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Crypto Assets: An Overview


What exactly is a crypto asset?

A crypto asset is a completely digital currency or token that uses a blockchain to provide a medium of exchange. A key attribute is the use of cryptography, which allows two parties to securely send and receive data anywhere in the world without a trusted third party. Bitcoin (capital “B”) is the network that hosts the world’s first cryptocurrency—bitcoin (lowercase “b”). Thousands of other currencies and tokens have launched since the first bitcoin was created in 2009, but bitcoin remains the largest, making up more than 40% of the total market cap for crypto assets.2 The Ethereum network token, ether, is the second largest with approximately 20% of the total crypto asset market cap.

Where did Bitcoin come from?

Attempts to create an internet-based “digital cash” began in the 1990s, many emerging from a group of computer scientists and technologists that called themselves the Cypherpunks. Hashcash helped pioneer the idea of digital scarcity and the use of Proof-of-Work (PoW), a mechanism that requires heavy computational analysis to generate coins or tokens. B-Money was an anonymous digital cash proposal built around a distributed ledger. Bit Gold focused on minimizing third-party dependencies and prevented the copying of a digital currency (i.e., the double-spending problem).3 Each of these early attempts to create a truly decentralized, global payment network informed what would eventually become Bitcoin.

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