Cryptocurrency has been in development since the 1980s, but the launch of Bitcoin in 2009 by pseudonymous developer Satoshi Nakamoto was the first bit-currency to catch on outside of academic circles.
At its core, cryptocurrency is a decentralised digital currency, which is usually backed by a public ledger (blockchain) to verify transfers, mint new coins and secure individual coin ownership records.
For the first few years, Bitcoin enthusiasts mined the currency and tried to get it accepted by vendors. One infamous transaction involved Laszlo Hanyecz, an early adopter, spending 10,000 Bitcoins on a Papa Johns pizza. The value of that pizza as of 18 October 2021 is $620 million.
Its first use case was as a facilitator of online drug sales, through the Silk Road, a darknet market. It transacted more than $200 million of Bitcoin during its 30-month stint, before the owner of the website, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested by the FBI.
After that, Bitcoin became the de-facto currency for dark web markets, as its peer-to-peer technology and strong cryptography made it difficult to track. Some of these markets have since moved to even more secure coins, such as Monero.
Several developers utilised Bitcoin’s code and proof-of-work algorithm to set up their own coins, including Namecoin and Litecoin.
Bitcoin continued to see its value grow as more people bought into the currency. Early exchanges such as Blockchain.com and Coinbase also offered the ability to easily trade and hold coins in wallets, instead of having to store them in secure hard drives.
Due to Bitcoin’s rather overbearing size in comparison to the rest of the cryptocurrency market, it has been difficult for other alt-coins to receive the same recognition, with some conflating Bitcoin to be the entire cryptocurrency industry.
Ethereum, launched in 2015, has managed to break the mould, through the creation of decentralized finance (DeFi) which can be added on top of applications. At the time of writing, Ethereum has a market cap of $446 billion.
Cryptocurrency has had many peaks and troughs, in early 2018 many thought Bitcoin was finished after the collapse of its value from $19,650 in December 2017 to $6,928 in March 2018. However, all of these peaks look small scale in comparison to the surge in activity at the end of 2020, which saw Bitcoin’s price go from $13,803 (30 Oct 2020) to $61,283 (12 Mar 2021).
Banks and other financial institutions giving the greenlight for Bitcoin wallets and trading, alongside Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Square CEO Jack Dorsey both promoting the currency, were two reasons as to why Bitcoin saw such a surge. Musk’s tweets were also one of the reasons Bitcoin’s price fell, after he removed Bitcoin as a payment option on Tesla.
As Bitcoin has little financial value outside of holding onto it, some financial analysts have decreed it the new gold.
Several countries have looked to ban or limit cryptocurrency mining and trading, including China, which was before the ban the largest cryptocurrency market. Others have looked to build their own digital currencies, such as Estonia, Sweden and Japan.
We have collected data and statistics on cryptocurrency apps. Read on below to find out more.
Top cryptocurrency apps
|Coinbase||Largest cryptocurrency exchange by registered users and considered the marketplace for beginners to cryptocurrency|
|Binance||In terms of overall volume, Binance is the largest exchange, responsible for over $1 trillion annual volume in 2020|
|FTX||One of the newest exchanges which is making waves for its large US sports sponsorships, including Miami Heat and Mercedes F1 team|
|Cash App||Square’s mobile payments app which has ballooned into a financial super-app. It generated over $4 billion in 2020 Bitcoin revenue|
|eToro||A large stock-trading app in Europe that added cryptocurrency to the US recently. Its revenue mix was 61% from cryptocurrency in 2021|
|Robinhood||Another stock-trading app which transitioned to cryptocurrency. Income was split 50/50 in 2021 between stocks and cryptocurrency|
|Revolut||A European financial super-app akin to Cash App, which added zero-commission stock trading and cryptocurrency exchange in 2020|
|Kraken||One of the most established crypto exchanges, it worked on the Mt. Gox scandal and provides crypto prices to Bloomberg Terminal|
|Crypto.com||Another popular cryptocurrency exchange which offers DeFi wallet, crypto debit card and an NFT marketplace|
|Luno||Unlike most US/China-centric exchanges, Luno has marketed itself to developing countries with support for hundreds of fiat currencies|
|WazirX||India’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, which was acquired by Binance for $150 million in 2020|
Cryptocurrency income by app (2020)
Binance was far ahead of other cryptocurrency exchanges in 2020, generating between $800 and $1 billion income. All platforms listed saw their incomes rise year-on-year.
Cryptocurrency income by app (H1 2021)
The explosion of cryptocurrency trading in the first half of 2021 led to +100% growth on all exchanges listed. Q1 2021 saw the highest levels of crypto trading ever, but this has slowed down somewhat in recent months.
Cryptocurrency users by app
Coinbase is far ahead in total users, as the most popular platform in the US. That said, Binance has more institutional investors, which have more assets than the typical Coinbase user.
Cryptocurrency peak trading volume by app
Binance is far ahead in peak 24 hour trading volume. Coinbase does not publish its own trading volume figures. FTX and Kraken both saw over 350% increases in peak trading volume in Q1 2021.
Cryptocurrency annual volume by app
Surprisingly, FTX has reported higher annual crypto trading volume than Coinbase in 2020. Binance is still by far the largest platform by volume, with more than double the second largest exchange.
Cryptocurrency exchange valuations
Coinbase is the only public company out of the four listed and it has seen its value trend downwards since IPO. Binance is difficult to value because of regulatory issues, however, analysts project it to be worth between 2 and 4 times Coinbase’s market cap.