Coinbase is one of the most popular ways to buy Bitcoins, and it is now looking to take the ease of use that it provides one step further. The cryptocurrency exchange recently announced that it is raising $300 million as a part of Series E financing at a value of more than $8 billion. Tiger Global Management is leading this financing round, while the other participants include Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator Continuity, Polychain, and others.
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.
In the case of Bitcoin, miners run computer programs to verify the data that creates a complete transaction history of all Bitcoin. A technology known as the blockchain, which is used to create irreversible and traceable transactions, makes the process of verification possible. Once a miner has verified the data (which comes in a block, hence, blockchain), they are rewarded with some amount of digital currency, the same currency for which they were verifying the transaction history. So mining Bitcoin, for example, would earn you Bitcoin.
Coinbase recently announced that its customers in supported jurisdictions can send, receive, buy, and sell the USD Coin stablecoin (USDC) on its website and mobile applications. This marks Coinbase first entry into stablecoins, which have a fundamental difference as compared to other cryptocurrencies. A USDC is pegged to the price of a single US dollar (USD). Coinbase explains that one USDC is represented by one USD on the Ethereum blockchain.
Cryptocurrencies are experiencing a moment of unprecedented attention and speculation for several reasons. 1) The value of Bitcoin has been steadily climbing through 2017, with Ether seemingly poised to overtake the cryptocurrency giant any day; 2) Blockchain technology has purposes above and beyond cryptocurrency, and has been hailed by some as the backbone of the future financial system; 3) The increasing number of people who see cryptocurrency as a form of investment similar to gold. If cryptocurrencies stabilize in value, buying Bitcoin or Ether has the potential to be a worthy venture.
Volatility is perhaps the most commonly-cited disadvantage of Bitcoin in terms of its use case as cash. Ironically, that very volatility helped grow the network, providing traders with very lucrative opportunities in short time periods. However, for those wishing to store value and transact Bitcoin as an everyday currency, the volatility is a major drawback.
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.