, acquired the blockchain explorer service Blockr and the web bookmarking company Kippt, secured insurance covering the value of bitcoin stored on their servers, and launched the vault system for secure bitcoin storage. Throughout 2014, the company also formed partnerships with Overstock, Dell, Expedia, Dish Network, and Time Inc. allowing those firms to accept bitcoin payments. The company also added bitcoin payment processing capabilities to the traditional payment companies Stripe, Braintree, and PayPal.
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Essentially, if you are interested in trading in digital currencies but don't want to get bogged down in the underlying technology, products like Coinbase are a way to begin a foray into a new form of currency speculation and investing. You do, however, lose some of the advantages of trading in a cryptocurrency and through the blockchain. On Coinbase, you have no pseudo anonymity—your name is attached to your Coinbase account and so is your bank account, so transaction history is relatively easy to track down. And if you're not working on the blockchain, there's not much you can do to ensure that the verification of your transaction history or your account is taking place on the blockchain. You are, instead, placing trust in the intermediary, in this case, Coinbase.