It Was Meant to Be the Better Bitcoin. It’s Down Nearly 90%

By Alexander Osipovich, reporter





The bear market in cryptocurrencies has punished investors who bought bitcoin at the height of cryptomania last year. But losses have been even more brutal for those who invested in once-promising rivals of bitcoin.

Consider Bitcoin Cash, an offshoot of bitcoin that launched on Aug. 1, 2017 and moves independently of bitcoin itself. While bitcoin has fallen 68% from its record intraday high of $20,089 in December, Bitcoin Cash is down a crushing 88% from its peak of $4,355.62, according to CoinMarketCap.com. On Thursday, it traded at around $529.

Hundreds of other coins have also plummeted in value, but the underperformance of Bitcoin Cash is notable because it touches on a bigger theme: whether virtual currencies can really become a means of payment that would supplant traditional money.

Supporters of Bitcoin Cash conceived it as a way to fix problems they believed were impeding bitcoin from becoming a mainstream payment tool, akin to PayPal or Visa.

Boosters—including Roger Ver, a prominent crypto investor often called “Bitcoin Jesus”—argued that the original bitcoin network had gotten too slow, and that users were paying overly hefty fees for sending each other bitcoins. This faction argued that bitcoin’s clunkiness was causing people to treat it as a store of value, like gold, and not as a practical way to buy Big Macs or cappuccinos.

There’s still a lively debate over whether bitcoin is any good as a medium of exchange. Many bitcoin holders view it as a hedge against the collapse of government-backed currencies, but don’t often use it to pay for things.

After waging an unsuccessful campaign to change bitcoin from within, the rebels broke off and created Bitcoin Cash, in a so-called “fork” that bitterly split the virtual-currency community. The underlying technology of the new cryptocurrency was almost identical to that of bitcoin, except for tweaks aimed at speeding up transactions and lowering fees.
One year later, some research suggests the breakaway coin hasn’t lived up to its promises.

A study of activity by major cryptocurrency payment-processors—which help businesses accept payments in crypto—found that just $3.8 million worth of payments were made in Bitcoin Cash in May. That’s down from $10.5 million in March, according to Chainalysis, an analytics firm that carried out the study.

The market seems to be favoring bitcoin because it has the stronger brand, according to Martin Garcia, a managing director at Genesis Global Trading Inc., a digital-currency trading firm.

“Bitcoin is expressing itself as the more dominant token,” he said.

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