Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum — oh my!

Yunbi.com offers Ethereum trading

JISHOU, HUNAN — It may seem like this blog is swinging toward the intensely techie, but bear with me. I’m your surrogate in the ever-changing financial technology (fintech) landscape.

Government regulators required China’s Bitcoin exchanges to halt Bitcoin and Litecoin withdrawals back in January, and that situation still remains. But, when one door closes, another opens, as the saying goes. It turns out Bitcoin and Litecoin are not the only cryptocurrencies being traded in China.

Yunbi.com is a Hangzhou-based exchange specializing in Ethereum, Zcash, Bitshares, and several other cryptocoins, as well as Bitcoin. I only learned about it a week ago, as it is relatively new.

Curiously, government regulators have basically ignored Ethereum, which at this writing has the second-largest trading volume worldwide after Bitcoin, and just about every other token besides Bitcoin and Litecoin. Not that I’m complaining.

Once I realized Yunbi would allow withdrawals of not-Bitcoins to recipients outside the exchange, I applied for an account. Yunbi required me to submit photos of my passport, bank card, and a selfie of me holding them, and within two days, I had opened an account there. While I may not be able to send funds outside China with Bitcoin or Litecoin, I can use Ethereum to deposit funds at Coinbase for later transfers into my American bank account. So, no more futzing around with P2P swaps over Bitkan or Localbitcoins.com.

Yunbi offers a trading platform to mainland users to invest in several digital assets

It turns out that Ethereum has quite a following in China. Yunbi’s founders also operate ethfans.org, which as the name suggests, hopes to promote Ethereum in China.

Ethereum is the latest Big Thing in fintech. Bitcoin and Litecoin were primarily intended as currencies, a means to move money around the Internet quickly and securely without relying on any central authorities to monitor them.

Ether’s developers took the foundation of Bitcoin’s network — the blockchain — several steps further. They realized the security and omnipresence of the blockchain on the Internet would enable users to create “smart contracts,” to replace the often cumbersome paper contracts we’ve relied on for centuries.

Other development teams have created prediction markets (Augur and Gnosis tokens), sports betting (First Blood), computation timeshares (iEx.ec’s RLC token), and a host of other services — all supported by the Ethereum blockchain network.

Given this explosion of newly minted financial services, the market prices for Ethereum have boomed in the last several months. On the advice of my son, I bought some Ethereum months ago when it was below $20. Today, it’s trading at $80.

Losing my easy ability in January to move money easily around with Bitcoin has had a benefit. I’ve spent the last four months delving even deeper into the fast-moving fintech world, which includes much, much more than just Bitcoin and Litecoin. There are hundreds of cryptocurrencies out there. Some are obscure and may never have any importance. Some, like Ethereum and Zcash, show great promise.

I’ve moved from a parochial concern about how to move my salary into my American bank swiftly and cheaply, to an understanding that we’re on the brink of major financial services breakthrough.

And, lest you think I’m a starry-eyed dreamer, Wall Street, insurance companies, real estate companies, and the world’s banks are all seriously considering blockchain services. It’s not just a computer geek thing now. Cryptocurrencies have made the big leagues.

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Also published on Medium.

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