Raphael Auer, 08 March 2019

Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies are exchanged via simple technical protocols for communication between participants, as well as a publicly shared ledger of transactions known as a blockchain. This column discusses research on how cryptocurrencies verify that payments are final, that is, that they are irreversible once written into the blockchain. It points to the high costs of achieving such finality via ‘proof-of-work’ and to a crucial externality in the transaction market, and argues that with the current technology, the liquidity of cryptocurrencies is set to shrink dramatically in the years to come.

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