Gold investors, miners and explorers have for the most part spent the last few years scoffing at the global cryptocurrency revolution led by Bitcoin and others, with a certain smug confidence that the phenomenon is a bubble prone to a harsh correction at any time.
If it’s all a bubble, the bubble is still growing, and more and more people are taking part: at press time there are 1,324 cryptocurrencies available over the Internet, and the number rises every week, as a new cryptocurrency can be created at any time by anyone.
Bitcoin is now the largest block-chain network by market capitalization at US$194 billion (about the same as the combined market caps of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore), followed by Ethereum, Bitcoin cash, Ripple and Litecoin.
Launched as open-source software in 2009, Bitcoin entered 2017 with a market cap of only $16.4 billion, for an almost twelvefold gain by early December 2017. Many other cryptocurrencies have shown parabolic price charts in the fourth quarter that simultaneously worry chart watchers and excite cryptocurrency’s most fervid advocates.
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