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Bitcoin was “discovered” in 2008 in the middle of one of the worst financial crises in recent memory. Largely due to irresponsible practices within the United States housing market, this economic downturn shook not only the United States, but rippled throughout the world economy and is often considered a major factor in the subsequent European debt crisis. In a convoluted chain of risky lending, loans based on the high default rate of subprime mortgages (essentially high-risk loans) were bundled and sold off to other financial institutions. With the inevitable collapse of this house-of-cards lending schema, several large financial institutions found their assets devalued, and investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings, a significant perpetrator of subprime mortgage lending and holder of many of these debts, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in September, 2008. Though US federal bailouts prevented the further collapse of large financial institutions, preventing an implosion of the global economy, the stock markets took a steep dive, straining the assets and investments of many organizations and individuals.
This crisis was unique in that it was based on trust. The individuals receiving the loans placed a certain trust in the institutions granting them, and trusted their bankers and investment managers to act in their best interest. The message many received from this financial crisis was loud and clear: you don’t control your money, and the people who do don’t care about you. The stereotype of the backstabbing, slick Wall Street investor had been gaining momentum since the 1980’s and the collapse of the mortgage market in 2008 was seen as the natural conclusion of those pump and dump, short-sighted trading tactics.
The Bitcoin protocol has built-in scarcity, a major factor in determining the value of Bitcoin. Over time, the supply of Bitcoin released each time a block is mined is reduced, with the last of the predetermined 21 million Bitcoin estimated to be awarded in the year 2140. By that time, the value of each Bitcoin could surpass all current theories and be well into the tens of thousands of dollars. This scarcity, a product of the work required to mine Bitcoin and the finite supply, puts the digital asset in a strong position to continue to appreciate in value, seeing a 140% increase in 2016 alone. Though the price is subject to (sometimes major) shifts, responding quickly to the temperament of the market, looking at value graphs of one year or more shows rapid growth and a strong upward trend.
Because of the simplicity of the Bitcoin code, and its resistance to change, Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency and technology serves as an inspiration and the foundation of many of the blockchain-based technologies and applications emerging on the market. The popularity, flexibility, and security Bitcoin possesses all contribute to its value, furthering its adoption by an ever-growing population of investors, traders, users, and applications in a cycle which regularly results in Bitcoin’s price reaching new all-time highs. Though like any investment, there is a certain degree of speculation about when the best time to buy or sell might be, the long-term trend has signalled holding, with those who have owned Bitcoin the longest showing the largest gains. The cryptocurrency movement has gained enough momentum to reach a critical mass of adoption, a point where the inherent value of using digital currencies and building technologies around these protocols becomes inescapable. With the cryptocurrency predicted to end 2017 valued anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000, it’s clear that the Bitcoin revolution is in the beginning stages, not the end.