What Are Stablecoins?

Every day, the cryptocurrency space sees new and exciting developments and progress. One particular area that has seen heightened exposure of late is the stablecoin. Stablecoins play an interesting role in decoupling blockchain utility from market volatility, and it’s likely that the niche will serve a vital role in the public adoption of cryptocurrency.

Stablecoins, as the name suggests, represent a category of cryptocurrencies that are not subject to price volatility. They are stable in nature, and this stability typically comes from the backing of some alternative value. Perhaps the most prominent example of a stablecoin is Tether (USDT), which, of course, maintains a value equal to US$1.

While Tether is likely the best-known stablecoin, it’s certainly not the strongest initiative. Of course, the nature of Tether – that is, being printed in increments by cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex, sans auditing – has led to much speculation and controversy. While Bitfinex claims that there is one USD in existence for every USDT, the regular Tether minting batches in the hundreds of millions and circulating supply of over 2.5 billion has spawned a widespread belief that the stablecoin is not to be trusted without an audit.

Regardless, stablecoins represent a massively important use case in their elimination of volatility. While numerous organizations and industries stand to benefit from blockchain integration, the massive volatility experienced across cryptocurrencies makes it difficult for most of them to safely entertain the technology without creating private blockchains. In eliminating volatility, stablecoins represent the solution.

In contrast to Tether, MakerDAO and DigixDAO are leading stablecoin projects utilizing sustainable, transparent methods. The native DAI and DGD tokens are stablecoins backed by the dollar and gold, respectively. As decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), both tokens’ development and growth are self-fulfilling and tamper-proof. These projects enable the trustless exchange of provably solvent, tokenized assets, and participants in these DAOs also direct future initiatives and services within the respective organizations.

While stablecoins are still in a relatively early stage, the first applications are beginning to gain footing. Canamex Gold Corp. recently launched a gold stablecoin. Canamex, listed as GOLD on the Canadian Stock Exchange, is one of the first globally listed firms to employ an asset-backed cryptocurrency. The tokens, coined GOLDUSA, are worth 0.005 ounces of gold each. Proceeds from the token sale will be used to fund a gold mining venture in Las Vegas.

Beyond this, decentralized derivatives platform MARKET Protocol is building a smart contract ecosystem that will allow for the tokenization of any asset or commodity. When it goes live, any individual will be capable of digitizing and trading everything from Tesla stocks to corn. Such a future will have massive implications for the way in which trading takes place, as the decentralized platform will potentially be able to accommodate every type of exchange in both the real world and digital marketplaces.

A major component inhibiting retail and institutional investors alike from entering the cryptocurrency space is the unrivaled volatility of markets across the board. With stablecoins, individuals and firms can finally be exposed to the technological revolution presented by cryptocurrency without getting burned by volatility along the way. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how stablecoins manifest across applications in the near future.